Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The Lord your God himself will crossover ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 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 31:1–8
Some years ago, my daughter woke up complaining that her legs hurt and that she couldn’t walk. Witnessing her crawling around, fighting pain, struck fear in my heart. As it turns out, she had a common childhood ailment – irritable hip – that sorted itself out within a fortnight. My momentary fears that she would never walk again were thankfully unfounded.
But some of us do have children (or friends or family) who are paralyzed. Living in a fallen world, we face sickness and hardships, just as the Israelites met challenges as they entered Canaan – the land promised to Abram, as we read yesterday. Moses knows they fear what lies ahead, and seeks in his farewell address to calm their anxiety. Mainly he assures them that the Lord goes with them, and will never leave nor forsake them. Twice he tells him not to fear; twice he says to be strong and courageous. And not in their own strength, but because the Lord is with them.
Moses’ faith has been sharpened and strengthened over many decades, from his own wandering in exile after killing the Egyptian to witnessing God’s plagues against Pharaoh and their subsequent miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. He has grown from one who stammered and used his brother as his mouthpiece to a leader of mammoth stature. He has learned that with God he need not fear.
I don’t know what you’re facing today or this week; it might be a draining situation at work where you feel maligned and misunderstood. Or you weep for a child who has seemingly rejected God. Or you struggle with your marriage, or that you’re not married. Whatever faces you today, may you hear the words of centuries ago: Be not afraid nor discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you.
Prayer: Triune God, you travel with me throughout each day. May I know that you are before and behind me, on my right and on my left.