Have you ever worried about a future event? An expression often used is feeling as though we are “in the path of an oncoming train.” As humans, we tend to project into the future – and we usually envision the worst outcome. However as believers in Jesus Christ, we should have a different hope and a different mindset.
The Bible tells us that even though things may seem bleak and we will have pressures of life come upon us, we have access to divine information and a divine source of help which very few have been drawing from, or even been aware of. This is what we will be studying today.
So let’s begin our study today by examining Deuteronomy 31:7-8:
“And Moses called to Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it.
And the LORD, he it is that does go before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you, neither forsake you: fear not, neither be dismayed.
And the LORD, he it is that does go before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you, neither forsake you: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
We see several interesting and important details as we examine these verses. At other times, the LORD had encouraged and uplifted Joshua personally and privately, but now this was a public and open affirmation. Moses was the representative for God here, and he was stating that God had chosen Joshua to succeed Moses and lead the people into the Promise Land. Joshua had consistently trusted in the LORD, even when others had recoiled, and now he was being given a place of honor having been selected by God Himself.
Take special notice of verse 8: In the Hebrew language, whenever something is emphasized, it is either repeated or placed first in the sentence. Here, we see that God is emphasizing the fact that it is the LORD who is going ahead of Joshua and Israel in order to ensure their victory, safety, security and provision in their journey. Now why is this piece of information so important that God chooses to emphasize it? Let’s take a closer look at exactly what is being said here.
First we see who is being referenced: the LORD. It is not merely an army of men, nor of beasts, and not even the angels in Heaven, but it is God Himself, the LORD Jesus Christ.
Next, we see what the LORD is doing: he it is that does go before you. When God is leading, you can be assured of three things… first that the path will be straight. No twists, no turns and no delays. It is not God that delays bringing good. We often hear that God delays good to teach us something, but it is stated quite plainly in Proverbs 3:27-28, that it is wrong to withold good from those to whom it is due, and God never behaves wrongly. So when God is leading, the path will not have any delays, neither will it have any twists and turns or segues into evil or mischief.
After this we see another assurance, that not only is God leading us, but also that he will be with us. Now those words “be with” in our English translation is actually one single word in the original Hebrew text… the word rāp̄āh (רָפָה ), which is a very rich and interesting word. The word in this context means “to quiet, to relax and to rest”. God is the one who quiets us, relaxes us and gives us rest. So many people are searching for relaxation, rest and peace in the world today, and when the pressures of life come, these people are overwhelmed because they are lacking the relationship with God demonstrated in these verses of scripture. Instead of God, they turn to the things of this world to give them rest; for some it is alcohol, for others it is nicotine or other drugs, music or even people… but regardless of what it may be, if you are looking to something other than Jesus to give you rest, it will fall in the end, and you will be left wondering what went wrong – because only the LORD Jesus Christ can truly give us rest.
The next assurance that we see in these verses is that he will not fail. Now this does not say that the situation will always appear good. Sometimes the situation may look very bleak, but those are just illusions of the enemy. Joshua was sent to spy out the land which God was bringing them into, and he saw literal giants already inhabiting the land. If you see giants towering over you in height, the situation does not seem very good – but Joshua also had divine information from God that victory was already assured. Here we see that God will not fail, even when things look bad and it looks like we are losing, if God is going before us, if we are following His leadership and He is our God, we can be assured that He will not fail.
We also see that he will not forsake you. That word “forsake” in the Hebrew language is the word āzaḇ (עָזַב ) which means “to let alone, depart or abandon”. There have been people I have talked with over the years who have asked me “why doesn’t God just leave me alone!” and this promise here is the answer why not… because He has promised not to, and He is ever faithful. We may try to abandon Him (to our own peril) but He will never abandon us.
Lastly in our scripture text, we see a directive: fear not, neither be dismayed. This may seem redundant at first, but there are actually two separate things here. Fear not. In other words, do not be in fear. We know that fear is a spirit and that it does not come from God (2nd Timothy 1:7). So when fear comes, it is already a red flag that God is not in whatever is going on. Then we have neither be dismayed. To be dismayed is defined as “to be discouraged, or broken”. I particularly like the word broken because it draws attention to the fact that if we are dismayed, it is a reminder that we have been separated from our source of strength which is Jesus Christ – Not that He left or that the relationship is severed, but that we ourselves have broken contact with Him; it is a reminder to get back to our source and stop wasting time with the temporal things of this world.
The enemy often tries to bring us into the bondage of fear and discouragement by the outward appearance of situations and circumstances, and if we are separated from Jesus and trying to draw strength from worldly temporal things or people, we will find ourselves to be an easy target and victory for the enemy. This is why these two directives are listed last in these verses. Only after we realize that it is the LORD which goes ahead of us, it is He that leads us, Him that gives us rest, and that He will never fail us or abandon us, then we have a solid foundation upon which we can resist fear and discouragement.
At this point some may be wondering if this for us today. Some may say that this was specifically God’s promise to Joshua and Israel and does not apply for us. So in closing today, let’s read Romans 8:31-37:
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.
Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Jesus Christ is greater than Joshua. Settle that fact in your soul. Jesus is greater than every prophet and every priest and every ruler. Anyone who was ever blessed or anointed by God, Jesus has a greater blessing and anointing. We see in verse 32 that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ today, all things, every promise and every blessing is given to us in Christ Jesus. And we also see in verses 35 and 37 that just as with Joshua, Jesus Christ never leaves us today and no-one can separate us from is love. We have complete victory over our enemies today just as Joshua had for his, and as we follow the Leading of God and He gives us His peace, we will trample fear and discouragement just as Joshua did as well.
This is the work of Christ in us – not of ourselves, but through Christ Jesus, for the LORD is always going ahead of us. So if you have a relationship with Jesus today, there is no reason to fear the future, your future is already assured. In-fact it is the enemies of God who have a reason to fear, because as His beloved, we have already been given absolute victory. Give Jesus the praise!