I Will Never Leave You!

Adapted from a Sermon by George Everard, 1884

“for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Hebrews 13:5

There is something which is very instructive in the history of this promise. It was first given to Joshua as he was setting out on his way to take possession of the promised land and to cast out the Canaanites, who had now filled up the measure of their sins. (1 Thess 2:16) We see it in God’s commission to him in Joshua chapter 1 verse 1 to 9. "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."

We find the words again referred to by David in his instruction to Solomon his son, with respect to the work lying before him in the building of the Temple. "Then David said to Solomon his son, “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, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished." (1Ch 28:20)

Now we find that the inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews takes it right out of the heart of Old Testament history, stamps it afresh with divine authority, and sends it out for the consolation of all Christian people in all ages of the Christian Church.

The Apostle's dealing with this promise teaches us a truth full of encouragement. The grand promises scattered through the pages of the Old Testament are not limited in their use to those to whom they were first spoken. They were intended, in the purpose of the Holy Spirit, for all such as they were designed to comfort and assist.

Wherever there is a humble soul, conscious of sin and needing pardon, the great promise of Isaiah applies to that man. "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Is 1:18)

Wherever there is a man conscious of moral depravity and harshness, and desiring renewal, there is for such a one the great promise given in Ezekiel: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)

It is so with the rest of God's promises. Seek out and put your finger on those that are most suited to your case. Meditate on them, receive them, rejoice in them. If you are a believer in Christ, you have a right to every one of them. You may claim them as your portion and your heritage forever.

It is this truth which the Apostle Peter teaches us in his second epistle. "knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation." (1 Peter 1:20) This passage has nothing to do with private judgment, but declares that Holy Scripture is not to be limited to one special case or individual, but that it has a wider and a larger purpose, having its lessons of comfort, warning, or instruction for the whole Church of God.

But let us go back to the promise given to the Hebrews. It is a staff on which we may lean all through the coming year. It is a precious streamlet of the river of the water of life from which our souls may drink and be refreshed. It is a shield of defence in which we may meet all the enemies of our salvation. It is a firm rock on which we may place our feet when the floods threaten to overwhelm us. Come what will in the changeful events of the future, let the days and weeks of this year come to us clothed in gloom and sorrow--or radiant with brightness and hope, still may we be of good courage if we can hear the voice of our Almighty Friend whispering in our ear, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

But who among us can lay claim to this promise? Who among us has a right to say, "This is a Father's voice speaking to my very heart"? Consider this for a few moments. Remember to whom it was originally spoken. It was to Joshua. And is there something in your character corresponding to his?

Joshua was a man of faith.

He trusted in the arm of Jehovah. When the ten spies discouraged the people, and alarmed them with reports of the strength of their adversaries, Joshua and Caleb stood firm and encouraged the people to go forward. Their enemies would be easily defeated by them. Their defence was gone. The Lord was on the side of Israel.

Have you something of this faith? Do you believe God's power and promise, and rest upon His truth? Do you trust in God as your Protector and Preserver?

Again, Joshua was a servant of Jehovah.

It is the title of honor constantly joined to his name, "Joshua ... the servant of the LORD." (Judges 2:8) In the presence of the armies of Israel he declared his steadfast purpose: "as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!" (Josh 24:15)

Is this a description of your spirit? Do you count it your highest privilege to be numbered among the servants of the Lord Almighty? Have you forsaken every other master, that you may serve the Lord, and Him only?

Again, Joshua was a brave warrior for the kingdom of God.

Under the Captain of the Lord's army, he fought manfully against the enemies of Israel, and by the help of God he gained the victory. Have you enrolled your name as a good soldier of the “King of kings"? (Rev 19:16) Are you striving to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil? Do you set your face against sin both in yourself and others? Do you strive to win men to the side of truth and righteousness and the fear of God? Is your influence felt to be in the right direction? Are you a courageous confessor of Christ's name, never ashamed of your Lord, but owning Him in the face of ridicule and contempt?

Answer these questions to your own heart and conscience. Are you indeed in covenant with God? Have you yielded yourself to His service? Have you put on the heavenly armour, and are you fighting the Lord's battles? Have you that which is the root of it all, a true faith in the Son of God, trusting in Him as your only Advocate, and relying on His atoning sacrifice as the only ground of your hope?

You cannot claim the Lord's promises, unless you are one of the Lord's true people. You might walk over a magnificent estate and admire the beauty which greets you on every side, but you could not speak of it and rejoice in it as your own, unless you had the ownership papers.

It is like this with God's promises. No tongue can declare the glory and preciousness of this rich inheritance. It brings untold wealth to the one who possesses it, both in this life and in the next. But do you have the ownership papers? Do you have the Spirit witnessing to your son-ship in the Lord's family? Do you have that heaven-born faith in Christ to which all the promises belong?

If so, the promise of the text is for you. And there is none that goes beyond it. "he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Heb 13:5) Who can tell what multitudes of God's children in every age have rested on this word, and have found by experience that the Lord never left them, but was ever by their side?

The great God stands out so boldly in face of all our failings and desertions. For we may not forget that in the days and years that lie before us, there is not one single person, not one single treasure we value--but, in the providence of God, may fail or desert us.

One day you may be surrounded by family and friends, the next they may have flown away like the swallows at the approach of winter. As the Psalmist writes “my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.” (Ps 27:10)

More than this. All earthly prospects may fail you. Bright hopes may be dashed to the ground by an unlooked-for disappointment. Business may prove unsuccessful, and the few thousands which were your all may be lost in the venture you made. Your own health may fail you. Sight and hearing and strength for work may fail. Those you have depended upon to help you on a rainy day may fail. Yes, and your own heart may fail you, and, like David in the hour of distress, you may fear that you will surely perish in your trouble.

But there is one who never fails. The Great "He," the Great "I" of our text, the Triune Jehovah, the Father who loves you; the Savior who redeemed you, He who is unchangeable, Jesus Christ “the same yesterday and today and forever;” (Heb 13:8) the Blessed Comforter, the Spirit of consolation and peace--here is the presence that will never fail you, but will accompany you right through your journey and bring you in safety to the celestial city.

Another peculiar beauty of this passage lies in the deep meaning of its negatives. We have no less than five negatives one upon another. To give clear effect to each of these it can be literally translated, "No, I will not leave you; no, no, I will not forsake you."

The NASB translation is also powerful, it gives us: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (NASB)

Couple with this the great "never" of reception. To the very end of time anxious, troubled, tempted, sin-burdened souls will rejoice in this, "whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:37) With such an invitation, who need despair of acceptance with Christ?

Then we have the solemn "never" of exclusion. "But nothing unclean will ever enter it" (that is the city of God) "nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Rev. 21:27)

What impenitent, unbelieving soul will ever be able to pass this barrier, and find access into the home of God's saints?

But in Hebrews 13:5 we have the "never" of God's fidelity to His people. There is no possibility of His failing or forsaking them. Through storm and sunshine, through rough waters and smooth, through the darkness or the light--He remains faithful still.

It may be before this year closes one here present may learn the meaning of trouble as you have never learned it before. You may be all alone, and trial upon trial may come upon you. You may stand like a solitary pillar in the desert, on which every storm and tempest blows. But God Himself will be with you. He will be your refuge and strength. He “will never leave you nor forsake you."

It may be that during this year you may be sorely harassed by the enemy and distressed by the fiery darts of the wicked one. You may walk as under a black cloud when neither sun nor moon nor star appears. You may be driven almost to despair by the memory of past sins, or the apparent impossibility of doing right, or by the peculiar difficulties by which you are surrounded. But here is light. God is with you, and though you cannot see a way out, He can pierce the dark cloud and open your way and bring you into peace and liberty.

Or, it may be, this year is to close your earthly pilgrimage. You have been following Christ, and looking to Him as your example in life's pathway--but soon you are to follow Him through the valley and the river. Perhaps you shrink back from the prospect. The fear of death has not yet been overcome. But the promise will hold good. The Lord of life and glory will be with you. Timid, nervous, fearful as your spirit is now, He can deliver you from all this. He can make every shadow of alarm flee away and fill you with joy and hope. He can dissipate all gloomy fears and shed a heavenly peace within your soul. At least you may expect that He will be so near to you, that you will not be afraid.

There is an account of the words of an eminent servant of Christ when near to death. He was asked whether "he did not wish to live longer that he might be better prepared to die." But he answered that if he lived twenty years, he "could never have a better Savior than he had at that moment." It is in this way that the Lord comforts His people. He manifests Himself in His tender mercy and loving kindness. He is seen to be near at hand, meeting all the needs of the soul. As Isaiah writes, "the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended." (Is 60:20)

A practical suggestion or two may close our meditation regarding this encouraging promise.

In the light of this promise, and in dependence upon its fulfillment, cast off all undue-anxiety about wealth and the increase of this world's goods. "Keep your life free from love of money." (Heb 13:5) Why? Because you are so rich already.

There are those who receive large inheritances in this life. But you have a far greater inheritance in this promise. The Lord who owns earth and Heaven is your God, and is pledged to supply all your needs. He will never fail you--and all that He has is yours. Therefore do not be anxious about the riches you might accumulate here. All the more, they may only prove to be a snare to you or your children.

The possession of many millions, at the end, may serve to erect a golden wall to block the way and shut out your access to the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore put God's kingdom and righteousness first. Do your duty bravely and faithfully in His sight, seeking His favour and His approval in all you do. As to the rest, be perfectly content with His providence. If He gives increased wealth, hold it with a loose hand, put a large tax upon it for Christian and benevolent objects, and use every penny of it as a steward who must give account for the talent committed to you.

If, on the other hand, He denies you such means as you would want, thank Him for the untold wealth He has granted you in His faithful promises. Learn the holy art of glad contentment. Go on your way singing of the Saviour's grace.

As we will sing in our closing hymn:

"My Jesus, as You will, If needy here and poor, Give me Your people's bread, Their portion rich and sure.

The manna of Your Word Let my soul feed upon; And if all else should fail, My Lord, Your will be done."

In the strength of this promise go on bravely, fearlessly, hopefully, into the varying events of the coming year. You know not what the craft of the devil, or the wickedness of man, may await you. You know not where danger may spring upon you, or trouble assail you. But you know who is on your side and who will stand by you. Therefore be of good courage.

Say in your heart and with your lips, "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Ps 118:6) Come what may, with the Eternal God as your Refuge, the Everlasting arms beneath you, and the All-sheltering wing over you--you may rejoice and be at rest. Let your faith in God's love and care grow and increase. Trust to the Lord utterly. Never doubt that He will still remain with you until this year is past, and every year of your pilgrimage is over, and you sit down in the Father's House.

Then, too, in the strength of this precious promise, be faithful even unto death. Does the living God promise never to "leave you or forsake you?" (Deut 31:6) And will you not strive never to "leave or forsake" His cause or His people? If He is so faithful to you--then will you not endeavour to be faithful to the interests of His kingdom and the honor of His name? Surely you will. Day by day go out into life's battle-field, strong in His strength, to wage war against every enemy of your salvation and every province of the dominion of Satan. In this way make it your aim in some measure to reflect the faithfulness of God. Remember the assurance, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life!" (Rev 2:10)

“Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb, and shall I fear to own his cause, or blush to speak his name? Sure I must fight if I would reign; increase my courage, Lord; I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by the Word.”