February 25, 2014

“With” is good, as in Moses’ words to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; emphasis added). But couple with with before, make God the antecedent, and you have a divine, prepositional combination bound to give courage as in, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you” (31:8; emphasis added).

“With” is good and the preposition with which we most identify. We say frequently, “The Lord be with you.” What strength and courage it gave Joshua to know that the Lord God Almighty walked with him as he entered the promise land to face enemies in fortified cities. What strength and courage for us to know that the same almighty God walks with us as we face the “enemies” in our lives.

“With” is good, but with “before” it’s even better! God gave Joshua strength and courage by promising to go before him. God would face the enemy before Joshua did. Rahab’s words testify to God’s “before” work. “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you” (Joshua 2:9).

“With” is good, but with “before” it’s even better. Facing surgery? The Lord goes before you. Wondering about those tests? The Lord goes before you. Unplanned pregnancy? The Lord goes before you. Tough decisions about grandpa’s treatment? The Lord goes before you. Of course, we do not have a Rahab to assure us it’s true. So how do we know? It sure doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

“With” is good, but knowing that the Lord went before us is our assurance of strength and courage. God faced our true enemies before we did. He sent Jesus to go before us and face Satan and sin and death. Now, in the name of Jesus, these “melt away”—Satan defeated, sin forgiven, death swallowed up in victory! Unlike Joshua who moved forward assured that victory would be won, we move forward with strength and courage assured that victory has been won.

“With” is good, but with “before” it’s even better! This is especially encouraging for sometimes weary, life-affirming Christians. The battle seems so long fought and the enemy so entrenched. Logic, reason, and science have been abandoned for talking points, political correctness, and myths. In many churches the Truth of God has been abandoned or viewed as relative or changed to suit and salve the hearer. So let me say it again:

“With” is good, but with “before” it is even better! Be strong and courageous, the Lord is with you. Be strong and courageous, the Lord went before you before you were you. Be strong and courageous, the Lord goes before you everyday. His For Life work through you becomes clearer every day. Hearts and minds are changed. Our life-affirming younger generation inspires us all. More pastors connect the Gospel to the life issues. More educators teach our children to value every life. We have the most powerful and positive For Life message in the universe and nothing can stand against it! Be strong and courageous!

Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb is the executive director of Lutherans For Life.