1-2 Attention, Israel! This very day you are crossing the Jordan to enter the land and dispossess nations that are much bigger and stronger than you are. You're going to find huge cities with sky-high fortress-walls and gigantic people, descendants of the Anakites—you've heard all about them; you've heard the saying, "No one can stand up to an Anakite." 3 Today know this: God, your God, is crossing the river ahead of you—he's a consuming fire. He will destroy the nations, he will put them under your power. You will dispossess them and very quickly wipe them out, just as God promised you would. (Deut. 9:1-3)
Israel, a nation chosen by God to be his people, was called out of slavery to be given a land flowing with milk and honey - a blessed land for a chosen people. They had spent 40 years wandering around the small wilderness region between Egypt's border and the land of Canaan - they promised land. Now, after many years of aimless wandering, they stand ready to enter into the promises of God. Look what lay ahead for them - stronger armies, seemingly impenetrable fortresses, and giants. I'd stand in their sandals and wonder if God had been kidding when he said he had "good stuff" for me just on the other side of the river! I'd have wondered if God had maybe been a little mixed up in his attention to detail here.
We sometimes find ourselves in similar circumstances to what Israel faced that day. We look ahead, knowing we need to "make our move", and are almost paralyzed in fear by what lays ahead. We make excuses for our unwillingness to take the first step - focusing on the insurmountable odds rather than the imperceptible strength of our God. Perhaps we have been asked to take steps toward our "Promised Land". It may be that God has been tugging at your heart, asking you to spend time in study of his Word. You look at that leather-bound book and all you see is rock-solid walls that seem like they will never be penetrated by your understanding. Or maybe you have been feeling the urging to step out into a new relationship, only to feel waves of paralyzing fear in face of past failed relationships. Wherever we find ourselves this morning, God is saying, "It is time to take the first step."
We don't take those first steps alone. Look again at the passage above. As the nation of Israel stood on the very edges of what God promised to them, God stood alongside. If you look closely at this verse, you will see two unique "identifiers" used: GOD and God. GOD (Jehovah) - the unchanging one, the one who becomes all we need, the one holding us accountable - stands ready to go alongside. God (Elohim) - the creator of all things, the possessor of absolute power and authority, the covenant keeping God - stands ready to exhibit his power on our behalf.
Look at his position - he goes ahead of us to put under his power all that would stand in the way of our victory! That means his is going ahead of us to bring understanding into our times of personal Bible study. He is going ahead of us into the fearful places of budding relationship. He is the consuming fire - the fire that burns through out doubt and fear; the fire that illuminates our path; the God that creates newness where we can only see devastation.
I know this passage was given to Israel, but I believe it has meaning for us, as well. God is both our unchanging one and our becoming one. He is the Alpha and Omega - the beginning of newness in our lives and the finisher of all that he promises. Walls may seem huge, impenetrable - holding us back from realizing what awaits us on the other side. No "wall" can withstand his power or authority - no enemy can stand in the midst of his mighty acts on our behalf. Giants may loom over us - God stands taller and stronger than any giant standing in our way. Today is a day of new beginnings - it is time to step out, God going ahead of us, preparing the way for us. Our part is to take the first step - his is to go ahead of us, driving out the giants and tearing down the walls. His part is to be all we need - our part is to be obedient to his voice. Is God asking you to step out today? If so, take the first step. He goes ahead of you!