Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Before and Behind

What you really have to ask yourself in any situation are the following two questions: 

Where is God?
Where does He want me?

These questions always draw me back into the Old Testament, and there's not just one answer. But amid the possibilities, there are some patterns that it's helpful to take note of.

In the Old Testament, particularly in the Exodus and the campaign stories to which I am particularly referring today, God's presence amid His people was known through the Tabernacle and, more specifically, the Ark. The Ark was the most holy, most sacred item that the Israelites had. Upon it was built the Throne of Mercy, and it was here that God's law and grace combined to be a just and loving presence over His people. Only the priests could come near the Ark, and only the Levites could carry it. 

And they took it everywhere. 

It's funny to think about, for example, the Israelite armies marching around the city of Jericho, following this sacred box. But that's what they did. This sacred box led them in battle. As long as they followed it around the city and did what God's anointed told them to do, they gained victory. Imagine being in Jericho at the time! 

But that's one of the patterns we have to take note of. In battle and in big moments, God goes before us. 

It's not just Jericho. The Ark went before the people in other battles, as well. Always bringing them the victory. And just think about the big moments in the journey of Israel. When they stood on the banks of the Jordan, one river crossing away from the Promised Land, it was the Ark that went into the water first. The Levites, the priests, they carried the presence of God into the Jordan to part the waters.

Even before this, when there was no Ark, God still went before His people. When they came to the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt, it was God, through His servant Moses, who made the first step toward the raging waters. 

In battles and in big moments, God leads the way.

Of course, it must be noted that once He takes the first step, God often pulls back and lets us go. The Ark was the first to go into the Jordan, but it was also the last to come out. The people crossed over and took those first steps into the Promised Land with God both before them and behind them. The same is true of the Red Sea. Moses held his hands over the sea and parted it, and he remained there until the last Israelite had crossed over. Again, God was both before and behind them.

And the battle of Jericho? We're not specifically told how this went down, but it's hard to imagine that when the walls fell, the priests ran through the streets of the fallen city carrying God's sacred box. It's more likely they stepped back and let the armies do their work of claiming the city for the Lord. Again, God leads the way, but then, He also pulls back.

We have to be aware of this. Why? Because our battles and big moments are going to come. We can't escape them; it's part of this journey we're on. 

And when they come - when the sea is raging, the river is flooded, and the walls are tall - we have to know that the Lord our God goes before us. 

And He's also got our back. 

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