Before You, With You, and Faithful to You

The Shepherd by William Keith

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.- Deuteronomy 31:8

We are not the Israelites. We have no new land to conquer or people to subdue and destroy, and we haven’t been wandering in the wilderness for forty years. But my wife and I surely have ventured into unknown and uncertain, at least from our angle, territory. In our new move to Philadelphia to study at Westminster Seminary, the Lord called us away from our wonderful church home, family and friends we adore, jobs that we loved, and the stability of the usual and and familiar. To study up here is a blessing and a joy, but we are stepping into a situation in which the Lord will have to literally provide everything for us. The feelings of insecurity and fear, though unfounded, are real. From selling our house back home to finding jobs, a place to live, a new body of believers to worship with, and many things we have not come to know we need, we are clinging to the faithfulness of our God.

Moses reminds the people of Israel in the wilderness beyond the Jordan of the covenant faithfulness of their God. As Moses himself will not be traveling with them into the promised land, their earthly security is being taken away. Though Joshua will follow in Moses’ footsteps, the end of an era is taking place. Surely it was hard for them to hear Moses’ words, considering all that he had done for them, all that he had meant to them, knowing that he wasn’t going with them. Surely it was difficult to look into a land they had never known, realizing they must trust God completely to give them what He had promised.

“It is the LORD who goes before you.” Moses uses God’s divine name, a name that was told to him as a mirror into the existence of the Almighty. The name invokes a sense of faithfulness and remembrance. This God who had gone before the people was the covenant-keeping God who worked mighty wonders in the past to bring His children out of bondage and into freedom. Not only has God worked, He promised to go before His people into new territories to conquer, subdue, and pave the way for His people’s journey. He knows what is ahead, and it doesn’t scare Him.

“He will be with you.” What a promise! The God of the universe resides with His people. He is Immanuel, God with us. God’s people never have to fear “aloneness” or insecurity, for the Lord is with them. He is with them when they rise in the morning and when they lay down at night. He is with them to hold them, comfort them, reassure them, and suffer with them.

“he will not leave you or forsake you.” Though nights are cold and darkness is real, God does not flee. He is constant in the rough and in the calm. Though our situations may scare and intimidate us, they can not and will not scare or intimidate Him. We do not have to fear His running away or hiding. We do not have to fear His abandonment, for it will never come.

“Do not fear or be dismayed.” The strength and stability of God’s people simply can not come from their own resolve or strength. It can not come from their own ingenuity or planning. It can not ever rest on their present conditions or circumstances, for all that His people can bring of their own accord will diminish at the first sign of resistance, the first tempting call, and the first moment of suffering. The strength and stability of God’s people can only rest on the strength, stability, faithfulness, sovereignty, love, and grace of their covenant-keeping God. Here in His arms they find all that they need.

All of these truths of God find their detail and design in the person of Christ. Jesus has gone before His people into sin and darkness to defeat it for them by His life, death, and resurrection. He is Immanuel and promises to be with them for ever, in suffering and in ease, by His Spirit and one day by His physical presence. He is the one in whom we can trust, for He has gone before us, tasted suffering in ways we never will, emerged victorious from the most darkest of circumstances, and promises to bring us through and to the other side of all we can experience in this life. We find in the person of Christ the yes and amen of all God’s truth.

It is to Christ and to this promise of Deuteronomy that my wife and I cling. We have no other hope but Him, no other boast but Him, no other stability but Him, and no other expectation but Him. This truth doesn’t ignore the reality of sadness of leaving what we know and love or the feelings of insecurity and fear which so easily creep into our thoughts, but this truth gives us the only solid ground to stand on, even when we can’t feel it. This truth is the truth that will carry us and all of God’s people into the beautiful future He has for us. And in the midst of living, our great God is constantly turning our gaze to Jesus whispering, “I have gone before you. I will be with you; I will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” It is enough.

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