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Why the promised land is called desolate

July 5, 2012

Israel was promised blessings in their land, if the people kept the law. [Leviticus 26:3-5] If they abandoned the law, however, the land would no longer yield her strength to them. [Leviticus 26:18-20]

In many prophecies, the land is described as desolate. Isaiah connected the desolation of the land with understanding and believing the words of the prophets. In response to his question, how long will it be before the people of Israel understand with their heart, and convert, and become healed? Isaiah was told, “until the land be utterly desolate.”

Isaiah 6:10-11
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.

Isaiah’s prophecy shows how we may interpret the significance of the desolation of the promised land. It represents lacking knowledge of God, and not understanding revelations of Scripture, such as Isaiah’s prophecies.

A particular land was associated with innocence in the story of Adam and Eve in Eden, and their banishment from the garden. The land promised to Abraham and his descendants, Israel’s possession of it, and their loss of the promised land echoes the theme of the Genesis account of the garden of Eden.

In the mosaic law the priests and Levites received no inheritance of land, but God was their inheritance, in lieu of land. Thus, even before Israel possessed their land, it was already a symbol for Christ and the knowledge of God.

Several prophecies that mention the land becoming desolate are considered below.

Isaiah said in the day of the Lord, the land would become desolate.

Isaiah 13:9
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

Jeremiah said that God’s vineyard was made desolate by “many pastors.” Perhaps Jeremiah was speaking of the land metaphorically. The spoilers had made the land desolate. The land represents the spiritual heritage of the saints, which includes the knowledge of God, and understanding God’s word.

Jeremiah 12:10-12
Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.
The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the Lord shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.

Ezekiel spoke of the land becoming desolate in several prophecies.

Ezekiel 33:29
Then shall they know that I am the Lord, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.

The heathen made the mountains of Israel desolate, Ezekiel said. [Ezekiel 36:3-8] They were “taken up in the lips of talkers,” and had been made “an infamy of the people.” [vs. 4] The heathen had “appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.” [vs. 5] But they will bring forth fruit for God’s people Israel. [vs. 8] In Ezekiel’s prophecy, the mountains represent God’s promises.

The land lying before the army described in Joel 2:1-11 is like Eden, and they leave a desolate wilderness  behind them.

Joel 2:3
A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.

Micah said those who dwell in the land caused its desolation.

Micah 7:13
Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.

Zechariah said that when God scattered Israel among the nations, the “pleasant land,” or the land of Canaan, was left desolate.

Zechariah 7:14
But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

Prophecies about desolation of the land correspond to the events connected with the blowing of the first trumpet in Revelation 8.

Revelation 8:7
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

In Revelation 12, the serpent casts out from his mouth a flood of water, intended to carry away the woman, who represents the church.

Revelation 12:15
And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.

Some prophecies about a remedy for the desolation of the land are considered below. Ezekiel said the mountains of Israel will be possessed by Israel, and God will do better to them than at their beginnings.

Ezekiel 36:11
And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

The prophecy describes a reversal of the desolation; the desolate land becomes like Eden.

Ezekiel 36:35
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.

In Revelation 12, the land swallows up the flood that the serpent cast out of his mouth.

Revelation 12:16
And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.

The flood is a flood of false interpretations; the land which swallows up the flood is the truth.

 

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