Don't Be Afraid, Grasshopper
“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” —Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV.
The Israelites had finally reached the Promised Land. A generation had died in the desert, their punishment for having refused to enter the land forty years earlier. Moses had come to the end of his life. He knew he would not be privileged to take this final step with the people he had led all these years. But he also knew that Israel was in good hands. Joshua was about to assume the reins that Moses was going to lay down. He’d been with the “old man” for a long time now, following him, observing his relationship with God, obeying his orders. He saw the land forty years earlier. His was one of only two voices that encouraged the people to trust God and take possession of what God had promised to give them. Now with the mantle of leadership across his shoulders, Joshua got final instructions and advice from his mentor, Moses.
The “them” in the verse refers to the pagan kings that Joshua and Israel would encounter as they took the land that God had promised them. But they didn’t go alone. In verse 3, Moses says: “The Lord God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land.”
This perspective is an important one, and the reason why Moses could tell Joshua and the people to go forward without fear. We often talk about God going with us, or of our walking with God. Occasionally we talk about God being all around us, and sometimes we mention that God goes before us. This latter picture is key. In John 10:3,4, Jesus said, referring to himself as our Good Shepherd, “…he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
In the challenges of daily life we talk about God being “with” us, as a companion, someone to hold our hand and whisper advice in our ear. Sometime we miss the image of the Shepherd/King who goes on ahead and who takes care of business before we even get to the heart of the problem. Certainly we’ll have some “mopping up” to do, but the Lord God has already gone before us. We follow and obey his voice with the confidence that we don’t have to be afraid. God has been there, looked after things, and now comes back to be with us as we look after our part.
Moses’ message to Israel and to Joshua was to not repeat the mistake they had made forty years earlier when they saw giants in the land and refused to go because they felt like “grasshoppers” compared to their enemies. Whether or not they were “grasshoppers” was not important. Their God, a God much bigger than any giant, was going on ahead to prepare things in such a way that even a grasshopper could defeat a giant.
This same confidence belongs to us a believers and followers of Christ. We are small in comparison to the challenges that face. But that’s okay because God goes before us to whittle those giants down to size for us, and then he promises to be right there to help us finish the job. We just have to follow him and listen to his voice.