Jesus concludes His great commission to go and teach all nations with the assurance, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” ().
As we review the sacred history of God’s people, there’s one thing that catches our attention, and we will be deeply impressed by it, namely: The way in which God has related to His people, the way in which He has led them, His love, His forbearance, justice, and loyalty exceeding all human understanding and interpretation. Every manifestation of His presence, of His creative power, His sovereignty, His nature, and His law convince us that God is love, and that He has always been and will forever be such. In God’s love is comprised the happiness and blessing of all created beings. Time and again God has promised in His Word that He will be with His children, that He will providentially guide and bless them and that He will never forsake them. This promise has been fulfilled exactly the way He promised.
Moses describes the way the Lord led the Hebrews in their wilderness journey: “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him” (, ).
What a wonderful description! For the eagle’s young, the nest means safety, comfort, ease; everything is available, their food is provided. In their nest, the young feel at home, safe. What would happen if the young eagle spent its entire life in the nest? Would she develop harmoniously? Would she end up being a beautifully developed eagle? Surely not. She would be an eagle unable to fly, she would not be able to use her wings, she would become lazy, selfish, always expecting to be attended to; she would remain an eagle that had lost her motivation and lived vainly to no aim. But see, there comes the moment when the eagle-parent stirreth up her nest and teaches her chick to fly. This “small eagle proper” finally becomes a full-grown, imposing eagle, who roams the air with her wide wings, meeting tempests and providing her own food. Our eagle can face life from now on, and is able to build a nest for herself and establish her own family.
When Moses was presenting the image of the eagle in the verses of his song, he was only presenting his personal experience and that of his people, an experience they had made with God throughout their lives. It is an accurate description of the infinite love of God’s care for them and of the delicate and wise way in which God had led and treated His beloved people.
Some aspects of this are worth mentioning:
1. God stirred up their “nest”
Since the time of Abraham, God has “stirred up the nest” of His chosen ones. Often they had to be separated from their families who were dear unto them, from their home, their country, becoming strangers and pilgrims upon the earth in search of a better homeland. They did not live in comfort, they did not have an easy life. They were persecuted by the enemies of God, and they also frequently grieved the Lord by infidelity, idolatry, disobedience, and rebellion—things which had painful long-term consequences.
2. He watched over them
All the while God watched over them, taking care of them; His eyes were over them day and night, and nothing happened to them without His will.
3. He stretched His wings, bearing them thereon
Often when they were in danger of falling, the Lord intervened and stretched out a mighty hand to help. Under the shadow of His wings, they were protected time and again. He did not leave them to dash their feet against a stone (). David, remembering the image that Moses described, later said in one of his psalms: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler” ( ).
4. God has safely led His people
It was not in the “nest” that the children of Israel found safety, neither at home, in their tent or in their country—rather, their safety was God. The reality of His presence with them was the reason for their security. To the faithful ones, God has time after time been father, mother, sister, brother, shelter, and safety. How wonderful to have such a God!
If we look closer into this subject, we will notice that the Lord’s promise of being with His people, particularly with those whom He has chosen to lead His people—patriarchs, prophets and all the men of faith—has certainly been fulfilled.
“I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed” ().
“Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” ().
“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” ().
“David seemed to be cut off from every human support. All that he held dear on earth had been swept from him. Saul had driven him from his country; the Philistines had driven him from the camp; the Amalekites had plundered his city; his wives and children had been made prisoners; and his own familiar friends had banded against him, and threatened him even with death. In this hour of utmost extremity David, instead of permitting his mind to dwell upon these painful circumstances, looked earnestly to God for help. He ‘encouraged himself in the Lord.’ He reviewed his past eventful life. Wherein had the Lord ever forsaken him? His soul was refreshed in recalling the many evidences of God’s favor.”1
“Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” ().
All the promises mentioned so far have been wonderfully fulfilled in the lives of God’s people. The Lord has chosen His people so that they would testify of Him, of His love and His grace in word and deed, wherever they might be. Moses observed: “For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” ().
This was Moses’ desire, namely, that the presence of God would separate them from among the nations, and the Lord was ready to support them in this.
In the Christian dispensation, the promise was fulfilled: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” ().
“Since Jesus came to dwell with us, we know that God is acquainted with our trials, and sympathizes with our griefs. Every son and daughter of Adam may understand that our Creator is the friend of sinners. For in every doctrine of grace, every promise of joy, every deed of love, every divine attraction presented in the Saviour’s life on earth, we see ‘God with us.’ ”2
“The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ ”3
Christ gave His disciples their commission and promised to be with them.
The Son of Man endured scorn, insult, and mockery in this world and was about to ascend back to Heaven, yet “as He reviews the ingratitude of the people He came to save—will He not withdraw from them His sympathy and love? Will not His affections be centered upon that realm where He is appreciated, and where sinless angels wait to do His bidding? No; His promise to those loved ones whom He leaves on earth is, ‘I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. ’”4
“Though the ministration was to be removed from the earthly to the heavenly temple; though the sanctuary and our great high priest would be invisible to human sight, yet the disciples were to suffer no loss thereby. They would realize no break in their communion, and no diminution of power because of the Saviour’s absence. While Jesus ministers in the sanctuary above, He is still by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but His parting promise is fulfilled, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’ (5). While He delegates His power to inferior ministers, His energizing presence is still with His church.”
“God takes men as they are, with the human elements in their character, and trains them for His service, if they will be disciplined and learn of Him. They are not chosen because they are perfect, but notwithstanding their imperfections, that through the knowledge and practice of the truth, through the grace of Christ, they may become transformed into His image.”6
In order to bring salvation to humanity, Christ needed human nature. He took upon Himself human nature and was a partaker of it; He was tempted in all things as we are, yet He remained sinless. On the other hand, how are things with us? We as humans need the Divine, a power from without, to restore His image in us. We need Him to enable us to reflect more and more closely the character of Christ, to have Jesus live in us; then we will be able to accomplish the work entrusted us. In other words, each of us need to become a partaker of the divine nature. When this union, or fusion, takes place, we have heaven in our hearts, and frail humanity is enabled to keep God’s commandments and not to sin anymore. What a magnificent accomplishment!
“The followers of Christ are to labor as He did. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the suffering and afflicted. We are to minister to the despairing, and inspire hope in the hopeless. And to us also the promise will be fulfilled, “Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward’ (7).”
My beloved, the righteous works of the saints have to be seen and felt in our lives. They will be a testimony to the righteousness of our Lord Jesus, of which we are daily partaking. This righteousness refers to purity of heart and correctness of life, compliance of both heart and life to the divine law through the indwelling of Christ in the soul. We will not be content with the mere thought that Christ died, paying the redemption price for us on Golgotha to be righteousness for us. But rather we will earnestly desire Jesus’ righteousness, which He is willing to impart to us day by day, that it may be part of our life. Let us put this righteousness actively into practice, by faith, in deeds of love, as we advance daily in our life of faith. It is only thus that Christ’s promise will be fulfilled with us: “Lo, I am with you always!”
How will people know that we are Christ’s disciples? Remember what Moses observed to God? “For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” ().
My beloved, may God bless us that we be a special people, a humble people, to fear God and give glory to Him, to represent in honor His character on earth and not to disappoint Him.
In 1856, after 15 years of intense, uninterrupted labor, Livingstone returned to England to see his wife and the children from whom he had been separated for four years. Back home in England he was now received with great esteem. He was called to speak everywhere about his experiences in Africa. The University of Glasgow awarded him a special honorary doctorate. The unbelieving students had planned to mock him and to boo him off the stage, as they did not agree to have this title awarded to him. But, when he showed up before them with his cheeks burnt by the African sun, with the shoulder torn by lion’s teeth, all were deeply moved. They were beholding in him now a man who had given up everything. The self-sacrifice and suffering were carved into his face. Before their eyes they had a saint of God. No one uttered a word. Solemnity pervaded as at a gravesite.
Livingstone spoke about the great needs of the Africans and about the experiences he had had there. Closing, he said: “Now I return. But I would like to tell you that what sustained me in the midst of all the hardships, trials, and loneliness was the promise: ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!’ ”
“Oh! To be full of the knowledge of God’s will and of the feeling of Jesus’ presence, to be one with Him so much so that His life flows through your veins, that He borrows your lips to utter His words, your face to show us His patient and loving looks, your hands to work for Him.”
A sheet of paper on which Taylor’s thoughts are jotted down, a yellowish paper that he carried around with him many days in a row, shows the secret of his life of faith. It reads:
“Lord Jesus, be to me a living and clear reality, more present to the look of my faith than any visible thing, dearer, closer than any earthly good!”
Ellen G. White:
On January 25, 1915, the Lord’s messenger testified: “The Lord has been my helper, the Lord has been my God, and I have not a doubt. If I could not realize that He has been my guide and my stay, do tell me what I could trust in. Why, I have just as firm a trust in God that He will stand my feet on Mount Zion, as that I live and breathe; and I am going to keep that trust till I die.”8
Shortly after the accident in which she broke her hip she testified of her Saviour: “Jesus is my blessed Redeemer, and I love Him with my whole being.” And again: “I see light in His light. I have joy in His joy, and peace in His peace. I see mercy in His mercy, and love in His love. . . .
In an interview she declared: “My courage is grounded in my Saviour. My work is nearly ended. Looking over the past, I do not feel the least mite of despondency or discouragement. I feel so grateful that the Lord has withheld me from despair and discouragement, and that I can still hold the banner. I know Him whom I love, and in whom my soul trusteth.”9
Several days before her passing away, her last words to her son were: “I know in whom I have believed”; “God is love”; “We shall all be home very soon now.”10
Earlier in her life, she wrote, “In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader.”11
“The promise of Christ’s second coming was ever to be kept fresh in the minds of His disciples. The same Jesus whom they had seen ascending into heaven, would come again, to take to Himself those who here below give themselves to His service. The same voice that had said to them, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end,’ would bid them welcome to His presence in the heavenly kingdom.”12
Dear disciple of Christ, dear missionary, be faithful until the end; don’t grow weary on the way. Look up in faith and you will hear the gentle voice of Jesus, saying to you: “Welcome!”
What a glorious meeting!
My beloved brethren in Jesus, may we keep the following thoughts fresh in our minds in the year that we will soon step into, and until the coming of our Lord Jesus: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”13
May the Lord help us not to forget the history of our people, lest we have to repeat it. May we remain in the pathway in which the Lord has led us and not forget what He has taught us regarding our past history and the foundation of our faith, a foundation laid with much toil and sacrifice by our forefathers, through the grace and help of our Lord Jesus. We can in all assurance say as well: “Ebenezer”—Hitherto the Lord has helped us! “Emmanuel”—God was and is with us! We thank the Lord once again for His promise, that accompanies us daily, and that will remain as an anchor of our life:
“Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world!” Amen!