Isaiah – Day 1004

Scripture:  Isaiah 52:12 (NIV):  “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”

Thought:  To me, we need not turn from evil in fear but in confidence, realizing the power of Him Who protects us.

Question:  Am I obeying the command to depart from evil?

In moving out of evil territory, God’s people need to understand they should not go haphazardly.  Today’s verse confirms that when we begin to walk away from sin in obedience to God, He goes before and behind us all the way.  What a comfort and encouragement!

“But…”

Previously, in verse 11, God commanded “depart, depart!…go out…touch no unclean thing…come out…be pure.”  Now, however, He seems to emphasize that this effort is not ours alone; He is with us.

“…you will not leave in haste or go in flight;”

This separation from Babylonian evil is not a frightened running away.  It is rather a dignified separation:  one characterized by the presence of God and by His victory over wickedness.  Isaiah 48:20:  “Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians!  Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it.  Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, ‘The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.’ ”  It is known and shown clearly that God accompanies Israel—that God protects and guides His own children where He wants them to go.

Again, as mentioned in the previous blog, this departure is quite unlike the great exodus from Egypt.  Exodus 12:11:  “This is how you are to eat it [the Passover Lamb]:  with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.”  Haste was the byword in Exodus; but here in Isaiah God commands them NOT to “leave in haste.”  In Exodus, no “shouts of joy” created a grand announcement of departure.  Rather, it was clandestine, secretive and sudden.

“…for…”

This little connector word tells us the reason for such differences between the exodus from Egypt and this departure from Babylon.  It is because of the quality of God’s presence!

“…the LORD will go before you,”

Now, the LORD definitely “went before” Moses and the Israelites when they left Egypt; however, it was not as “advertised” on that occasion as it is in this instance in Babylon.  In Egypt the death angel had just wreaked havoc on Pharaoh’s family as well as all the other Egyptian families and they were all smothered in grief.  In this Babylonian exit, however, it is as though all Babylon is attentive to how God’s “holy arm” (verse 10) of strength on behalf of His people is at work.  They are all, both Jew and Babylonian, alert, and it is readily apparent that the God of Israel is leading Israel out.  Micah 2:13:  “One who breaks open the way will go up before them; they will break through the gate and go out.  Their King will pass through before them, the LORD at their head.”  The Babylonians clearly see the heroic leadership of the LORD:  what a glorious testimony of God’s loving presence and superiority over their puny, inactive gods.

“…the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”

Not only does God precede us, breaking open the way and blazing the trail for us; but He also protects the “rear view.”  Recall how He transformed Himself into a column of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night for the Israelites as they sojourned into the wilderness after exiting Egypt.  At one point, when Pharaoh pursued, this protection moved from being the leading power—up front and visible for all to follow—and shifted to their rear.  At that point the Israelites were between the pillar of fire and The Red Sea, with the enemy held at bay on the other side of the pillar of fire.  (Exodus 14:19 and 20a:  “Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.  The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”)  The one interesting effect of this movement from front to rear of the pillar of fire was that the Israelites were forced up against The Red Sea.  God was insisting that they exercise their faith to cross over the sea.  Sometimes we too, as Christians, may be “forced” up against a seemingly immoveable obstacle that only faith in a miracle of God will overcome.

What does it mean for God to become our “rear guard”?  The enemy, Satan, will seek to destroy in any way he can.  To come at us from the rear is just another of his clever strategies.  He knows it may be a “weak point.”  Our focus is up ahead—our eyes are on the leader.  But God knows what is needed; He guarantees our protection, and He protects us on all sides with His “all-seeing” eye.  We are not fit to realize or cover every contingency when it comes to spiritual battles; but God is!  He is both our vanguard and our rear guard.  Psalm 34:19:  “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;”  See also all of Psalm 91.

Prayer:  Loving Father, thank You for all Your divine protections; both ahead of me, (You know the future—I don’t!), and behind me, (You know the cunning ways of the enemy who chases—I don’t!).  Help me to relax in Your care, but also help me to obey Your call to move away from all evil.  I ask this in Christ’s Name, Amen.

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