Digging in Deeper: Deuteronomy 20:1

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Reading verses like this in books like this is tough when it comes to the Scriptures.  Moses is about two-thirds of the way through his farewell speech to the people of Israel here.  And he’s talking about a hypothetical future situation and what the people should do if they are to face something like this.  The challenge is this: What on earth are we supposed to do with something like this?

Every word of the Scriptures is breathed out by God for our benefit.  What this means is that while the contextual situation may be pretty foreign to our ears, there are always some timeless principles that we can take and benefit from in some way.  Sometimes these are more challenging than others to identify, but the effort is worth it in each instance.

In this case, Moses was talking with the people about a future situation in which they were up against a challenge that seemed overwhelming.  Have you ever faced an “army” larger than the one you brought to the party?  Have you ever been faced with a situation that was beyond your ability to handle?  Of course you have.  We all have.  The question is not whether, but what you did when you faced this.

Well, what did you do?  Moses doesn’t tell us here exactly what we should do, but he does give us some encouragement for moving forward.  The encouragement is this: Don’t be afraid when you are in this kind of a situation.  When life gets bigger than you think you can handle, don’t be afraid.  This is the first timeless principle.

When life looms larger than we think we can handle, fear is never the right response.  Fear leads us to make silly and foolish decisions that wind up making things worse than better.  It cedes control to the person or group on the other side of the battle line.  Faith is always the better option.

That sounds good, but what if I don’t have any faith to start with?  Faith is a developed ability, yes, but it is also a choice.  We always have the choice to trust or fear.  The question is whether we’ll have the courage to make it or not.

And the reason we should have faith is wrapped up in the second timeless principle.  Moses reminded and assured them that the Lord was with them.  God is for us.  God is for you.  He’s demonstrated that over and over and over again.  We may not be able to see how He is for us in this particular situation, but our lack of vision doesn’t change the fact.

No matter what it is you are facing, if you have committed yourself as a follower of Jesus, He is with you.  You are not alone.  You are never alone.  When the challenges before you seem totally overwhelming, know well that you are not alone.  You can continue to trust because you are walking toward them with company.

You can do this with confidence because of the last timeless principle here.  We can trust in God’s activity in the present and even the future because of His pattern of activity in the past.  Moses reminded the people that the God they were going to be trusting was the same one who had led them out of Egypt.

In other words, Moses wasn’t just telling the people emptily that God was for them, He was reminding them of what they had seen to demonstrate this fact on more than a few occasions.  When we are facing situations that seem totally beyond our control, a situation that is only going to be manageable if God is the one who helps us do the managing, we need to remind ourselves of how He has helped us and others in the past.  If He did it then, we can trust that He will do it now because he does not change.

But, this was a hypothetical future situation Moses was talking about here.  This audience may not have to face it.  It may be that a group several generations from them would be the ones to have such a force arrayed against them.  How was this supposed to benefit them?

You see, this third principle comes with a demand for action in order to work.  Not only do we need to learn to lean into God’s activity in the past to help us press on to the future, but we need to teach the next generation to do the same.  We need to teach them to do the same by teaching them about God’s activity in the past.  We need to make sure they know what God has done for them or they won’t know to lean into it when life looms large.

Indeed, the times in Israel’s story when the people got into the most trouble were the times when a generation rose that did not know the Lord because they hadn’t been taught about Him by their parents and grandparents.  Leaning into God’s activity in the past is great, but our kids are not going to do it unless we teach them to do it.

One strange verse, three timeless principles.  Choose faith over fear, trust that God is for you, and lean into His activity in the past to give you confidence for the future.  It takes some work, but the results of the effort are worth every bit of it.  Read the Scriptures carefully and prayerfully and see what the Lord has for you.

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