“…on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…” Hebrews 8:9 ESV
Have you ever taken your child by the hand or have had someone else take you by the hand? Maybe you took a child’s hand to lead them forward so they could overcome their fears, or maybe you’ve taken that same child’s hand to lead them out of the room because they weren’t listening. Maybe a child has taken your hand to joyfully show you what they’ve accomplished, or maybe you’ve led a blindfolded friend to the surprise party waiting for her in the other room.
Whatever the reasons you’ve taken someone by the hand or have been taken by the hand, there accompanies with each scenario a lead-follow relationship. Whether the one leading is taking the follower out of trouble or into joy, the one leading does so with purpose, and the one following must do so with an element of trust.
In the passage above we read that God took the Israelites by the hand to get them out of Egypt. The Israelites had been enslaved for years, and for years they had cried out for God to rescue them. But when the time came to get out of slavery and go into the unknown, the Israelites needed a helping hand–God’s hand. They were afraid. And they were actually a bit comfortable in their slavery. No, they weren’t happy being slaves, but the unknowns that accompanied freedom scared them. The what ifs of leaving were outweighing the joys of being free.
So God had to take them by the hand. He “…struck down the firstborn of Egypt…and brought Israel out from among them…with a strong hand and an outstretched arm…” (Psalm 136:10-12). God had to lead the Israelites out of Egypt as a loving parent leads a tremulous child out of his comfort zone.
It wasn’t easy, and there was a lot of whining and complaining, but the results were worth it. And God knew it’d be worth it from the beginning; “…for his steadfast love endures forever…”(Psalms 136:12b)
That’s worth saying again: His steadfast love endures forever.
This means all God does (or doesn’t do) is done out of love. So even when we’re scared, and even when we don’t understand, we can know where He leads is where we should go.
Now sometimes in our walk with the Lord, He leads us by saying, “Come, follow Me.” He bids us to take up the cross and follow in His steps. He doesn’t hold our hands. He just tells us to move on our own in the way He has commanded. In Matthew 14, Peter had to get out of the boat on his own. He had to walk out on the water on his own. Jesus didn’t reach into the boat to get him; He called him out.
But then there are other times we see God’s outstretched hand. He reaches out and asks us to grab hold and to let Him lead–or if we are stubborn, He just grabs our hand and commands us to follow. He literally takes our hand and leads us. Sometimes He leads us out of trouble, and sometimes He leads us into freedom. Regardless the reason, though, we must let Him lead and trust in His sovereignty. We must trust that when God takes us by the hand to lead us, it is because His love endures forever. It is because what God knows we need is sometimes harder for us to grasp on our own; we need His hand.
When God told Peter to get out of the boat, he was bidding Peter to follow Him. And there are times in our life that we must get out of the boat ourselves. We must follow His lead. And we must keep our eyes on Him as we walk His way. But then there are times we need His hand. There are times when we, like Peter may be starting to sink. Or maybe we see the storm around us and are not sure where to go or what to do. Or maybe we are a bit uncertain stepping out of our comfort zone is worth the cost. Well it is those times that God does with us what Jesus did with Peter: He reaches out, takes us by the hand, and pulls us out (Matthew 14:31). He pulls us out of the miry clay. He pulls us out of our comfort zone. And he leads us in paths of righteousness for His namesake.
I’m not sure where you are in your walk today. Maybe you are hearing His still small voice telling you, “This is the way walk in it.” If you do, trust His lead and follow in His steps. Or maybe you are seeing His hand reaching out to you, bidding you “Come. Take My hand and let me lead.” Or maybe you are starting to sink, and crying out like Peter, “Lord! Save me!” Regardless the situation and regardless the circumstances, let me encourage you today with this: if you sense God’s hand, hold fast to it. Do not fear. Do not fight it. Trust Him. He is God. And He loves you. He will not lead you astray, and He will never let you go. For His steadfast love endures forever.