“For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12
Last weekend was hard. Research in the library for thirteen hours on Saturday. Thirteen more hours on Sunday. Reading for class—real reading—where you have to underline, highlight, notate, define unfamiliar words. And the sad thing is, I don’t always get it all done. This all made for a rocky start to an already jam-packed week with classes, more reading, workstudy, places to be—you get the picture.
When we feel the mallet of stress pounding hard on us, we begin to think, I can’t take this anymore! And I don’t know about you, but that thought rains down with all its thunder and lightning more than I wish (if I ever wish it at all).
It’s not all limited to our workload either. It’s often worse in our spiritual lives. We find ourselves secretly cursing our coworkers or professors or spouses or siblings. We refuse to take the time out of our day to pray without ceasing. Temptations cast their sticky nets at our feet every other hour, and because we haven’t learned from our past falls, we find ourselves sprawling into the trap thinking, This again?!
That’s why God’s grace is so magnificent.
Israel, a picturesque example of Christians following God, lost their footing plenty of times. They worshipped idols. They made covenants with the people of the land whom God specifically commanded not to. They wanted a king to rule over them and not seek God as their King. When the invasions came, they felt the iron fists of the Philistines. They stared in horror as their fields were pillaged. They saw men die when a man hid some spoil from Jericho. The prophets—the “holiest” of the Israelites—also failed. And when they worked really, really hard, they still felt like God just simply wasn’t there and that no one cared.
But God, in His immutable and eternal grace, has always provided a way out. God initiated the work among His people, calling them to be a “peculiar treasure” (Ps.135:4). He promised to “give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jer. 24:7). And today, He calls to us with that same purpose:
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
We hear over and over again that trials are part of life, but don’t we often fail to see God’s hand in that, yes, while He’s there in the trials, seeing us through, He’s molding and shaping us into the people He has called us to be? Maybe we don’t get the work done that we want to because we need to be reminded of our imperfections and our frailty as fallen creatures. We get tired. Exhausted. We can’t always keep going because our strength cannot last forever. But we must remind ourselves that our final rest and peace and strength are in Christ alone.
When we find ourselves wanting—all too cognizant of the fact that we’re soldiers who still forget what Ephesians 6 armor we’re supposed to wear—we must never forget that we have an awesome rear guard. It’s a rear guard who comes behind and fights our battles for us. It’s a rear guard who sweeps us into the battle but says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” It’s a rear guard who put even Himself at the forefront, gave His life, rose again, and still tells us, “You are mine. Come boldly to my throne of grace.” It’s a rear guard whom we call our Christ, our Savior, and our Lord.
Fight on even in your weaknesses. For that’s when God, our rear guard, is clearly strong.