Friday, November 25, 2011

He Goes Before You

pathImage by karenwithak via Flickr
In Jesus’ last command before He ascended, he told his followers to “go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19) in the Great Commission. The Christian life is a journey. We are poor, wayfaring strangers. It is a pilgrimage. John Bunyan understood it when he wrote Pilgrims Progress

Yet he didn’t send us alone along the way. He promised, “And lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He assures us that His providence and presence go before us.

Joseph understood. Sent to Egypt as a slave but rising to prime minister during the national famine crisis, he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen 45:7; 50:20). God had gone before him to prepare the way for him in Egypt.

Moses understood. Standing on the precipice above the Red Sea, with 2 million screaming, fearful slaves and the world’s most potent chariot and cavalry army charging headlong toward them, God went before him, making a way where there seemed to be no way, across the Red Sea on dry ground (Exod 13:17-14:31). If necessary, he would have leveled the mountains to make a way for them where there was no way (Isaiah 45:2). He broke open a way and went up before them, breaking through the gate with the Lord at their head (Micah 2:13).

David understood.  God told David to wait to go into battle against the Philistines until he heard the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees (NIV balsam trees) (2 Sam 5:22-25). The Lord fights our battles Himself (2 Chron 32:8). He goes before us in warfare in which victory has been assured (Deut 1:30; 11:23; 31:3; Exod. 23:30; 33:2; 34:11, 24; Lev 18:24; 20:23; Josh 23:5; 2 Sam 7:9; Psalm 59:10; 97:3).

Jeremiah understood. Prophesying to the nation of Judah exiled in Babylon, alone and afraid, Jeremiah repeated the words of the Lord that he has not forgotten Israel, but he has a plan and a future for the Jews, ending with the promise, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord” (Jer. 29:13-14).

God promises that He goes before us to the place of His promise (Exod 32:34). He guides with His light (Exod 13:21); therefore, we need not fear (Deut 1:29-31). He prepares the way in a straight path (Psalm 27:11) and chooses the places of rest (Deut 1:33) through His Word and His presence in prayer (Num 10:33). Our assignment is to follow Him as He takes us where we have not been before (Josh 3:3-4, 6). Our Shepherd goes before us (Psalm 23:2; 77:20) in His righteousness (Psalm 85:13), love and faithfulness (Psalm 89:14). 

His presence goes before us into difficult places to test our hearts (Deut 8:2) and as a testimony to the enemy (Num 14:14; Psalm 23:5). His way leads to the cross (Mark 10:32), for everyone who follows after him must take up his cross (Matt 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). But rest assured, the safest place in the world to be is in the protection of following God where he leads you (Prov 2:8; Psalm 121:7). He hems us in, protecting us in front and behind (Isaiah 52:12; Psalm 139:5).
And what of the destination? He is with us, Emmanuel, mighty to save, taking delight in us, quieting us with his love, rejoicing over us with singing (Zeph 3:17), providing an inheritance there for his people (Psalm 78:55), a blessing for those who follow in obedience (Ezek 20:6; Luke 24:50-51). It leads to all truth (John 14:17; 16:13), to sonship (Rom 8:14), to fullness and maturity in Jesus (Phil 1:6). Jesus himself promised that no one who has left home or family or fields for him and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this age and the age to come (Mark 10:29-30).