Arthur Pink, 1943
As we launch out into another year, there is little visible prospect of a smooth and pleasant voyage. To the natural eye, the clouds are dark and fierce storms seem imminent. The very uncertainty of what the morrow may bring forth, fills many with uneasiness and trepidation. But how different should be the state of God's children—an all-sufficient Object is presented to the eyes of their faith, from which unbelief derives no comfort. If the poor worldling is concerned with what lies before him, it is the blessed privilege of the believer to be occupied with Who goes before him—the One who is his Captain, his Guide, his Forerunner. "The Lord! HE it is who goes before you" (Deut. 31:8). What a difference that makes! O that writer and reader may be enabled to lay hold of this grand Truth as we enter another period of time and keep it steadily in mind throughout the coming days!
1. The Lord has gone before you in the grand decree of His PREDESTINATION.Last year was one of suspense and sorrow, of trial and trouble—and perhaps you tremble at what this one has in store. Well, here is solid comfort. Your future has all been marked out for you! You shall not tread a step which is not mapped on the grand chart of God's foreordination. All your circumstances have been Divinely ordered for you. Ah, Christian reader, what an immense difference this makes that you are not a child of chance, that your lot is not decided by the caprice of fickle fortune. Infinite wisdom and infinite love have arranged everything. You will go nowhere during 1943—but where God has decreed, His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2), planning your path, your life. A predestinating God has appointed "the bounds of your habitation" (Acts 17:26). You may be thrust into the furnace of affliction—yet you will not be deserted. You may be brought low—yet it will be for your future blessing. You may be chastened—yet the rod is in the hand of your Father.
2. The Lord has gone before you in the preparations of His PROVIDENCE."My God shall supply all your needs" (Phil. 4:19), full provision has already been made for it. Jehovah does not have to improvise. No unexpected emergency can overtake Him, "known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). Therefore is it written, "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer" (Isaiah 65:24). Before we reach a place, God has provided for us wherever the road leads, all has been made ready. "He went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in" (Deut. 1:33); and He will not do less for His people today. Canaan was fully prepared for Israel long before they arrived there, "The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land filled with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant" (Deut. 6:10, 11). Here is comfort for the preacher too, "The Lord, He it is who goes before you," to prepare hearts for the message, for the reception of the Truth.
3. The Lord has gone before you in PERSON.The path which He calls you to tread—has first been traversed by Himself. None other than the Lord of Glory became incarnate, entered this world of ours and tabernacled here for thirty-three years in the flesh, that He might be the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). "When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them" (John 10:4). Are they required to tread the way of obedience? Well, their Shepherd has Himself preceded them therein. Are they required to deny themselves and take up their cross? Well, He Himself did nothing less. Are they called upon to be buffeted, not for their faults but when they do well, to be persecuted for righteousness' sake? Well, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). What comfort is there here—that the trials we endure for the Truth's sake, that the unkind treatment we meet with from professing brethren because we dare not compromise are an essential part of the process of our being conformed to the image of God's Son! Shall we be called upon to pass through the valley of the shadow of death? Well, the Christian has nothing to fear, for Christ has gone before Him and extracted the sting of death.
4. The Lord has gone before you in the directions of His PRECEPTS."Your Word is a lamp unto my feet—and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105), revealing the way of peace and blessing through this dark world. Especially is that true of its preceptive portions, for they make known the paths of righteousness which we are to tread. Ignorance of God's will concerning the way we should go is inexcusable, for He has already clearly and definitely made known His will. The highway of holiness does not have to be made by us—it is there plainly enough before us in the Word and it is ours to walk in it. "You shall guide me with Your counsel—and afterward receive me to glory" (Psalm 73:24). A "guide" is one who goes before us, directing our course and the "counsel" of our Divine Guide is contained in His prohibitions and commandments and according as we heed them shall we escape the dangers around us and be kept in the narrow way which leads unto Life.
5. The Lord has gone before you in the provisions of His PROMISES.What are the Divine promises, but so many anticipations of our varied needs and guarantees, which God stands pledged to supply. They are so many proofs of His omniscience which foresaw what would meet our requirements. They are so many tokens of His loving-kindness to manifest His tender concerns for us, long before we had any historical existence. They are so many evidences of His faithfulness, that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly. Whatever tomorrow may hold, the Divine promises assure the Christian that the Lord has gone before and made every provision for him. No dire situation, no pressing emergency, no desperate peril can possibly arise, but what there is one of the "exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4) exactly suited to our case. Their value lies in the fact that they are the word of Him who cannot lie. "This God is our God forever and ever—He will be our Guide even unto death" (Psalm 48:14).
6. The Lord has gone before you into PARADISE.Did He not expressly announce before He left this scene, "In My Father's House are many mansions—if it were not so I would have told you—I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2)? Not for Himself, but for His redeemed—nor would He entrust this task unto the angels. How it tells of the love of the Bridegroom for His Bride! Christ has entered Heaven on our behalf, taking possession thereof in our name, "where the Forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus" (Heb. 6:20). His entry, ensures ours. "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world" (John 17:24).
"The Lord, He it is who goes before you" (Deut. 31:8). Here, then, is real substantial comfort—and what shall be my response thereto?
First, my eye should be constantly fixed upon Him, "looking unto Jesus" (Heb. 12:2), looking away from all else, trusting none other.
Second, then it is my business to follow Him—for what other purpose is a Guide? "When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him" (John 10:4). And as they do, so they find that He makes them to lie down in green pastures, that He leads them beside the still waters. Ah, who would not follow such a Shepherd! O that the Lord may say of us as He did of Caleb, "he has followed Me fully" (Num. 14:24).
Third, then fear should be entirely banished from my heart. And will it not be so—if faith really lays hold of this, "The Lord, HE it is who goes before you, He will be with you, He will not fail you, neither forsake you; fear not, neither be dismayed" (Deut. 31:8).
7. The Lord has gone before the PREACHER.This little message would hardly be complete if we failed to include a special word for the minister of the Gospel. Nor has God overlooked him at this very point. "Behold HE goes before you" (Matthew 28:7), is addressed immediately unto the servants of Christ and it is for their faith to appropriate the same. According as they do so—will their hearts and hands be strengthened. If you are really the servant of Christ, your Master has not called you to draw a bow at a venture—but has appointed your specific place in His vineyard and has ordered everything in connection therewith. That does not mean that all will be smooth sailing. It did not mean that for the Apostles, as the book of Acts shows. But it did mean that they were not left without a Pilot. HE not only went before them but gave assurance, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). That is the grand consolation of this writer. May it be yours, too!