Text: “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV).
Maybe you need some encouragement today! Maybe we all need to be reminded of God’s promises to us even as Joshua needed assurance from the Lord. The challenges that Joshua was about to face were immense. Our challenges this very day may be or may seem to be immense as well. This text is not unique in the Scriptures. It is an example of God’s promised presence and helps as we seek to live for Him and serve Him as His people in Christ Jesus.
Moses’ days as a leader are coming to an end. Now Joshua is God’s chosen one to take the people into the Promised Land. Moses has addressed the people, and now he addresses Joshua “in the sight of all Israel.” It is Joshua who is to take the people into occupied territory, lead them into the necessary battles, and to oversee the dividing of the land and the settling of the people. No small order! The challenge has been presented to Joshua by the Lord through Moses, and he is exhorted to be “strong and courageous” (Deut. 31:7). The words that follow (in our text) are words of encouragement to Joshua in the light of what God was calling Joshua to do.
“And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you……” Joshua could not depend on Moses; Moses was not to cross the Jordan. Joshua could not depend on the people. Joshua could not depend upon those who occupied the land. And I’m sure Joshua knew that he had to look beyond himself. The Lord was to be “the One,” the key, the answer to the challenge that Joshua faced. The words of our text were words of ultimate encouragement. “The Lord” was the One who brought His people out of Egypt and through the wilderness. By emphasizing that the Lord is the One, Joshua is reminded that he only needs the Lord ultimately. The Lord is more than enough. The knowledge of the Lord’s promises (Deut. 31:7) and His promised presence (Deut. 31:8) would be critical to Joshua as it was with Moses.
You may remember the encounter that Moses had with the Lord in Exodus 33:12-23 (read). This mysterious encounter reveals two important truths for us today. First of all, that God’s presence is what God’s people need and must have to move forward with Him. Secondly, even as was true with Moses we should desire God’s presence and His glory. We can be confident that God is willing to be present and ultimately to show His glory.
As the Apostle Paul is concluding his section of the gospel in Romans 8, he asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31 NKJV). Although this is a very different context, it is just as true that the sufficiency of the Lord is emphasized here. Our enemies or circumstances cannot ultimately be victorious. God has not spared His own Son for us, therefore we can be assured of His sufficiency for all matters in our lives even to eternity (Rom. 8:32, 33-39).
Joshua could be strengthened by the expectation of the Lord’s involvement and activity. The words “He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you” were not just nice phrases. The Lord was to go before Joshua actively. This speaks of the Lord’s leadership and His enablement. The Lord has led His people through the wilderness. The Lord had provided for His people. The Lord had enabled victories in battles already this side of the Jordan. The Lord would now lead, protect, and bring about the conquest of the land. The knowledge of the Lord’s presence, likewise, is not just a devotional phrase. The presence of the Lord was to be an essential reality. The Lord’s active presence would be Joshua’s portion and confidence. God’s presence indicated that the power of the Lord would be with them to accomplish God’s purposes. The Lord would be sufficient for the next step in His plan. The Lord will continue the work He has started (Philippians 1: 6 - Read)
We need to remember that God is working out His plan, not necessarily exactly according to what we want. I’m sure that Joshua was not looking forward (in and of himself) to some of the challenges ahead. But, it was as he obeyed the word of the Lord that God’s purposes would be accomplished by God through him (Joshua 1:7-1). And God’s will is always best, indeed, as the Apostle Paul writes, it is “good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).
“He will not leave you nor forsake you….” The Lord would be faithful. He would not abandon Joshua in the time of need, or at any time for that matter. When the going would get tough, the Lord would still be there. What comfort and strength Joshua could find in these words and these truths. Moses would go on to exhort Joshua “do not fear nor be dismayed.” Fear and discouragement could paralyze Joshua, and lead to disobedience and defeat. Joshua’s strength and courage were to be based on a sufficient and active Lord who would consistently be before and with Joshua. These truths would be reaffirmed by the Lord as He calls Joshua to cross the Jordan rIver and enter the Promised Land in Joshua 1:1-9.
How often God’s people have found strength in the Lord when all other options have disappeared for one reason or another! As the Apostle Paul is closing his passionate second letter to his beloved Timothy, he reminds Timothy of the Lord’s help in a time of need. He writes:
“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also, I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17 NKJV).
Then the Apostle, even in the face of death, states “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! (2 Tim. 4:19 KKJV).
Even as Paul was confident, we can be confident that the Lord will not abandon us in the time of need. He will be consistently faithful, and He will not allow anyone or anything to thwart His good will for us and our ultimate salvation. Praise His name!
The promise of the Lord’s consistent presence and active power is our source of encouragement and strength as we do the will of God, especially in the midst of challenging circumstances. “And the Lord, He is the One….”
Edited and revised from President’s Perspective article in “Into the Word,” A Publication of Olford Ministries International, Vol. 2 – Number 1, February – May 2007.