Hebrews 13: 5
We all have burdens and concerns that keep us awake at night: What will tomorrow bring? Will our health hold up, or will we have a heart attack or a sudden stroke? Will someone we know test positive for the coronavirus? Will we end up wasting away in a hospital? What about our children? What if something happens to them? Who will take care of us in our old age?
Singles wonder if they will ever marry. Married couples look at all the divorces and wonder if they will make it. Will we live to see our grandchildren? We wonder where we will be in 10 years.
The coronavirus pandemic reminds us we are not in charge, and we are more vulnerable than we dreamed. No one imagined a global shutdown 6 months ago. But here we are. That’s why I started a new series called “God’s Big Promises: God Says You Are, You Have, You Can, You Will.” In these uncertain days we need to focus on the promises God has made.
Here are 3 truths that ought to encourage us:
1. Don’t worry about tomorrow because God is already there - simple statement brings huge comfort to my heart. We all need to remember that “God’s got this.”
2. God promises to be with you no matter what happens to you. This is true today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and all the days after that. You cannot outlive God’s mercy. We come and go, but his mercy endures forever.
3. God has you on his heart at this very moment. He will not forget you because he cannot forget you. To all our fears the Lord says, “I am with you always.”
Brings me to our text: He has said, “I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13: 5
God knew we would doubt this promise, so he wrapped it in 5 negatives. Twice he repeats 2 Greek words that mean no. Then he adds another word that also means no. It’s hard to bring out the proper emphasis in English. It’s as if God is saying, “I will never, never, never, never leave you or forsake you. Absolutely not!”
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
4 examples (out of many in the Bible) where God said to someone, “I am with you.”
1. Jacob the Cheater
The Lord spoke to Jacob when he was running away from his problems: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28: 15
Jacob is running because he stole the inheritance from his brother Esau and then deceived his father into giving him a blessing meant for his brother. That deceit destroyed his family and enraged his brother who wanted to kill him.
His family fractured, he runs for his life. That night, with a stone for a pillow, sleeping in the wilderness under the starry sky, he dreams of angels coming and going on a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven.
I’m sure the last thing Jacob expected to hear that night was the voice of the Lord. Why would God speak to him after what he had done to his father and his brother? God meets him at the point of his desperation.
Here is God’s message: “Jacob, I’m nearer to you than you think I am. I was with you when you tricked Esau and when you deceived your father. I am with you when you are running for your life. Everywhere you go, I will go with you.”
At this point Jacob feels - Guilty about his past - Fearful of the future - Uncertain in the present. To all of that, God simply says, “I will be with you.” It’s a total solution to guilt, fear, and anxiety.
We all need to learn there is no place we can go where God is not already there.
2. Israel the Terrified
The scene shifts to the Jews on the banks of the Jordan River. Moses is now an old man and about to die. Knowing the enemies his people would face as they enter Canaan, he gives this amazing promise - Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Deuteronomy 31: 6.
In Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister, the Nazis seemed unstoppable and the eventual destruction of England seemed inevitable. Hitler so far was undefeated as his armies rolled across Europe. In his first speech as Prime Minister, Churchill spoke with brutal honesty: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” The following years proved the truth of his words.
The Israelites faced a huge problem. If you stacked up the enemy armies, there were way too many bad guys for them to fight. They were doomed to defeat. But the question is always, who is on your side?
If God is with you, you can’t lose. It’s as simple as that. Yes, there will be blood, toil, tears and sweat. But when you fight with God on your side, you cannot lose.
That’s the message for the people of God.
3. Joshua the Fearful
Now we run the clock forward a few weeks. Moses is dead, and Joshua now leads the people of Israel. They still must cross the Jordan River and begin the long series of battles that would take 7 years to complete. The question has become very personal: Is Joshua up to the challenge? Here is God’s promise to him:
No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you. Joshua 1: 5
Joshua knew all about Moses because he had been his right-hand man for many years. Miracle after miracle happened while Moses was alive. For 40 years their shoes never wore out. For 40 years they never ran out of food. For 40 years they never lost a battle. Moses! What a man!
I don’t blame Joshua for feeling inadequate. How do you replace a legend? Will God be with Joshua as he was with Moses? The answer is yes. Why? Because God said, “I will never leave you.” That’s a wonderful promise.
It’s not a promise of an easy road, unlimited victory, and no tears. After all, Joshua is a book of battles. God is saying, “You’ve got to fight for the land I am giving you. But I will go with you as you go.”
4. Solomon the Timid
As King David grew older, he wanted to build a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem. But the Lord told him he couldn’t build it because he was man of blood. God’s house must be built by a man of peace. David accepted God’s word and called on his son Solomon to build the Lord’s temple. Here is David’s encouragement to his son - Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He won’t leave you or abandon you until all the work for the service of the Lord’s house is finished. 1 Chronicles 28: 20
That’s a heavy load to lay on a young man. Solomon was the wisest man on earth, but he followed the man after God’s own heart. Joshua followed Moses, and that was hard enough, but Moses wasn’t his father.
David was a natural leader, a gifted poet, and he was a mighty warrior. He unified the tribes and inspired the nation. Without a doubt, he was the greatest king Israel ever had. How would you like to follow a man like that?
Who feels like you aren’t enough? Who feels like you can’t do it? This is God’s Word to you. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you.
Whatever you need from the Lord, he will supply it because he will never leave you. If you feel inadequate, that’s good because you will depend even more on the Lord. How do we know this is true? There are many answers to that question. We might simply remind ourselves of what God has done in the past. Has he brought you through deep waters, dark nights, and bitter tears? If he did not leave you then, why would he leave you now? Think of all the prayers God has answered. Will all that be wasted?
God never starts anything he does not finish. What he starts, he finishes.
He has not brought us this far to leave us now. God’s honour depends on him finishing the good work he began in us.
Hold on to this truth. God will never let you go! You are never alone. You are never abandoned. You are never on your own.
Think about it this way. He’s not only with you now, he’s way up the road ahead of you. He is the God who goes before his people. That’s a mind-blowing truth.
Are you worried about next week? Forget it. He’s already there.
What about that doctor’s appointment? Sleep well. He’s already there.
What about that tough decision? Fear not. He’s already there.
It would be enough if God walked with you through the events of life. But he does much more than that. He goes ahead of you, clearing the way, arranging the details, so that when you get there, you can have confidence that God has already been there before you. He’s at work in the future while we live in the present.
Our God was with us yesterday, he is with us today, and he will be with us tomorrow. That’s what it means to say, “I will never leave you.” Many of us need this truth right now. I know I do.
When Jacob awoke from his dream, he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” Genesis 28: 16 How typical of us. We think the Lord has forgotten us, but we are the ones who have forgotten him.
Where is God when we need him? He’s where he’s always been, but we didn’t know it. Often we don’t pay attention to the Lord until tragedy strikes. Then at last we look up to heaven and say, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” Build your life on this truth: God has said, “Wherever you go, I will go with you.”
Forgive us, Lord, for doubting your presence. Thank you for being there, just when we need you most. Amen