“For the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rearguard”
In one of our family’s favorite episodes of the Andy Griffith Show, The Haunted House, Barney is sent after a baseball that Opie and his friend accidentally hit inside an old abandoned house. Rumors that the house is haunted compel Barney to invite Gomer to come along, and the two argue over who will actually go inside to retrieve it. Eventually they decide to go in together, but because neither wants to take the lead, or bring up the rear, they end up walking clumsily side-by-side. Both taking the lead, and bringing up the rear, are positions that are less-than-desirable for the person who is fearful of what lies ahead and worried about what may approach from behind.
Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” is welcomed by those who have tried, unsuccessfully, to make it through life unscathed. When we take the lead, it’s only a matter of time before we deviate from God’s intentions for us and end up taking paths that eventually lead to pain, sadness, and destruction. When we accept God’s gracious offer to lead us by his Son we begin an amazing journey and rejoice that we are finally headed in the right direction. But the path is not always easy. And most will admit to fearing that their past might catch up with them, causing them to lose sight of the God they are following. Our fears are put to rest, however, when we realize that God is also following us.
The words from Isaiah, quoted above, were spoken to the people of Israel living in exile. They had heard God’s promise that he would soon restore their fortunes, and they would be allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild their beloved city of Jerusalem. But they fearful of the journey. Fearful of the unknowns that lie ahead. And fearful of the powerful nations they were leaving, that still maintained control of them, and that could change their mind at any time. Isaiah assured them that God had them surrounded; he would protect them from every side.
As you follow Jesus, focus on him, knowing that God’s got your back. Your past is nothing you need to be concerned about.