Monday, February 12, 2018

Never Forsaken

I want to encourage you today to hold onto the promises of God to you, which are recorded in Scripture, assuring you that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.

God's Promises Never to Leave or Forsake Us
First there is the promise that Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection. He said: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mat 28:19-20)

The Lord has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age. In the context, this promise was made to those who would obey His command to go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded His original Twelve apostles. This is not a guarantee that if you forsake the Lord, after coming to know Him, and choose a life of sin, that He will be with you. That's why, if you have sinned, anytime you have done so, it's important to repent and ask the Lord's forgiveness. His presence is so vitally important to us that we would never want to lose it.

Again in the book of Hebrews the apostle wrote: "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you...'" (Heb 13:5). This is another beautiful promise of the Lord's faithfulness to abide with us and help us in all circumstances, so that we do not need to worry. It is given in the context of a warning not to love money, but to be content with what we have. The Lord warned us about the love of money and said that it is impossible to love both God and money. He said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Mat 6:24).

Therefore, in the context of Hebrews 13, the promise that He will never desert you nor forsake you is to those who are content and avoid the love of money. If you have grown to love money, which the apostle Paul called idolatry (Col 3:5), then you need to repent and ask the Lord to forgive you, so that His precious abiding presence will remain with you.

Another Scripture that speaks of the Lord's promise to abide with us is found in Deuteronomy. Moses said to the Israelites, "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.” (Deut 31:6, NIV). 

Afterward Moses spoke the same promise of God to Joshua. "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.'” (Deut 31:8, NIV)

Later the Lord Himself said to Joshua, "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Joshua 1:5, NIV).

These are such encouraging verses for us to remember. Here are some others:

"Then David said to his son Solomon, 'Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.'"(1Ch 28:20)

Our prayer should be as Solomon's was, "May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us." (1Ki 8:57)

Promises Intended for the Righteous and Faithful
It's important to understand that these promises are only for the righteous and faithful, not the wicked. There is a wonderful Psalm of David that illustrates this well as it contrasts the righteous and the wicked.

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish." (Ps 37:23:28, NIV)

Notice that this promise is for the just or righteous man, not for those who turn from the truth and follow after wickedness. This further emphasizes that the promise of the Lord's abiding presence is given to the righteous, not to the wicked. Certainly we all stumble in many ways, as James says (Ja 3:2). But we are not talking about occasional stumbling, because even when a righteous man stumbles or falls, he will not be utterly cast off by God. It will not be fatal. For the Lord upholds him with His hand. If he truly delights in the Lord, then the Lord makes his steps firm.

In David's old age, he could say that in all his many years on earth, he had never seen the righteous forsaken. He describes what righteous people are like. Quite the opposite of begging for bread, they are generous and lend freely to others. David admonishes us to turn from evil and do good, if you want to inherit these promises he speaks of.  For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. 

And again he says, "For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance." (Psa 94:14)

Elsewhere he states, "And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You." (Psa 9:10)

Feeling Forsaken
There are times when His people may feel like they've been forsaken, because they are afflicted and needy. Yet the Lord will not forsake them. "The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them." (Isa 41:17)

Even David felt at one point in his life as though God had forsaken him. He prayed, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest." (Psa 22:1-2). Yet when we read the life of David, we can clearly see that through all of his trials and even his stumbling, the Lord did not forsake him, but considered him a man after His own heart. In the very next Psalm, David sings of the Lord's continual presence with him even in the valley of the shadow of death, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." (Psa 23:4).

There are other subsequent psalms of David that reveal he was able to look back with new perspective on the experience he wrote about in Psalm 22. For example, in the thirty-first psalm he reflected back in this way: "In my alarm I said, 'I am cut off from your sight!' Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help." (Ps 33:22, NIV). For he had come to realize that although he had once felt as if he were deserted by God and shut out of His presence, the Lord still heard and answered his cry for help.

And he also wrote again later, "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." (Ps 27:10, NIV). He was confident that God would never forsake him, even though he had once felt quite vividly and painfully at an earlier point in life that he had in fact been forsaken.

Remember how Christ Himself felt as He hung upon the cross for those six hours? He prayed those same words as David did in Psalm 22. At the end of those six hours, at 3:00 PM, shortly before He yielded up His spirit, "Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?'"  (Mat 27:46). 

Yet we know the Father had not forsaken Jesus when He was on the cross. We have proof of this by what occurred when He died and through His resurrection from the dead. 

"And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'" (Mat 27:50-54)

The apostle Paul had the assurance in his heart in the midst of his troubles and persecutions that he was not abandoned by God, regardless of how he may have felt. He wrote: "We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body." (2 Cor 4:8-11, NET).

Therefore, no matter how you may feel in the various trials and afflictions you may go through, remember that the Lord's promise to the righteous who delight in Him is that He will never leave them or forsake them.  God didn't promise that you wouldn't face trials, but that He would never forsake you.

Dispelling a Dangerous Myth
However, as I have already alluded to, it is a dangerous myth to believe that God will never leave you or turn away from you as a result of rebellion or idolatry. "But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, 'It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel?'" (Act 7:42). There was indeed a time when God turned away from the house of Israel due to their rebellion and idolatry.

As Azariah said to King Asa, "Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." (2Ch 15:2). Let this be a warning to all of us to cling to Jesus, who said:

"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Mat 10:32-33).

The doctrine of eternal security is not Scriptural. There are terms and conditions of the New Covenant that we must meet. There is such a thing as apostasy (2 Th 2:3; 1 Tim 4:1; Mt 24:10; Lk 8:13), and there is a sin which leads to death (1 Jn 5:16). For more on this please see my articles, If -- A Picture Paints a Thousand Words and Eternal Security.

In Summary 
This article is meant to be encouraging, and it should be so to those who are walking in the Light in fellowship with Christ, delighting themselves in Him, and seeking to obey His commandments.  For He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn 14:15,21,23; 1 Jn 5:3). To others, it may seem as though this article has jumped erratically back and forth between encouraging and threatening, and it may seem preferable to just talk about the positive points that we like to hear, while leaving out the unpleasant parts.

However, even Scripture doesn't do that. In all the passages I have quoted in their proper context, the Bible does not isolate this topic from the dire warnings against sin and its terrible consequences. The Bible usually doesn't talk about the Lord's promise to never leave or forsake us without also stating the conditions that must be met to receive that promise, or else warning us of the dangers of being forsaken.

You will see this if you consider the passages I have quoted about never being forsaken. In Hebrews 13, there is the warning against the love of money. In Matthew 28, there are the conditions regarding discipleship. In Deuteronomy 31, there are conditions, too. And when David speaks of never being forsaken in Psalm 37, he also tells of certain destruction for the wicked. When Azariah spoke to Asa in 2 Chronicles 15, he also spoke of both the promise of never being forsaken and the risk of being forsaken. And the Lord Himself in Matthew 10 spoke of both the promise of confessing us before the Father in heaven, as well as that of denying us. If I were to only tell you what you want to hear, I would be doing you a disservice, and I would not be consistent with Scripture. I would be giving you false hope, and there are plenty of other articles that you can read, if that's what you are looking for.

My hope is that this article has been an encouragement to you to rest assured in the Lord's promise that you will never be forsaken, while at the same time admonishing you to live according to His Word, so that you might have a right to claim that promise, as well as ultimately receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pe 1:11).

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. except where it was noted that the Holy Bible NIV was used.

Author's Note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other articles of mine, such as The Practice of AbidingAs the Still, Fair Court, Practicing the Presence of the Lord, In the Shelter of the Most High, Going Through the Valley (poem), Nothing Will Separate (poem), and Walking in the Light of His Presence, which are available through the Home page of this blog.  You may also like The Conditional Security of the Believer, The Keeping Power of God, and Your Identity in Christ. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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