Dooley Noted: The promise of God’s presence

Do you ever worry that you’re going under if something doesn’t change? Do you fear that you cannot deal with the stress of your circumstances any longer? Do you ever feel like God has abandoned you? If so, I want to encourage you with a promise that has given me strength over the years. Joshua 1:5 says, “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

Thankfully, God’s pledge to Joshua was not an isolated incident. Moses’ successor reminded God’s people of the same promise when as they fought against their enemies (Joshua 10:25). Before King Solomon built Israel’s temple in Jerusalem, his father David assured him that God would never fail or forsake him until the work was finished (1 Chr. 28:20). After Assyria invaded Judah with intentions of conquering Jerusalem, King Hezekiah admonished his citizens by insisting that the Lord was with them and that He is greater than any enemy they faced (2 Chr. 32:7-8). Every time a leader relayed the promise of God’s presence to others, Scripture reveals a strong call to be strong and courageous as a result. Not only was this the pattern employed by Moses as he encouraged Joshua, God Himself follows the same progression three times as He speaks directly to His new leader (see Joshua 1). 

  • Be strong and courageous . . . (v6) for I will give the people the land I promised.
  • Be strong and courageous . . . (v7) as you obey my commandments.
  • Be strong and courageous . . . (v9) because I will be with you wherever you go.

These appeals to strength and courage are the direct result of God’s repeated intention to remain with Joshua no matter the situation. The Lord assured him, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you (Joshua 1:5).”

Remarkably, God frequently reassured His children by directly asserting His presence with them. When temptation assailed Abraham, the Lord promised to be a shield for him (Gen. 15:1). As Isaac endured the envy and hostility of others, God again guaranteed His presence (Gen. 26:24). While serving under harsh circumstances due to the Babylonian threat, God maintained His intention to save and deliver the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 42:11). Though the Apostle Paul suffered greatly for serving His Savior, the Lord again acknowledged His presence and admonished the apostle not to fear (Acts 18:9-10). Even while Israel faced the self-inflicted consequences for their rebellion, God came to them with compassion saying, “Do not fear, for I am with you (Isa. 41:10; 43:5).”

In addition to these stated examples of Yahweh’s determination to remain with His people at all times, the Bible often observes that God is with His servants even when He does not say so. Consider again the escalating hardships of Joseph in the book of Genesis. The narrative reveals that his brothers hated him. After they sell him into slavery, Potiphar’s wicked wife falsely accused Joseph of adulterous intentions, resulting in an unfair prison sentence. Yet, despite God’s apparent silence on the matter, the Bible continually consoles us:

  • The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man (Gen. 39:2; emphasis mine).
  • His master saw that the Lord was with him . . . (Gen. 39:3; emphasis mine)
  • The Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer (Gen. 39:21; emphasis mine).
  • The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper (Gen. 39:23; emphasis mine).

Joseph seemed to lean hard into the reality of God’s presence. Toward the end of his life, while looking back over his most painful events, he finds comfort in knowing that what others meant for evil against him, God strategically used for good (see Gen. 50:20).   

If these examples still seem too far from the world where you live, drink deeply from the profound insight of Acts 17:27-28, which assures us that God is “not far from each of us” because “in Him we live and move and exist.” Our heavenly Father invites us to enjoy contentment apart from financial or material ambitions simply because He promises to never desert or forsake us (Heb. 13:5) due to His priority of meeting our needs (Heb. 13:6). In addition, Jesus, when speaking directly to all Christians in every age, guarantees His presence in our lives as we go about the work of making disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Regardless of how severe our misfortunes might be, we can rest easy knowing that God “will not forsake His godly ones” (Psalm 37:28). He is ALWAYS with us!

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.