May 19, 2024 . . .“Bible promises: I will never leave you” Deuteronomy 31:6

May 19, 2024 . . .“Bible promises: I will never leave you” Deuteronomy 31:6

May 19, 2024

“Bible promises: I will never leave you”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Born in November of 1925 in Dayton, Ohio, Jonathan Winters was a famous actor, author, and comedian. Over the years, he appeared in more than fifty movies and shows, and earned numerous awards including two Grammys, one Primetime Emmy, the American Academy of Achievement, and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, not to mention a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Other performers such as Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Steve Martin, Jim Carry, and Robin Williams all said that he inspired them!

But what you probably don’t know is that much of his life wasn’t easy. His grandfather’s bank, the Winters National Bank, collapsed during the Great Depression. His father was an alcoholic and never did hold down a steady job. Then when he was seven, his parents divorced, and he was sent to live with a grandmother in Springfield, Ohio. Later he said, “I didn’t understand my mother and dad, and they didn’t understand me.”

And feeling very alone and abandoned, he began to suffer from depression and bipolar disorder. After having a nervous breakdown, he spent eight months in a mental institution. When he was alone, he said, he cried in despair.

A pastor by the name of Dave Johnson tells the story of when he was ten years old. It was a crisp spring Saturday afternoon and he was riding in the back of an olive green 1970’s station wagon complete with wood siding. He was on his way to a soccer game, wearing a Kelly green jersey and socks, shin guards, and black Adidas cleats. And riding along with him in the car was a friend and teammate named Paul.

Now Dave and Paul had been friends for as long as they could remember. After all, Paul was hilarious and happy-go-lucky. And they loved to make funny faces together to the car behind them, out the window.

At least until a song came on the radio. It was a song by Randy Van Warmer called Just When I Needed You Most.

Maybe you know how it goes. “You packed in the morning. I stared out the window and I struggled for something to say. You left in the rain without closing the door. I didn’t stand in your way. But I miss you more than I missed you before and now, where I’ll find comfort, God knows. ‘Cause you left me just when I needed you most.”

And when the song came to an end and the commercials began, Paul, his usually happy-go-lucky friend, looked at him and said, “That’s what my mom did.”

Abandonment is something that everyone has experienced at one time or another, in one form or another. Some have been abandoned by a father or mother, if not physically, at least emotionally. Some have been abandoned by a spouse or a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Some parents have been abandoned by their children. Others are abandoned by their employer when “downsizing” and “restructuring” mean they no longer have a job.

If you could, think about your life for a moment. Have you ever felt abandoned? Do you feel abandoned now?

God, in His Word, never wants us to feel abandoned. In fact, it’s a promise! That’s what He said to His servant Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 31. I’ll start at verse 1: “So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. And he said to them, ‘I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not go over this Jordan.” The Lord your God Himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken. And the Lord will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. And the Lord will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you’” (Deuteronomy 31:1-6).

The book of Deuteronomy chapter 31 takes us to the very end of Moses’ life. Behind him were his forty years in Egypt, forty years of tending his father-in-law’s sheep, and forty years of leading the people of Israel through the wilderness. Now he’s a hundred and twenty years old, and the only thing left for him was the Promised Land.

And as the people of Israel stood somewhere between the wilderness and the Promised Land, Moses took a moment to remind them of all that had happened before, about their history and their laws, about God’s miraculous signs and wonders, and about their fearfulness and rebellion.

He said, “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5). And he said, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Then just before he was done, he said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

That’s a promise! In fact, it’s one of the best promises we could ever hope to hear!

But that’s not the only time He said it. Think of Genesis chapter 28: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15). Think of Joshua chapter 1: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Or I Chronicles 28. It’s where David said to his son Solomon: “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (I Chronicles 28:20). Or Hebrews chapter 13: “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Let’s stop there for just a moment, so I can give you a quick English grammar lesson. Here in America, whenever we use negative words like nobody, nowhere, neither, never, or nothing, we don’t use a negative verb. It’s something we’re not supposed to do.

So instead of saying “We couldn’t never work with nobody like that,” we say “We couldn’t ever work with anybody like that.” And instead of saying “He never says nothing interesting to no one,” we say “He never says anything interesting to anyone.”

When you have too many negatives in a sentence, they cancel each other out, and you’re left to wonder “What really did he mean to say?!”

But the Bible’s original languages aren’t that way. In fact, the more negatives there are in a sentence, the more emphatic that negative statement becomes. And in the case of Hebrews chapter 13, there’s not one, not two, not even three, but five negatives all in a row!

Count them! “No, I will not leave you; no, neither will I not utterly forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). That’s a lot of negatives!

So why so many negatives? Because the Lord wanted to make it perfectly, perfectly clear that He will never, ever, ever let us go!

That’s a promise!

But do we trust that promise?

It seems that sometimes we trust things more than we trust God!

Did you know that we accumulate stuff at an incredible rate, so fast, that we can hardly keep up!

Researchers say that close to ten percent of Americans are currently renting a storage facility, paying on average a hundred dollars a month. And considering that there are as many as twenty-three million storage facilities throughout the United States, add it up, and you have a $38 billion industry. Even worse, they say that those storage facilities are ninety percent full.

That’s a lot of stuff!

And it seems, the more we have, the more we need. And the more we have, the more we worry about. But still, it’s never enough.

For when someone asked multi-billionaire John Rockefeller how much was enough, he said, “Just a little bit more.”

But does God take care of us? Of course, He does! Remember the words you once memorized in Confirmation class? “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land and animals, and all I have.” And if that’s not enough, “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

Throughout all of Jesus’ ministry, He showed compassion to abandoned people--like lepers who had been abandoned by their families and friends, and like a woman at a well who had been abandoned by several husbands.

And at the Last Supper, knowing His time with His disciples would soon come to an end, and wanting to be sure they didn’t feel abandoned by Him, He said, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see Me; because I live, you also will live” (John 14:18-19).

And later that night, after Judas betrayed Him and Peter denied Him, the Bible says, “All the disciples deserted Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56), just when He needed them the most.

As one author wrote, “Now I dare you, I dare you, to look at the cross and see Jesus there, and say that God has left you and forsaken you. I dare you to glimpse into the tomb with the women and with Peter and John, to sit for a moment beside the angels, to touch the folded burial clothes and say that God has left you and forsaken you. And I dare you to approach this altar and hold in your hands not just bread and wine, but the very body and blood of Jesus, given for the forgiveness of your sins, and say, ‘God has forsaken me.’”

The only thing Jesus left was heaven to take on your flesh and your sin to be your salvation. He changes the unchangeable. He forgives the unforgivable. He accomplishes the impossible. He saves sinners. He seeks the lost. He gives purpose to the purposeless. He gives hope to the hopeless. He works miracles before our very eyes.

Not quite 250 years ago, back in 1787, Robert Keene wrote a hymn that was sung by Union and Confederate soldiers. President Andrew Jackson asked that it be sung at his deathbed. Robert E. Lee asked it to be sung at his funeral. You know how it goes:

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes. That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

We thank You, Father, for all the promises we find in Your Word. Give us the strength and the confidence to know that, by Your grace, You will never leave us or forsake us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen