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The Christian's Spiritual Journey from "Egypt to Canaan"

Paul  Wong

We often hear and read about the Children of Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan as the parallel comparison to the New Testament Church’s transition from the bondage of sin to a place in heaven.  Egypt can be easily compared to the bondage of sin, but Canaan can hardly be compared to heaven for the following reasons. 


First, Noah cursed his grandson Canaan because his father Ham saw his grandfather’s nakedness (Gen. 9:20-25).  Canaan’s descendants occupied that country and that is how it got that name.  How can heaven have any connection with a curse? 


Second, the nation of Canaan became wicked and Noah’s curse was fulfilled when the Israelites drove the Canaanites out of the land.  Remember Jericho was in the land of Canaan and it was so full of idols that God had not only caused its walls to collapse but also had all its inhabitants destroyed with the exception of Rahab and her family (Josh. 6:20-27).  Canaan’s condition at one time is the opposite of Heaven which is a perfect place that has no sin.


Third, Canaan was one of the ancient names for Palestine.  When we look at the land of Palestine today what do we see?   Ever since Israel became a nation again since 1948 the Palestinians have had conflicts with the Jews.   Canaan, Palestine or whatever name you want to call it, resembles hell more than heaven with all the suicide bombers and killings going on.  It looks like Noah’s curse is being fulfilled all over again.


Fourth, Moses died in the land of Moab and could not enter Canaan because he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it.  If Canaan is compared to heaven then we find it hard to believe that Moses could not enter a symbolic heaven because of what he did.  So Canaan cannot be the earthly counterpart of heaven.


Justification, Sanctification and Glorification


It would be much more correct to make a parallel comparison between the children of Israel’s experience from Egypt to Canaan as the Christian’s spiritual journey on earth from the bondage of sin to the final struggle before going to heaven.  There are two phases in the Christian’s journey to the ultimate salvation in heaven.  They are justification and sanctification that leads to glorification.  Let me explain what all these terminologies mean.


Justification is the judicial act of God Who removes sin from every person through repentance; belief and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior and baptism into Him.  Justification is the initial stage of salvation.


Sanctification means separation, setting apart.  It is God’s way to separate the Christians from the worldly people and their way of life.  Another word for sanctification is consecration for God.  In an ethical sense it means the progressive conformation of the believer into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the process by which the life is made morally holy.  Sanctification is through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.  It begins at regeneration and is completed when we see the Lord at His Return.  “Now may God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:23)


Glorification is the final phase that the Christian enters when the Lord Jesus Christ returns.  “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)


Justification – From the

Bondage of Sin to Freedom


The Egyptian bondage represents the person under sin.  The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt.  Their lives were bitter with hard bondage (Ex. 1:13-14).  God called Moses to deliver the Children of Israel from their bondage.  Moses prophesied God would call a prophet like unto him whom the people must hear. (Deut. 18:15-19)  He was referring to the coming of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Before Christ came into the world the first time, all mankind was in the bondage of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ said:  "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, ‘We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free? Jesus answered them, Most assuredly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." (Jn. 8:32-34)   Since everyone has sinned all are in the bondage of sin. (Rom. 3:23)   The Israelites had been in the physical bondage of sin in Egypt.  This condition signifies all mankind is in the spiritual bondage of sin.


Passover prefigures Holy Communion

God gave ten plagues to the Egyptians to free the children of Israel.  It was not until the tenth plague in which the Passover Lamb was sacrificed and its blood applied on the entrance door posts and lintel of each Israelite household that Pharaoh finally allowed them to leave Egypt.   This is what God said: “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 12:13) The Passover Lamb symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ’ sacrifice and the shedding of His Blood on the Cross of Calvary. (1 Cor. 5:7) 

The Passover Feast corresponds to the New Testament Holy Communion that was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ the night He was betrayed. (Mt. 26:17-29)  The one unleavened bread spiritually signifies the flesh of Christ, and the “fruit of the vine” (grape juice) spiritually signifies the blood of Christ. (1 Cor. 10:16-17)  “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day..  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (Jn. 6:53-56)  The significance and the essentiality of the Holy Communion can never be overemphasized.


Red Sea Crossing signifies Water Baptism

The Israelite people were in great physical bondage in Egypt and God chose Moses to be their deliverer.  In order to leave Egypt the children of Israel must first cross the Red Sea.  The baptism “into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”  is a type of the Baptism into the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sin. (1 Cor. 10:1-2; Acts 2:38; 22:16)   Baptism into the Lord Jesus Christ enables the Christian to be free from sin. (Rom. 6:1-8)

The great parallel comparison to Moses delivering the children of Israel out of physical bondage is God’s sending his Son Jesus Christ into the world to provide a way of salvation for mankind to be delivered from the spiritual bondage of sin.   God’s deliverance through the crossing of the Red Sea signifies salvation by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Even the name “Red Sea” has a symbolic significance since the color red symbolizes blood.   Man’s only escape from the bondage of sin is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, be baptized into Him and be washed in His precious blood. (Heb. 9:22; Rev. 1:5) Our Lord Jesus Christ asserted: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk. 16:16)

Sanctification – Preparation for a Holy Life

It was only a short journey from Egypt to Canaan by the most direct route. A splendid highway ran up the coast through the country of the Philistines and the distance was not over 250 miles, or about a month’s journey.  There is a good reason why God did not lead the children of Israel to take the short route.   “Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.  So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.  And the Children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the ranks of Egypt.” (Ex. 13:17-18)  From this we can learn that God does not always work in the way that seems best to us.  If God does not lead us along the shortest path to our goals, we should not resist or complain. Follow Him willingly and trust Him to lead us safely around unseen obstacles.  He can see the end of our journeys from the beginning, and He knows the safest and best route.


The wilderness wandering was not only ordained as a judgment upon the rebels and murmurers, but it was to also serve as a discipline for the rising generation, preparatory to their entrance into the Promised Land.  Moses declared to them, "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He . . . allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”  “As a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you," " (Deut. 8:2-3,5)


Water from the Rock signifies

the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

After the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, they went into the wilderness and came to Marah where the waters were bitter.  After the people had complained against Moses the LORD showed him a tree that made the water sweet. (Ex. 15:22-26)  The tree of Marah represents the cross that the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified (1 Pet. 2:24).  The water that was bitter and became sweet represents the Holy Spirit that is given by God after Jesus went to the cross (Jn. 16:6-7; ref. Jn. 7:37-39).  The apostle Paul wrote the children of Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ “all drank the same spiritual drink – spiritual rock. “ (1 Cor. 10:4)  The water that came out of the rock that was struck by Moses symbolizes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ . (Num. 20:7-13; Acts 2:22-23, 32-33) 

The Lord Jesus Christ made this promise to the woman of Samaria,  “. . . . but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  (Jn. 4:14)  “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn. 7:37-39)  “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)  Just as the journey from Egypt to Canaan must include the Red Sea crossing and drinking from the “Rock” every  Christian must be “born of water and the Spirit” to enter the Kingdom of God. (Jn. 3:5)

Sanctification and the Observance

of the Ten Commandments

One of the most important events in the wilderness took place on Mount Sinai. It was at this place where God gave the children of Israel the Ten Commandments. This is the Moral Law that “were written with the finger of God.” (Ex. 31:18; 32:15-16) The two tablets containing the Ten Commandments were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. (Deut. 10:4-5) God gave the Ten Commandments not only to the Israelites but also to all mankind.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.” (Ecc. 12:13-14)

In His Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus Christ declared: Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:17-19) The Lord was talking about the Ten Commandments and those that He mentioned in His Sermon.

A young man asked the Lord Jesus Christ what good thing He should do to have eternal life. The Lord’s reply was, “. . . . But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He then asked, “Which ones?” The Lord then named a few of the Ten Commandments. Some wrongly teach Christians need only to keep nine commandments, but the Holy Bible states very clearly, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (Jas. 2:8-11)

True believers in the End Time will be distinguished from the others by their keeping of God’s commandments and having the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:17; 14:12) “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14 – NKJV)

Worship the One True God is the

Most Important Commandment


After forty years of wandering in the wilderness the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. But before they did, Moses wanted to remind them of their history, all that God had done for them, and most importantly the laws they had to continue to obey as God's chosen people. One of the most important sermons given by Moses is the “Shema” which means “Hear” with the emphasis on worship of the One True God being a prerequisite condition to possess the Promised Land.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:4-9)


The Lord Jesus Christ taught the “Shema.” “The first of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. . . .” (Mk. 12:28-31) After Jesus saw the scribe had agreed with Him He said, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mk. 12:32-34) The God that the Christians worship today is the same One True God that Moses and the children of Israel worshiped. He has not changed. He is still the One True God who manifested Himself as the Father in Creation, the Son in Redemption and the Holy Spirit in Emanation.

Sanctification and the Observance

of the Seventh Day Sabbath


At Creation God did three important things to the Seventh Day Sabbath.  First He rested, second He blessed the day, and third He sanctified it (Gen.2:2-3). The word 'sanctify' means to make holy, set apart, dedicate, consecrate and separate. When God sanctified the seventh day He had set it apart from the other six days.. The one in seven days principle cannot be applied to the Sabbath because only the seventh day is sanctified by God. The Fourth Commandment states: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God." (Ex. 20:8-11) The Sabbath is intended for God's people to worship Him (Lev. 23:3; Acts 15:21). Just as our Lord Jesus and the apostles attended Sabbath services regularly, therefore we must also assemble on the Seventh-Day Sabbath to worship God (Lk. 4:l6,31; Acts 13:42-44; 17:2).

Today there seems to be a lack of understanding concerning the observance of the Seventh Day Sabbath.  Many regard it purely as a Jewish tradition.  What they seem to ignore is the fact that the Seventh Day Sabbath was given by God at Creation (Gen. 2:1-3) when there were no Jews, no nation, no race, no sin, no law and no death.  The Lord Jesus Christ said: “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.  “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mk. 2:27-28)  God gave the Sabbath to mankind, not just to the Jews.

Some teach the Lord Jesus Christ is the Sabbath because He gives rest, therefore, they argue, Christians do not have to keep the Seventh Day Sabbath.  This is a false teaching.  How could Jesus be the replacement of the Sabbath and have it abolished when He is the “Lord of the Sabbath”?  He has observed the Seventh Day Sabbath throughout His life on earth. (Lk. 4:16)  Even at death His body was laid to rest on the Sabbath day. (Lk. 23: 54-55)   The Lord’s disciples “rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” which proves the Sabbath was not abolished by Christ’s death.  (Lk. 23:56) 

The apostle Paul wrote the children of Israel and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ “All ate the same spiritual food” (1 Cor. 10:3)   On the fifteenth day of the second month the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron because of the lack of food.  God gave them manna and at the same time taught them about observing the Seventh Day Sabbath. (Ex. 16:).  The children of Israel ate manna and kept the Seventh Day Sabbath for 40 years until they came to the border of the land of Canaan (Ex. 16:35).

Is it essential for the Christian to observe the Seventh Day Sabbath at all?  If we look upon the journey from Egypt to Canaan as an objective lesson in how to enter the Promised Land then it has much to teach us regarding the Sabbath’s importance in reaching our Final Destination.  (Heb. 4:1-8)  “There remains therefore a [Sabbath] rest for the people of God.  For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.  Let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:9-11) 

Keeping the Seventh Day Sabbath was placed in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8-11)  God reminded Israel to keep the Sabbath when they entered Canaan (Deut. 5:12-15)  The Seventh Day Sabbath represents the Christian’s future rest in heaven  (Heb. 4:1-11)

Crossing the River Jordan

prefigures the Washing of Feet 


There are two similar miracles in the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to Canaan.  Both miracles involved crossing over the waters.  When the children of Israel wanted to leave Egypt they had to cross the Red Sea.  At that time their faith was weak therefore God first performed the miracle for them by dividing the water.  Before the children of Israel entered Canaan and crossed the River Jordan they had to first sanctify themselves. (Jos. 3:5-6)  This prepared them therefore they had to demonstrate their faith first before God performed the miracle.  Twelve priests had to carry the Ark of the Covenant, “And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the Ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that came down for upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (Josh. 3:13) 

Crossing the Red Sea with the waters over their heads represent baptism into the Lord Jesus Christ by total immersion.  Crossing the River Jordan with the twelve priests carrying the ark with their feet dipping the water prefigures the Lord Jesus Christ washing the twelve disciples’ feet. (Jn. 13:1-17)   Just as crossing the River Jordan is an essential process for entering and possessing the Promised Land, washing of feet is an important sacrament in the sanctification of the Church of Jesus Christ.  The twelve priests carried the Ark of the Covenant in the midst of the River Jordan “until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.” (Josh. 3:14-17)  This demonstrates their strong faith, love, leadership, endurance, consecration to serve God and the people.  Washing of feet enables the Christian to have a part with the Lord Jesus Christ, and it also teaches mutual love, holiness, humility, service and forgiveness.

Sanctification through Obedience

and Holiness towards Glorification


An estimated two million people left Egypt at the start of the Exodus.  Of the grown men aged twenty and older who began the journey, only two made it to the Promised Land Canaan.  Joshua and Caleb gave their positive minority reports after spying out Canaan that showed their faith and trust in God. (Num. 13:30-33; 14:6-10, 26-31, 38; Josh. 14:6-10)

Even Moses was not to reach the Promised Land. (Deut. 6:1-6)  Shortly before his death Moses passed the mantle of military, political and spiritual leadership to Joshua, who was “full of the spirit of wisdom.” (Deut. 34:9)  It was appropriate that the name “Joshua” is the same one as the Savior’s – “YAHSHUA/JESUS”.   Joshua is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17).  Moses emphasized God’s law and justice, while Jesus Christ came to highlight God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.  Moses could only be the giver of the law, while the Lord Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law (Mt. 5:17).   Moses could not bring the Israelites into the Promised Land which signifies the law of Moses cannot save people.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  (Rom. 3:20)  “Knowing that a man is not justified by the deeds of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law; for by works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Gal. 2:16) We need to be very careful here. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Certainly not!" (Rom. 6:15) "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." Although keeping the law does not save us initially, but we still need to keep God's commandments to be in the right relationship with Him all the time. (1 Jn. 2:3-6; 5:2-3)

For forty years, Israel had journeyed a long and circuitous route through the wilderness because God had been testing their faith.  After crossing the River Jordan they camped near the heavily fortified city of Jericho.  God commanded the people to conquer Jericho by marching around the city once a day for six days.  On the seventh day they would have to march around the city seven times with the priests blowing their horns, and shouting.  This very strange military strategy was a test of the Israelites’ faith and their willingness to follow God completely.  As strange as the plan sounded, it worked.   God’s instructions may require us to do things that don’t make sense at first.  Even as we follow Him, we may wonder how things can possibly work out.  Like the Israelites, we should take one day at a time and follow God’s instructions step by step.  We may not see the logic of God’s plan until after we have obeyed Him.  Our strength to do God’s work comes from trusting Him.  His promises reassure us of His love and that He will be there to guide us in the decisions and struggles we face. Faith begins with believing the Lord Jesus Christ can be fully trusted to guide us.

God had demanded that the Israelites destroy almost everyone and everything in Jericho. (Josh. 6:21)  He was carrying out severe judgment against the wickedness of the Canaanites.  Because of their evil practices and intense idolatry, the Canaanites were a stronghold of rebellion against God.  One man Achan  “took the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.” (Josh 7:1)  Achan not only disobeyed God but also lied by covering his sin. (Josh. 7:10-12)  Why did one man’s sin bring judgment on the entire nation?  Although it was one man’s failure, God saw it as a national disobedience.  God required the entire nation to be committed to the task they had agreed to do – to conquer and possess the Promised Land.  Idolatry is a grave threat to the right kind of living that God required so it had to be removed.  If not, it would affect all Israel like a cancerous growth.  God’s purpose in all this was to keep the people’s faith and religion uncontaminated.  He also wants us to be pure.  He wants us to clean up our behavior when we begin a new life with Him.

“Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 5:23)

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things.”  (Phil. 3:20-21)

May God bless You



A sermon based on this article was preached by Paul Wong
to a congregation in Houston, Texas on June 28, 2003.

This article was published on this Website on August 21, 2009

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