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
After twenty-seven-and-a-half years of marriage, my husband knows just what to say. When asked the most consequential question that wives have been asking their unsuspecting husbands since the dawn of time, “Does this outfit make me look fat?”, he ALWAYS answers, “No, you look beautiful!” We both know the truth but there is no way he is going to say anything different after what happened the first time I asked him that question! Let’s just say that as a newlywed not yet knowing how these things work–to his regret–he did not answer correctly! However, now the man can practically read my mind. Knowing my obsessive tendency to over-plan for any and everything, he has learned to anticipate what I think needs to be done. When I go through the sometimes-insane checklists and say, “We need to get that.” or “We need to do this?”, he quite often will say with great satisfaction and accomplishment, “I’m one step ahead of you!” This favorite catchphrase of his when translated means, “I have already thought of every possible thing we will need for this situation and it has been taken care of–so don’t worry!” As great as this is, sometimes human foresight and preparation alone is no match for some of the difficult life challenges that befall all of us. This is why I love the featured verse so much!
“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 emphasis mine)
We see a beautiful example of this in the Old Testament. Scripture says:
“And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. (Numbers 14:14)
In Exodus 13:17, as the Israelites exited Egypt, it says God did not lead them through the shortest route because He knew they would give up and return to their slavery. So instead, He led them along the Wilderness road toward the Red Sea. Perhaps He also chose the route through the Red Sea to simultaneously build their faith as the sea parted and to destroy the Egyptian Army as it returned to its previous state. We may not understand why God is taking us on the road we are on but we must trust that He has a very good reason. We are told that throughout the Israelites’ entire journey in the wilderness–all forty years of it–God never left His place in front of them.
“The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:22 HCSB emphasis mine)
A few days ago, one of our customers (my husband has a construction business) was telling me how God had gone before her and prepared the way as she experienced the most difficult circumstances of her life–the loss of her husband to cancer. She told how her husband had fixed up a lovely home in an older neighborhood where they had lived for many years. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, he became interested in a plot of land in a safer and more upscale neighborhood. They sold their old home and built a new one on this plot, which also happened to be a few houses away from one of their daughters. Not long after the move, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly he was gone. She joyfully told this story of how anxious she would have been in her old neighborhood as an elderly widow and how she attributed her husband’s unusual decision to relocate as God’s doing. Because God had prepared the way, she now felt safe and grateful to be so close to her daughter in her present neighborhood.
I could tell many stories of my own of how God has gone before us in some of our most difficult circumstances. The one most dear to me was when God prepared us for the birth of our disabled son. Seven years before his birth, I was ministering in Singapore on a three-and-a-half-month-long mission trip. One evening during my devotion time, the Lord gave me a tune for the following scripture:
In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.
Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape:
incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
Be thou my strong habitation, where I may continually resort:
for thou art my rock and my fortress. (Psalm 71:1-3 KJV)
Because I was so amazed that God had given me the tune, I recorded it on the cassette tape I had been making for my then-fiance, now-husband. (Note to Millennials: That’s what poor couples who were separated by continents and couldn’t afford telephone calls did before the internet existed!) The fact that God gave me this tune for this scripture is nothing short of miraculous, given my musical ability–or lack thereof. (See NOT OVER TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS) Also in the miraculous category is the fact that my husband still married me after hearing me sing–but I digress…
So, seven years, a wedding, and two kids later, I am in the delivery room having complications during the birth of my third child. I am fretting because my first two deliveries went fine and I have never experienced the stress and alarm of this nature. Out of nowhere, this tune starts playing over and over in my mind. I ask my husband to look up the scripture to the tune and read it. He reads the first familiar verses then continues on to
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge. (Psalm 71:5-7 NIV)
We were both overwhelmed by the comfort and peace that this Word brought to us. God spoke right to our hearts that HE was the one bringing Judah forth from my womb. That assurance has been invaluable as we have walked the long road we have traveled. Several times since, we have been encouraged and strengthened by other verses in this chapter. The word, Praise, is used six times in this portion of scripture. Our son’s name is Judah which means Praise. Because this chapter has spoken so much to our hearts specifically regarding our son, we now call this Judah’s chapter. We marvel that God set in motion this Word seven years before the precise time we needed it. Our son’s Cerebral Palsy did not take God by surprise. He was preparing the way long before I ever gave birth to Judah.
I am so grateful that God goes before us but unfortunately, sometimes we mess it up. For various reasons we choose not to follow Him. We may think we know better than God (Pride). We may not trust God. (Unbelief) We may want to do it our way. (Selfishness) Twenty-three times in the Gospels, Jesus said, “Follow me.” Like the Israelites, if we do not follow, we may lose some valuable time (forty years) or worse–many of them did not make it into the Promised Land. For those of you who need a visual–take a look at the following photo. (Note: Since this was first posted, some readers have asked me to explain the following photo. The footprints symbolize God going before us and the bird claw-prints are us when we are not following God’s leading!)
Dear Lord, Please don’t let our journey look like the photo above! You are not confined by space and time. Nothing is hidden from your view. You know all things, are present in all places and all power is yours. May we follow close behind you, and never stray from the shadow of your love. LH
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