The letter arrived in a crisp white envelope with a typed address….for my six-year-old.
Obviously, this wasn’t a card or drawing from a school friend or a birthday invitation from a classmate. This looked like official business.
I opened the envelope and was amused to find them asking her to contribute to their nonprofit organization. If she made a generous donation of $50 to their worthy cause, they would send her a beautiful and stylish tote bag.
I’m sure she’s just dying to empty her piggy bank of pennies and send them right along.
Clearly, they didn’t know this name in their database belongs to a six-year-old first grader who would prefer to spend her money on fun-shaped erasers and colorful pens at the school book fair next week.
That’s because it wasn’t a personal message.
It was business, just business. She was a name on a computer screen that ended up as a name on a form letter.
In a world of catalogs and bills, form letters and political mailers, opening the mail box and finding a handwritten note from a friend surprises us. It’s the rare joy of thoughtfulness and kindness in a mostly business society.
So sometimes we think that our God is a mostly business God, too: That somehow He just pushes His agenda on us without concern for our feelings or best interest.
Or perhaps we think that He’s juggling so many crises–wars and famines and terror—and how could He have time for anything else? And the people, so many people, how could He possibly care about one little insignificant individual like me?
Maybe we feel like little more than a typewritten name on a divine form letter.
Yet in a mostly business world, we have an amazingly personal God.
He calls us by name and knows our innermost thoughts, saw us in our mother’s wombs and designed a plan for us from the beginning.
He was not a Savior from afar, but God who walked among us, suffered among us, and knows what it is like to live out life in this world.
This was His reminder to the nation of Israel as they stood on the edges of the Promised Land, a people wandering long and whose last memory of a “home” was a land of slavery.
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you….Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:6, 8).
He didn’t set them on a path and then abandon them to the journey. God was personally with them, personally going before them, personally concerned about them.
And for Joshua, the newly appointed leader of this wayward and difficult people, God’s message was specific and consistent.
It began with God’s instruction to Moses on how to hand over of the staff to his protege, not with lectures and correction, but with encouragement:
Instead, your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him, for he will lead Israel as they take possession of it (Deut. 1:38). Instead, commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan. He will give them all the land you now see before you as their possession (Deut. 3:28).
God repeats the message again and again, relentlessly, not just through Moses, but with His very own words—“be strong and courageous…Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
God didn’t have to say that. He could have issued commands from afar, distant and cold.
But God knew Joshua personally. He knew exactly how it felt to step into Moses’s gigantic sandals. He knew just how high those walls of Jericho were and how much courage it would take to command the people.
God knew the one message that Joshua personally needed to hear, not once, but repeatedly: Do not be afraid.
This is the blessing for us, incredible as it is, as hard as it is at times to feel with our emotions:
God knows us personally, too. He knows exactly what obstacles we’ll encounter and the precise insecurities and fears that will beat down our faith. He knows the days we walk weary and the nights we flop into bed discouraged. He knows the immensity of the need and how insufficient our provisions appear.
And He “will personally go ahead for you. He will neither fail nor abandon you….” so do not be afraid.
That’s not a business slogan. That’s a personal guarantee.