In the Bible, more than once we read that the Lord promised people that He would not forsake them. God does not lie (Titus 1:2). The Bible says He is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9), so He will be true to His nature and fulfill every promise, including His pledge not to forsake certain ones.
Shortly before his death, Moses communicated this message from Jehovah to all Israel: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them, for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
On that same occasion, Moses conveyed this message to Joshua, the man who would take his place as Israel’s leader and lead God’s people into Canaan: “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you, He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Following Moses’ death, the Lord gave this encouraging reminder to Joshua: “. . . as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you . . . Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5,9).
Samuel, a prophet of God and the last judge of Israel, told all Israel, “For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people” (1 Samuel 12:22).
The nation of Israel and its leaders were not the only ones who received the message that the Lord God would not forsake them. Christians, as God’s people under the new covenant (1 Peter 2:9,10), have the same promise, recorded in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conduct be without covetousness, be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” What a special promise for God’s special people!
One of the first takeaways from God’s pledge not to forsake His people is that it boosts the spirits of His servants. God will walk with them, walk among them, and be their God (2 Corinthians 6:16). Second, when God tells His children that He will not leave them, this gives them confidence/courage to face whatever comes their way. God’s being with His people does not remove their trials, heartaches, or suffering, but it is comforting to know that the One whose eye is on the sparrow will be with His servants through it all.
But are there not indications in the Scriptures that in some cases the Lord did forsake His people? If so, does that mean the Lord contradicted Himself? After all, if He declares “I will not” forsake someone, but in the end He does what He said He would not do, would it not be proper to question His faithfulness?
Let us go back to Deuteronomy 31. Again, in that section we read that God through Moses promised all Israel and Joshua in particular that He would not forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:1,6,8). God went on to tell Moses what would transpire after his passing: “. . . this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners . . . and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them” (31:16). What would be the Lord’s response to such blatant disobedience by His people? He said, “Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them . . .” (31:17).
What do we learn from those words of Jehovah? If His people choose to forsake Him, He will forsake them. In fact, that is precisely what is recorded in 2 Chronicles 15:2, a message from God through His prophet to King Asa and all Judah: “The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” That is clear enough, is it not? God’s promise to be with humans is conditional: for the Lord to continue to be with His people, they must continue to be with Him by walking in His ways.
Those who choose to depart from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) break His heart. And, their sin keeps them separated from Him until they repent and turn back to Him on His conditions (Isaiah 59:1,2).
When Christians read God’s great promise not to forsake His people, they say, “That is awesome!” What a great privilege to belong to Him. Let us never forget, though, our need to submit to His will at all times.
— Roger D. Campbell