The Lord As the Rearward of His People
By Fred O. Blakely
A vital and precious aspect of the faith which we have obtained from God is that of His comprehensive care for His people. As it is written, "Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy hand" (Deut. 33:3).
The Lord goes before to clear the way for us, ensuring safe passage to our appointed destination (Exod. 33:2; Mic. 2:13; Jn. 10:4). But this is not all: while we are en route through the wilderness of this evil world, our divine Protector shields our rear, as well, from anything and everything that would harm us from that direction. Thus, we read, "Jehovah will go before you: and the God of Israel will be your rearward" (Isa. 52:12, ASV).
Again, "Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Jehovah shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah will answer; thou shalt cry, and He will say, Here I am" (Isa. 58:8-9, ASV).
The great importance of this rear guard to the safety of God's children stems from the practice of the enemy to attack them in that area, as did Amalek (Deut. 25:17-19; cf. Exod. 17:8-16). As our adversary, the Devil, roars against us and stalks his coveted prey, he is alert to any point of our vulnerability, whether at the front, the flank, or the rear (I Pet. 5:8). In view of this exposure to assault on all sides, it is blessed indeed to know that we are heirs of the promise of God to Abraham: "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1).
A noteworthy demonstration of this care of our Father for the rearward of His saints occurred in His deliverance of Israel from Egypt. At the Red Sea, we are told, "The angel of the Lord, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them." "And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel," the record continues; "and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night" (Exod. 14:19-20).
In this way, the enemies of Israel were made to stumble, and compelled to come to a dead halt. In their evil determination against the Lord's wards, the Egyptians had boasted, "'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil: my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them" (Exod. 15:9). But, lo, proud Pharaoh and his legions are brought to an abrupt standstill. Why does the lion thus pause when about to spring for the kill? The answer: He is blindfolded by Israel's God. "He shivers in the dense darkness, bethinking him of that former day when all the land of Mizraim quailed beneath a darkness that might be felt" (see Exod. 10:21-23).
The comfort from these considerations for us who are today in the custody of the same God, on our way to the heavenly Canaan, is obvious. "Be calm, O child of God; for the Covenant angel is dealing with your adversaries, and his time is generally the night. You will hear by-and-by of what he has done. Meanwhile, remember what he did to Pharaoh and Sennacherib (II Kgs. 19:32-37). The Lord may not be before you, shedding delight upon your face, but He is behind you, holding back the foe. He looks forth from the cloud and discomforts your foes" (see Exod. 14:24-25).
"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord" (Isa. 54:17). Wherefore, let us "stand still, and see the salvation of God" (Exod. 14:13-14).