TobyMac singing into a microphone in a white outfit

TobyMac tells us how to find our promised land in his latest song

Maggie Noble
Maggie Noble

Do you ever wonder if you’ll reach your promised land – the place where you glimpse God, and your life is fulfilled?

But where is that promised land? Is it a physical location that we can see, or a place we’ll only find in heaven? Will God reveal it to us at the end of our lives, or will we discover that the promised land was right in front of us all along?

Our imaginations are filled with images of what the promised land might look like, but – similar to the way a child has many ideas about their future but can’t fully picture living in it – it’s difficult to imagine the reality of that moment where we enter the promised land.

TobyMac’s new hit single “Promised Land,” with a new version featuring a special collaboration with Sheryl Crow, asks a question that you may also have festering inside: “And I’m wonderin’ yeah I’m wonderin’ where’s my promised land?”

Like us, TobyMac was looking for the promised land, saying in an interview with 98.5 KTIS, “… especially after the passing of my son, I started thinking, ‘Well, the promised land is in heaven, and I just can’t wait to get there.’”

But then, Toby realized something that would change everything. “… my promised land really is right here on this earth,” Toby said, “but the promised land isn’t a land; it’s a relationship with Jesus.”

So, we don’t have to pack our bags for a long trip across the earth to locate the promised land. We search for the promised land when we search for Jesus. He is our promised land:

You’re my promised land
In all my grievin’
I’m still believin’,
You’re my promised land.

(TobyMac, “Promised Land”)

The song continues,

And even though the questions change
The answers always stay the same.

(TobyMac, “Promised Land”)

Jesus will always and forever be our promised land. Although sometimes that place of peace with our Savior might seem far away, we just have to look through the telescope and see the landscape of hope, love, and faith come into focus.

TobyMac said his song “Promised Land” focuses on his own “search” for the promised land. Toby said, “It’s really about … where my promised land is and the mistakes I’ve made.… Not that I ever really thought my promised land was on this earth, but maybe at times I lived like that.”

What would you do if the promised land was a place? You’d pack your bags, find a map, and determine your route before setting out on the journey of a lifetime. Each stop would get you closer to your goal physically, but emotionally it might not feel that way.

You might be frustrated, and your eyes might get blurry from staring at the horizon for so long. That’s what it might look like to envision the promised land as a place, as TobyMac did for some time.

But no matter how we envision the promised land, the journey toward it is still difficult. Seeking Jesus above all else is hard. It’s a daily struggle, one that can seem endless:

You might even feel like the journey will never end:
Out here on this desert road
It’s hot as fire but I’ve grown cold
Circlin’ like a plane that never lands.

(TobyMac “Promised Land”)

And it may feel like we’re searching for something we’ll never find. We’ve looked and looked and, as the song says, “run this earth for many years,” but “there’s nowhere on this side of heaven where streets are made of gold.”

But when we see the promised land as a relationship, like TobyMac said, then things become much clearer. God is helping us create a landscape that will become our promised land. With each prayer, we’re building a promised land, one stone, one flower, at a time.

And eventually, everything will come together. Our promised land gets closer as we cultivate our relationship with Jesus, and all our searching, all of our seeking, will culminate into a beautiful climax when we reach heaven:

I won’t give up on this race
Broken but I still have faith
That this old life is all part of a plan
And I can feel it in my soul, one day I’ll stand before the throne
With nothing left but hope in these two hands.

(TobyMac “Promised Land”)

TobyMac co-wrote the song “Promised Land” with Adam Agee, who is one of his close friends in the Christian music industry. In their 15 years of friendship, Toby said this is the first time they’ve collaborated on a song. TobyMac wrote some portions of the song, and Adam wrote other portions.

TobyMac said it only took a couple days for him and his team to write, record, and complete the song, although he waited a year before going any further with it. When Toby had worked on the song for a while, he asked Adam for his opinion. Since the song was initially Adam’s idea, Toby was nervous to hear what Adam would have to say about the song.

But Adam’s response was the encouragement Toby needed. TobyMac said, “… he just wrote back, ‘It’s incredible.’”

Toby says this song was a “gift” that he hoped to treat carefully. “When God gives you a gift like that, you have to handle it with respect,” he said.

That song also inspired an idea for a music video, which Toby thought of several days after completing the song. “And I don’t see videos often in my mind,” he said, adding that it’s usually someone else, often the director, who comes up with the idea for the music video.

The music video for TobyMac’s “Promised Land” focuses on a hard-working coalminer as he goes to work and struggles with life without his wife in a mining camp. Toby chose a coalminer as the subject of the video because he believes that lifestyle represents “the struggle of life and trying to look forward to something beyond them, beyond what they see on a day-to-day.”

Toby described, “… if anybody knows that hard, tough life that is longing for the promised land, it would be a coalminer, someone in that industry. It’s very tough, and sometimes all you have, all you’ve got, is to hang onto the promised land.” Another reason why he chose a coalminer as the video’s subject was to recognize his grandfather, who was also a coalminer.

TobyMac gets the inspiration for many of his songs from words. He described himself as a “wordsmith,” and words are a natural beginning for his song-writing process. “I start with words or a thought, typically, and then take it to the studio,” Toby described.

He then works on what he calls “the chorus thought,” or “the heart of the song.” Next comes the music. He writes music for both the chorus and the verses and works from there.

But before writing a song, Toby asks himself, “What is this song going to say to people?” He focuses deeply on the message and tries to cultivate it so it can be an inspiration for others.

When writing a song, Toby prays that “God would allow me to be part of His process.” Toby said, “That’s my prayer before I start writing, before I start recording, that God would allow me to be part of His process in writing a song that turns people’s eyes to Him.”

Because that’s the real goal of songwriting, of creating anything. We want to create pieces that proclaim God’s glory, but we can’t do it alone. We must ask to be woven into God’s plan.

Toby’s songs are also personal. “I just like to take things that really happen and write about them, things that are really going on in my life. And I find that when I write about things that are really happening in my life, it resonates with people more,” he said.

TobyMac also announced that he hopes to release a new album in April or May. Creating the album is consuming much of his time right now.

The Hits Deep Tour is fast approaching, and TobyMac will soon be on stage with artists like CAIN and Crowder, which are both artists that he is touring with for the first time. Toby also said that Minneapolis, where he will be performing on March 12, has a special place in his heart. He’s performed there both as TobyMac and as part of DC Talk. It’s “always one of the best shows of the tour,” Toby said.

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