When I was a little boy, I liked to ride my bicycle around the street. One day I stopped my bike near some long grass. I heard a rustling sound behind me—something was moving through the grass. I turned around and saw a long brown snake, slithering directly toward me. As you know, some brown snakes are harmless and some are venomous. Which kind of brown snake was coming toward me? I don’t know! I was so spooked, I pedaled away as fast as I could, jumped off the bike and ran inside the house.
Fear can freeze us in our tracks, or cause us to lose control, or shock us into running away. But while fear can spur you headlong in many different directions, it also keeps you from moving forward in the one direction God has for you.
Israel knew fear. Soon they would approach the Jordan River and enter Canaan. The last time Israel had been close to entering the Promised Land, it was more than a failure—it was a bitter tragedy. They had been so afraid to face their enemies that they felt like their hearts were melting. (Deuteronomy 1:28)
Now the next generation waits at Canaan’s borders, facing the same challenge. If anything can intensify fear and doubting, it’s the thought of past failures. But Moses encourages them:
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8)
With each day, the Israelites would approach strange places. There would be new confrontations and challenges. And at each point, they would find evidence that the Lord had already been there.
Joshua 21 shows the end of their long journey and conquest. God had gone before them and he did exactly what he said:
Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
What a blessing to think of God as the one who goes before you!
Exodus tells us that the Lord went ahead of Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Jesus the Shepherd goes ahead of his sheep. (John 10:4) Ephesians 2:10 says “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
I had once gone with some teens on a mission trip overseas. When we returned after two weeks, everyone was tired and weak from a stomach virus. But that night as we walked into the airport terminal, I looked ahead and saw our friends from church lined up on both sides, cheering and clapping as we approached. I’ll never forget that feeling. There’s something reassuring about having someone who’s waiting for you.
So it is when you arrive at a situation which you didn’t expect, and you realize that God is not only with you—He has been waiting for you. He has always been waiting for you. At every experience and crossroads in your life, God is already there.
The Israelites believed God’s words and stepped forward in obedience. Is there something you have struggled to obey, because of fear and unbelief? The same God goes before you. Look to him to prepare and guide you.