I Will Be With Thee

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 28 Aug 2009

“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” (Joshua 1:5).

We on a series of messages on the exceeding great and precious promises of God found throughout the Scriptures. The Lord helping us, we hope to find and examine one promise in each of the 66 books in the Bible. We have already considered one promise in each of the first five books in the Bible.

This evening, we have come to the 6th book, the book of Joshua.

Moses had led the people through the wilderness. They have now arrived at the border of the Promised Land. Moses, whose work was done, was given a glimpse of the land from Mount Pisgah, and then the Lord took him home.

His mantle had fallen on Joshua. It was Joshua who would lead the people in the conquest of the land. It was Joshua who would, as it were, give the people rest—just as the greater Joshua, Jesus, would give His people rest after they are led to Him by the Law as Moses led the people out of Egypt and through the wilderness.

This book provides us with a record of how Joshua led the people in the conquest. It is as such a book of promise, for it presents the fulfilment of God’s promises regarding the land of Israel. Of course, the land is but a shadow or type of God’s eternal promises. While it was a promise of temporal inheritance to Israel after the flesh, it was a promise of eternal inheritance, to Israel after the spirit. So the fulfilment of the promises did not mean an end to the promises. Rather, they confirm the promises to all Israel.

Now, while this book is a book of promise, you will not find many direct statements of promises in this book. But there is a famous one which was given to Joshua:

“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” (Jos 1:5)

Notice the three general sub-promises that make up the specific promise directed at Joshua: (1) I will be with thee; (2) I will not fail thee; and (3) I will not forsake thee.

I believe these general promises are applicable to all of us too, for all these same promises are repeated in a number of places in the Scriptures.

In particular, we read in Hebrews 13:5—

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Now, if your Bible has footnotes to indicate where an Old Testament quotation is taken from, you may find Hebrew 13:5 being linked back to Deuteronomy 31:6. But if you check Deuteronomy 31:6, you will realise that unlike in Hebrews 13:5, God is referred to in the second person in the verse. Moses is telling Joshua: “The LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Dt 31:6b).

It is in Joshua 1:5 <remove comma> that God is recorded as saying directly <remove comma> “I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Jos 1:5). Hebrews 13:5, in other words, is really a reference to our text.

Now, since the promise in Hebrews 13:5 is made to every believer; we may conclude that Joshua 1:5 is a promise made not only to Joshua, but to all of us who are united to the Greater Joshua.

Let us, therefore, beloved brethren and children, hesitate not to consider the three sub-promises made to Joshua and apply it to ourselves.

1. I Will Be With Thee

God is omnipresent. He is everywhere present. The psalmist says: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Ps 139:8). Hell is not where God is not. Hell is hell because God’s wrath is felt most intensely.

What then does God mean when He says, “I will be with thee”? I believe what God means is simply that He will be with us individually in a special way of favour and love. He is with the church corporately. But He is also with the individual believer personally just as He was with Joshua personally.

We may not experience God’s presence in the same way as the saints made perfect will experience it in heaven. However, God is with us in pretty much the same way as He is with the saints made perfect in heaven. The difference is that we are not yet perfected in righteousness. We still sin, and we sometimes grieve the Holy Spirit, so that He would withdraw His presence temporarily.

Nevertheless, the Lord is with us. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” says our Lord (Mt 28:20).

He is with us in our coming in and going out. He is with us in our moments of defeat and sorrows and moments of victory and joy. He is with us when we feel weak and lost. He is with us when we feel strong and courageous.

He was with Joshua through the conquest of Canaan.

He is present to help and comfort us.

He is present to counsel us when we need wisdom.

He is present to guide us when we need guidance.

He is present to strengthen our hands when we feel weak.

He is present to embrace us in His love when we feel lonely and unwanted.

He is present to provide us when we have need of that which is good for us.

He is present to hear us when we would pour out our hearts in sorrow or want.

He is present to protect us when we are assaulted by our enemies.

Though we don’t see him, He is with us. We must believe that. God has promised. Our Lord has promised “I will be with thee; I will be with you always”.

But more than being with us, our Lord promises never to fail us.

2. I Will Not Fail Thee

The word rendered ‘fail’ (hp;r;) as it appears in the particular Hebrew form or stem (Hiphil) in our text speaks of letting something drop or letting someone down.

So when God says He will not fail us, He means that He will not disappoint us. He has promised to be with us. He has promised to hear our prayers. He has promised to work all things together for our good.

He will not fail us.

He kept his promise to Joshua. The army had victory upon victory throughout their campaign. There was indeed once when the Israelite army was defeated at the battle of Ai. But was it a failure of the Lord? Or was it not rather a failure of the Israelites to obey the Lord?

The Lord did not fail Joshua. He will not fail you.

All of us, I believe, have had experience of being disappointed with fellow man. Even our best and most reliable friends can sometimes fail us. They may not even be aware of our needs. They may not be there when we need them most. They may not have the strength or wisdom to help us if they are there. Or they may misunderstand our need or try to help us in a way that is actually counter-productive.

Indeed, there are even times when we feel betrayed by those whom we thought to be reliable friends—who misjudged us and added to our sorrows by their hurtful words and actions.

But God never fails us. He has promised: “I will never fail thee.” Our Lord, no doubt, understands what is it to have friends fail Him when His trusted disciple Peter denied Him three times. He has promised: “I will never fail thee.” Has he spoken? Shall He not keep his word?

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” says Solomon (Prov 17:17). In times of trials, when all our friends forsake us, our brothers in blood would normally still help even if we may not be that close. But there is one who sticks closer than a brother: One who laid down His life for us, even our Lord.

Our Lord will never fail us. The Lord will never fail you, beloved brothers and sisters and children.

But what if we fail Him?

3. I Will Not Forsake Thee

Our friends will forsake us when we fail them. But God has promised, “I will not forsake thee.” I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, the Lord reiterated.

When the children of Israel failed the Lord by taking of the accursed things from the battle of Jericho, God temporarily withdrew his presence from them. The army was defeated in the battle of Ai, when they were expected to crush the enemy.

But did the Lord forsake Israel? No, for as soon as people repented of their sin, and those who were guilty of rebellion were punished, God fought for them again; and they defeated the enemy soundly.

So God would not forsake us too! This is especially as Christ has already laid His life down for us.

The apostle Paul assures us:

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? [Nothing and no one] 39 …shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:32-39)

God has not and will not forsake us because His love for us is not dependant on us, but on Christ. His promise is unconditional to us, for Christ fulfilled the conditions. For this reason, the apostle Paul says, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:13).

Now, because faith is a gift of God, no true believer will ever lose his faith completely. But our faith can sometimes waver. And sometimes we can be overwhelmed with a lot of doubt—doubts about ourselves and doubts about God’s promises.

Yet, God will never forsake us. He will never leave us. He will never abandon us. He will never give up on us.

Long after man has given up on us for our failures and stubbornness, God will still persist to deal with us according to His great love for us that is in Christ.


God said to Joshua:

As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

God is saying the same thing to you, beloved brethren and children. If you belong to the greater Joshua, the promise that God made to Joshua is for you.  He will always be with you through all the spiritual battles you will have to fight. He will never fail you for nothing is impossible with Him. He will never forsake you, for His love for you is sealed in the blood of your Saviour.

May the Lord grant us that we press on in our Christian warfare with this assurance and hope. The battle will be tough, but be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for the LORD thy God is with thee withersover thou goest. Amen.

—JJ Lim