“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV).
God commands our confident trust in Him. In a world that encourages us to believe in ourselves and to achieve all we deserve, it’s important to understand who and Whose we are. Society sets a bar to earn and accumulate. Accomplishments and accessories are praised above humility and God-ordained purpose.
Quite often people have a hard time taking God at His word. Yet if God says it, that settles it, and there’s absolutely no reason to doubt it. In place of worldly standards, the Old Testament admonishment of Deuteronomy 31:6 can serve as a benchmark in our everyday lives.
Hebrews 13:5 echoes the same sentiment, putting an extra emphasis on what not to have confidence in:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you…’” (NIV).
Deuteronomy 31:6 was written to encourage the people of Israel including Joshua. It was a call to obedience amid great adversity. In the days to come Solomon and later still Hezekiah’s military officers needed to hear it again. Their place in history presented them with challenges that they could not overcome by themselves. God wanted them to know for sure that they could trust Him to lead them to victory.
Two verses later God repeated himself saying, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV).
When we promise to “always” or “never” do something, we are unable to guarantee the outcome. We may change our minds or simply fail due to human frailty. Hence the caution, “never say never!” However, when God promises “always” or “never” He can be fully trusted to honor His word.
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?” (Numbers 23:19 NIV).
Joshua’s call was to lead the Israelites into the promised land to which Moses had been guiding them for forty years. No pressure. Joshua had seen firsthand the flaws of his mentor. Surely, he had some serious doubts of his own.
But God assured him in Joshua 1:5 that “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you” (NIV).
The legacy of our Heavenly Father’s trustworthiness was restated in Solomon’s dedication of the temple in Jerusalem when he said:
“May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us or abandon us” (1 Kings 8:57 NIV).
The ‘Lord’ capitalized, is significant. It translates the word Yahweh signifying Israel’s covenant God whose character and divine works are central to the Old Testament. The promises of God are either already fufilled or one day will be.
In Genesis 28:15 God made this promise to Jacob:
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible makes this observation about Jacob’s dream:
“We should not imagine that the angels Jacob saw were marching in procession down and up the stairway as often pictured in art. Rather he saw messengers (angels) going off on missions and retiring from delivering their messages.”
The invisible realm of God and his angels is out of our sight but visible by faith. To strengthen such faith, the writer of Hebrews restated God’s promise applying it to the church:
…for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5b-6)
Our confidence in God rests upon his proven ‘track record’. He has kept all of the promises whose time has come. We can be confident that he will keep those yet to be fulfilled.
Just as believers under the old covenant were called to faith, so are we. As God bestowed the ‘gift’ of his divine choice upon Abaraham and his descendants, he has also made us the beneficaries of his grace. We are saved by his grace and take our stand upon his promises. Faith in God and obedience to Him have been necessary in every age. The God who is faithful calls us to be faithful too.
When we obey the gospel of Jesus Christ as instructed in scripture we have the assurance that God is with us, that His Spirit lives within us and that our Lord himself will be with us until the end of the age (Mt. 18:20) He will never leave us or forsake us.
Port Colborne, ON