The people of Israel are being addressed by Moses in this verse. They have wandered the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience and unwillingness to trust God, and now the new generation is standing on the brink of a new and potentially prosperous time for their people.
Moses has told the people about the Promised Land that God will give them, but there are major roadblocks that they will have to overcome if they are to inherit the land as promised. The main problem is that their enemies already possess the land. As Moses lists off some of their enemies in the previous verses, he then makes the statement in our verse that the Lord will not leave you or forsake you because he goes with you.
He continues a few verses later to say basically the same thing, “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” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Moses wants to drive this point home. He knows the people will face danger and fear ahead and he wants to encourage them with truth of God’s presence.
The people of God were about to take a huge step in their development as a nation and Moses wanted them to be on sure footing. That foundation was based on trusting the Lord in all things, remembering that God would be with them no matter what.
We aren’t getting ready to conquer enemy nations, but we are facing an enemy of our own. For some, it’s simply getting up each morning and fighting depression. For others, it’s battling their own minds in the “what-if” scenarios that play out in their heads. Whatever your personal battle is, trust in the fact that Lord will not leave you in this, your time of need. Prepare for battle knowing that God’s got your back!
If you fear God, then you should trust him. And why shouldn’t we fear God? There’s a lot of talk about God being loving and caring, and I’m one of the first to describe God that way, but there’s also a part of us that should fear God, meaning we should be in reverent awe of his power and majesty.
God is not like our buddy down the street. He is not like our athletic heroes. He is the Creator of the Universe – the one who simply spoke all things into being. As creator, he has the power to create, but also the power to destroy, all with a word. So when we think of God, love should be part of it, because God is love (1 John 4:16), but God also deserves our awe and respect. It is only by the grace of God that we can even approach him; let us not forget the privilege that it is.
The second part of the verse tells us that if we do fear God, he is our helper and shield. The word shield captured my attention as I read this verse. The history of shields is vast – dating back thousands of years B.C. Shields were clearly around when the Psalmist penned these words. I did some research on shields and it was very fascinating how humankind has changed and modified the shield throughout history. In Bible times it was probably made from animal hides.
What captures my attention, however, is that a soldier was never armed with just a shield. The shield is a defensive weapon which is meant to be carried in the opposite hand/arm from the weapon being wielded. So when we picture the Lord with a shield in one hand defending us, we can also picture him with a sword in the other attacking for us.
God is not just playing defense for us – he is offensively attacking that which seeks to destroy us. When we are filled with fear, remember that Jesus has already fought the battle for us – we just need to stand beside him and be confident (“trust”) in him and his ability to protect us.