God Our Guard and Guide
Isaiah 52:12
For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.


1. There are perils that come up from behind. The deadliest foes are those that attack us in the rear. The traveller may be overtaken by pestilence and death, that lay all unsuspected in the very places he passed in laughter and in song. Man never gets away from his past.

(1) Perils come upon us from the mistakes of the past. Mistakes may be innocent enough, but unfortunately for us, Nature punishes blunders as though they were crimes. Fire burns just the same, whether it be kindled innocently or of malice. Water drowns irrespective of the way people get in. Accident or crime, it is all the same to Nature. An indiscretion may ruin your health, bring your business to the dust, and wreck the peace of your home, just aa surely as deliberate sin. Sheer inexperience is responsible for many a disaster. And every blunder of to-day sends forward an enemy to imperil the life of to-morrow. Further complications arise from the fact that much of our life is bound up with the lives of others. The follies as well as the sins of the fathers are visited to the third or fourth generation.

(2) Perils come upon us from the sins of the past. "It's the eleventh commandment I'm most afraid of," hiccoughed a drunken man to an evangelist one day. "And what is that? asked the seeker of souls. "Be sure your sin will find you out." And if sheer mistakes survive and pursue, how much more our sins. There is no greater delusion than to imagine that sin can be committed, covered up, forgotten, and done with. Sin breeds. And its progeny slays the transgressor. The sowing of wild oats is followed by the inevitable harvest. An evil deed once done can never be undone: not even by the grace of God. And in it there may lurk an enemy that years after may rise up and strike his deadly weapon in your back. Old age may find you full of the sins of your youth. Sins long left behind may live on in your memory. Man never forgets, A chance word, an unconscious look, an innocent gesture may strike a slumbering chord, and the whole scene lives as vividly as ever. Neither remorse nor repentance can blot out the horrid thing from before your eyes. It will startle you in the very holy of holies, and disturb your very communion with God. If unpardoned it will fill your old age with terror, and your dying moments with the horrors of hell. The most terrible temptations lurk in the memory of past transgression, even after the sin is forsaken and forgiven. I have known a saint turned eighty lament with tears that, while he was forgetting the hymns which had been his delight for sixty years, the lewd songs of his teens came back upon him with overwhelming vividness and force. He couldn't pray, but some rollicking, filthy chorus would insist on being sung. It is from behind that the devil strikes home, and strikes hard. Look at the consequences of sin if you would realize the terrible forces that come up from behind. The devil persuaded you there would be no consequences. It was a passing pleasure. You were all right in the morning, and thought it was all over. It is never over. That was only the beginning. Drink, gambling, lust, passion, and greed, have followed stealthily for years, and sprung upon men unawares. The terrible results of sin may pursue you in your body. A man who never but once went into the house of the woman of whom Solomon says such terrible things, for nearly half a century went through the world crooked and in pain. The most awful thing I know that can come to a man out of his past, is to see his own sin working ruin in the soul of another. What a host follows hard after us! All the way is crowded with malignant and vicious enemies that seek to destroy us. And nearly all, if not every one of them, our own creation. They are the offspring of our folly, our sin, our shame.

2. There are perils ahead. Happily no man can see very far ahead.

II. THE GOOD MAN'S PATH IS ALSO BESET WITH GOD. The Lord is in the rear to protect, and in the van to guide.

1. God stands between us and our past.

(1) To forgive its sin.

(2) To cut off our retreat. The old Egyptian life had a strange fascination over the delivered people. The backsliding tendency is in us all. But the Rearguard is between us and Egypt. He will prevent our retreat, and by a sharp command urge us forward to the land of grapes. We need to be saved from ourselves, and He will so completely deliver us that the last longing for Egypt shall die, and all our desire shall be for the Canaan of perfect love.

(3) To de-fend against its assaults. Our worst enemies are at our backs, where we are most helpless The devil strikes from behind. But be not afraid, God is in the rear.

(4) To make our enemies His slaves. The forces of hell as well as the hosts of heaven are under His control.

2. God goes before us in all the way of the future. We don't know the way, but He does — every inch of it. For he prepared and appointed it. And more than that. He has trodden and tested it before our feet touch it. He knows. That is enough. He leads. I follow. We tread the same path. We share the same road. Why should I fear? He goes before us in all our service for Him. Philip found the eunuch already prepared for his message. And Ananias found Saul waiting to receive his ministrations. So as we go to our service we shall find the Lord has been there before us preparing our way. The Divine movement is always forward. God is behind, but He never turns back. He goes before, and the whole host moves forward. Our only safety is in progress.

(S. Chadwick.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.

WEB: For you shall not go out in haste, neither shall you go by flight: for Yahweh will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

The March Through, the Desert-World to the City of God
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