The Lord Still Goes Before You

Deuteronomy 1:29-31 “Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

Moses spoke these words to Israel when God led them to the Promised Land the first time. They were afraid to go in and take it because the people who lived there looked like giants to them. So long as we are fixated on the giants in our way we will be afraid to move forward. But following our God is not a reason to be afraid. It is a reason to trust his promises.

God’s first promise in these words is one we may not recognize at first. It looks more like a command. “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid…” Those words are meant to do more than confront us. They are meant to reassure us. They say more than “Stop that!” They say, “You don’t have to be afraid. The Lord is on your side. He is going to take care of you. He has good things in mind for you.” He goes on to explain what those good things are.

“The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did in Egypt…” Did Israel think that they had gotten out of Egypt because of their own ingenuity? Was it the overwhelming force of Israel’s armies that persuaded the Pharaoh to let them go? Wasn’t Israel rather practically passive while the Lord sent the Ten Plagues, divided the waters of the Red Sea, and then drowned the armies of Egypt?

When in history have God’s People ever succeeded because of their own great strength? God’s power gave Abraham’s little company of servants victory over the combined armies of five kings. Gideon’s band of 300 achieved victory over 100,000 Midianites only because of God’s help. Only the Lord’s intervention made it possible for Hezekiah’s little group of defenders to break Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem.

When the Lord wanted to give us victory over sin, death, and Satan, he didn’t send us into battle by ourselves and tell us, “Go get ‘em.” He didn’t involve us in the battle at all. He made himself as weak as possible. He burdened himself with full responsibility for our guilt. He died in our place. Yet by his death he crushed Satan, completely obliterated all record of our sin, and then shattered death by rising to life once again.

It doesn’t work differently for us today just because a couple thousand years have passed. We can follow him confidently because we can still trust his promises to fight for us today. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. Church history is a demonstration of this truth. Our personal histories are as well.  

The future will bear this out, too. His gospel, not our efforts, will be the power of salvation for everyone who believes. His Word, not our cleverness, will accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it. So long as we continue to take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, out of its sheath and let it speak; so long as we will not be ashamed of his Word, but preach and teach the whole counsel of God and let it do its work, our God will not be behind us cheering us on. He will go before us. He will fight for us. He will lead us as we carry his salvation to our world. We have every reason to trust his promises.

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