"I will never leave you nor forsake you"
How do we keep free from the love of money? Where do we find the power to remain satisfied and content with what we have? Through what means do we resist the temptation to lie and steal and sacrifice our families for the sake of greater gain? The author of Hebrews was unmistakable in his answer. It comes from knowing and trusting and enjoying the unending presence of God. Continue reading . . .
How do we keep free from the love of money? Where do we find the power to remain satisfied and content with what we have? Through what means do we resist the temptation to lie and steal and sacrifice our families for the sake of greater gain? The author of Hebrews was unmistakable in his answer. It comes from knowing and trusting and enjoying the unending presence of God.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6).
“OK, Sam, but this verse doesn’t encourage me. It scares me to death. After all, God did forsake his only-begotten Son. He abandoned him on the cross. He gave him over to torture and death. Didn’t Jesus himself cry aloud: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And isn’t the word here in Hebrews 13:5 translated ‘forsake’ the same Greek word found on the lips of Jesus when he uttered that horrible question? So, if God ended up leaving and forsaking his most beloved Son, Jesus, what makes me think he won’t do the same to me?”
Great question. But it comes from a horrible misunderstanding of why God forsook or abandoned Jesus on the cross. In doing so he was imputing to him the guilt and sin of us all. Jesus was forsaken and abandoned as the punishment and judgment you and I deserved, precisely in order that we would never have to undergo such an experience. We will never be forsaken by God precisely because Jesus was forsaken in our place. Whatever abandonment you and I deserved, he suffered. The separation from God that he endured, we should have, but now never will.
Therefore, if someone had pushed back against God’s promise here in v. 5 and said, “How do I know you will never leave me or forsake me,” God would reply by pointing to the cross of Christ. “There,” he says to us, “there in the God-forsakenness of my Son and your substitute is the assurance that you will never undergo what he did. All the reasons why I might leave you or forsake you have been poured out on Jesus.” In his dying and suffering in your place you are assured that God will never forsake you, that he will always be with you, that you will never endure separation from him.
And now take note of the consequence: “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:6).
Your immediate response to this may be to say: “Are you kidding me? People can do a lot of things to me. They can beat me up. They can slander my name. They can file a lawsuit that may lead to bankruptcy. They can undermine my efforts to do what is right. They can conspire to have me thrown into jail. They might even arrange to have me killed!”
Yes, you are right. But they can never rob you of eternal life! They can never separate you from the love of God in Christ! They can never reverse God’s verdict that through faith you are now righteous in his sight! They can never overturn God’s decision to forgive you of your sins! They can never stand in the way of God orchestrating even the worst of experiences to bring about your good and his glory. They can never deprive you of the joy of an eternity spent with Christ in the new heavens and new earth!
The Apostle Paul addressed this same issue in slightly different terms in Romans 8. He asked: “If God is for us, who can be against us”? (Rom. 8:31).
In asking this question, Paul is not suggesting that we don’t have adversaries. Paul had dozens, perhaps hundreds, of them. They beat him and whipped him they stoned him and threw him in prison and did everything they could to undermine his work and ministry. In fact, Paul lists our adversaries and the opposition we face in Romans 8:35-36, things like tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and possible martyrdom!
But his point in Romans 8 and our author’s point in Hebrews 13 is simply that no human adversary or spiritual enemy is of any account since God is for us and with us.
Notice also that Paul doesn’t simply ask the question, “Who is against us?” His question is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” So who precisely is that God? What kind of God are we talking about?
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:9b-10).
That’s the God who is for you! Do you need more? OK, try this one on for size:
“his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:34b-35).
Our author in Hebrews 13 says much the same thing: Since God is with you and will never, by no means ever, leave you or forsake you, what ultimate or eternal harm can any human being inflict upon you? Answer: none!
If you have God’s presence now and forever, what does it matter what mere humans do to you? And what is all the wealth in the world if God is not with you? Or if God should abandon you, of what value or benefit is a lot of money?