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#1. I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU (Hebrews 13:5) OLD TESTAMENT

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#1.FORSAKEN BY GOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Introduction 1

There some Christians today who are happy to quote certain scriptures, to comfort themselves while living in sin, that their life is acceptable to God. Here is an example:

(Hebrews 13:5) "Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have; for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you."

In order to examine whether God will ever leave us, or forsake us, we must start with this question: is this promise, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." an accurate translation? In English, the word "never" means, "at no time", or "not ever", or "on no occasion", or "not at all", and suggests that the promise is unconditional, meaning that God has promised not to leave us, or forsake us, at any time, or for any reason. The two words that are translated "never" (Gtr. ou mē) are an emphatic negative in the Greek and mean "definitely not" or "certainly not", and they could mean "never" in some contexts, but certainly not always. In order to determine what they mean here, we must go to the Old Testament and see where the writer of Hebrews has quoted them from. This bible study gives numerous examples of people who were forsaken by God in the Old Testament.

#1.1 FORSAKEN BY GOD IN THE TIME OF MOSES

#1.11 What God Promised Spoken Through Moses

DEUTERONOMY 31:6 (Moses speaking to Israel)
6 Be strong and of a good courage, do not fear, nor be afraid of them: for Yahweh your God, he it is who goes with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you.

DEUTERONOMY 31:7-8 (Moses speaking to Joshua)
7 And Moses called to Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for you must go with this people to the land which Yahweh has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall cause them to inherit it.
8 And Yahweh, he it is who goes with you; he will be with you, he will not fail you, nor forsake you; do not fear, nor be dismayed.
These are the promises that God made to Israel and Joshua through Moses before he died, but then God told Moses something else.

DEUTERONOMY 31:16-17 (God speaking to Moses)
16 And Yahweh said to Moses, Behold you shall sleep with your fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, wither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them: so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?

Note: Concerning the very people that God had promised to be with, not to fail, or forsake, he now says, "this people ... will forsake me ... and I will forsake them". Is God saying that he will go back on his promise? No, because it was a conditional promise made as part of a covenant (Deuteronomy 31:16), which was based on blessings for obedience (Leviticus 26:3-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and curses for disobedience (Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 28:18-68). This same principle is also given elsewhere in the following scriptures.

#1.12 The Man Who Gathered Sticks on the Sabbath day was Forsaken by God

NUMBERS 15:32-36
32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation.
34 And they put him under guard, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
35 And Yahweh said to Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: and all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.
36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as Yahweh commanded Moses.

Note: Here is another case of a single disobedience, which caused a man to be forsaken by God, and he lost his life. He was one of those who God chose to save out of Egypt along with the rest of his people, but was eventually destroyed for his sin. People who continually rebel against God's word need to realize that their next sin could be one that God will not tolerate.

#1.13 Nadab and Abihu were Forsaken by God

LEVITICUS 10:1-3
1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered strange fire before Yahweh, which he did not command them.
2 And there went out fire from Yahweh, and devoured them, and they died before Yahweh.
3 Then Moses said to Aaron, This is it that which Yahweh spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in those who come near me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

Note: These two young men, one of which would have eventually become high priest, died without mercy, forsaken by God because of their disobedience. They simply used the wrong fire in their censer. It should have been taken from off the altar (Leviticus 16:12), which would have made it Holy fire (Exodus 29:37), but instead they took it from somewhere else.

#1.2 JOSHUA WAS FORSAKEN BY GOD

JOSHUA 1:5-9 (God speaking to Joshua)
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you.
6 Be strong and of a good courage: for to this people you shall divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them.
7 Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it: for then shall you make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

JOSHUA 7:10-12
10 And Yahweh said to Joshua, Get up; why do you lie thus upon your face?
11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the cursed things, and have also stolen, and deceived also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were cursed: neither will I be with you any more, except you destroy the cursed things from among you.

JOSHUA 7:24-26
24 And Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them to the valley of Achor.
25 And Joshua said, Why have you troubled us? and Yahweh shall trouble you this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones to this day. So Yahweh turned from the fierceness of his anger. Therefore the name of the place was called, The valley of Achor, to this day.

Note: We see here God's promises to Joshua, "I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you", and "the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." These promises to prosper him were conditional upon obedience to his word (vv7-8). However, later we see the sin of Achan, the defeat of Israel when they fought against Ai, and Joshua's prayer to God (Joshua 7:1-9), because God was not with him or Israel in battle, and about 36 men died (Joshua 7:5). The reason that God had left them was sin (Joshua 7:10-12).
When Israel sinned, by disobeying God's command (Joshua 6:17-19), they broke the covenant with God, and those who were once blessed by being told, "Yahweh your God, he it is who goes with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6), were now accursed and deserted by God (Joshua 7:12). Not only this, but God said, "I will not be with you any more, except you destroy the cursed things from among you." (Joshua 7:12). This shows that the promise not to forsake them was conditional on their obedience. It was part of the covenant, and once the covenant was broken by them God did not have to keep his part. Otherwise God lied, and that is impossible (Titus 1:2). The threat to leave them permanently, except they got rid of the sin in the camp, stirred them to action and they destroyed Achan with all his possessions (Joshua 7:24-26):
The removal of the sin restored them to God's favour. This leaves us with three things to look at. God forsook Achan permanently for his sin, even though he had the promise that God would not forsake him (Deuteronomy 31:6). God forsook Israel temporarily, so that they were defeated in battle, and lost about 36 men, even though they had the promise that God would not forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6). God forsook Joshua temporarily, until he dealt with the sin in the camp, even though God had promised to be with him (Joshua 1:5; 1:9). This should be an encouragement for pastors today to deal with sin in the church.

#1.3 ISRAEL WAS FORSAKEN BY GOD

JUDGES 2:11-15
11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and served Baalim:
12 And they forsook Yahweh God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves to them, and provoked Yahweh to anger.
13 And they forsook Yahweh and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
14 And the anger of Yahweh was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
15 Wherever they went out, the hand of Yahweh was against them for evil, as Yahweh had said, and as Yahweh had sworn to them; and they were greatly distressed.

JUDGES 3:5-8
5 And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites;
6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and forgot Yahweh their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
8 Therefore the anger of Yahweh was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.

JUDGES 3:12-14
12 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh: and Yahweh strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of Yahweh.
13 And he gathered to him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

JUDGES 4:1-3
1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of Yahweh, when Ehud was dead.
2 And Yahweh sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried to Yahweh: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.

JUDGES 6:1-6
1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh: and Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel; and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strongholds.
3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them:
4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, until you come to Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried to Yahweh.

JUDGES 10:6-14
6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of Yahweh, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook Yahweh, and served not him.
7 And the anger of Yahweh was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.
8 And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side of Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.
9 Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed.
10 And the children of Israel cried to Yahweh, saying, We have sinned against you, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
11 And Yahweh said to the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?
12 The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites did oppress you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.
13 Yet you have forsaken me, and served other Gods: therefore I will deliver you no more.
14 Go and cry to the Gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

JUDGES 13:1
1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh; and Yahweh delivered them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.

Note: The whole period of the judges shows up the pattern of Israel forsaking God, and God forsaking them, over and over again. These scriptures all fulfill what God said to Moses, "this people ... will forsake me, and break my covenant, ... and I will forsake them," (Deuteronomy 31:16-17), showing that God's promise not to forsake them was conditional upon their obedience. Without fail their disobedience was always punished by turning them over into the hand of their enemies, who defeated them in battle. For us today, our enemy is the devil, and when we disobey God and forsake him, he turns us over to be oppressed by the devil or a demon, until we cry to him for deliverance. However, if we do not correct our errors, he will either refuse to deliver us, or let us be defeated by the enemy again.
Samson is another example of someone who God forsook for disobedience (Judges 16:4-25). Samson's weakness was women, which he demonstrated by marrying a Philistine (Judges 14:1-4), and later, after his wife died (Judges 15:6), he went after a harlot (Judges 16:1). Then he was attracted to another Philistine woman named Delilah (Judges 16:4), who betrayed him for the promise of great wealth (Judges 16:5-19) and caused his hair to be removed. This broke the condition of his being a deliverer, that he should remain a Nazarite, and his head should not be shaved (Judges 13:5). When this was done, and the Philistines came upon him, they took him because God was departed from him (Judges 16:20); his eyes were taken out, and he became a slave in the prison house (Judges 16:21). God left Samson to this dreadful punishment, for the disobedience of allowing his hair to be cut, until the day that he died (Judges 16:30).

#1.4 KING SAUL WAS FORSAKEN BY GOD

1 SAMUEL 13:13-14
13 And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you: for now would Yahweh have established your kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now your kingdom shall not continue: Yahweh has sought a man after his own heart, and Yahweh has commanded him to be captain over his people, because you have not kept that which Yahweh commanded you.

Note: King Saul had a very good start, because God chose him to be the first king over Israel (1 Samuel 9:15-17). He gave him a new heart, and the Spirit of God came upon him so that he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:9-10), and he was told that God was with him (1 Samuel 10:7). However, eventually Saul became disobedient by offering a burnt offering to God before a battle, which Samuel should have offered (1 Samuel 13:5-12), a disobedience for which he was punished (1 Samuel 13:14).
In a later venture, God commanded Saul to destroy Amalek, all the people and animals (1 Samuel 15:1-3), but Saul failed to do it. Again he provoked God's anger, and God confirmed the removal of his kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15:4-26). When Samuel mourned for Saul (1 Samuel 15:35), God said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?" (1 Samuel 16:1), and "the Spirit of Yahweh departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Yahweh troubled him." (1 Samuel 16:14). For the rest of his life Saul was a man who had been forsaken by God, and was troubled by the evil spirit which God sent. It leaves us to wonder how many Christians this has happened to. Eventually Saul turned to the occult, and enquired of a medium (a woman who had a familiar spirit) (1 Samuel 28:4-25), for which God sentenced him to death:

(1 Chronicles 10:13-14) "So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against Yahweh, even against the word of Yahweh, which he did not keep, and also for asking counsel of one who had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it;
14 And inquired not of Yahweh: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse."

#1.5 THE MAN OF GOD WAS FORSAKEN BY GOD

1 KINGS 13:20-24
20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of Yahweh came to the prophet that brought him back:
21 And he cried to the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus says Yahweh, because as you have disobeyed the mouth of Yahweh, and have not kept the commandment which Yahweh your God commanded you,
22 But came back, and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which Yahweh said to you, Do not eat bread, and do not drink water; your carcase shall not come to the sepulchre of your fathers.
23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, that is, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.

Note: Another example of someone who was forsaken by God was the prophet whom God sent from Judah to rebuke Jeroboam in Bethel (1 Kings 13:1-32). He prophesied against the altar (v2), and prophesied a sign that would come to pass the same day (v3); and it did (v5). God protected him by shrivelling up Jeroboam's hand when he tried to lay hold on him (v4), and healed Jeroboam when the prophet prayed for him (v6). He refused the reward which he was offered (v8), and left to go home as God had commanded him (vv9-10). Up to this point God had been totally with him and protected him, because the prophet had been obedient to everything God had told him to do. Then, on his way home, he was deceived by another prophet who lied to him (vv11-18), and returned to eat with him (v19) contrary to the command of God (vv15-17), and for this one mistake his death was prophesied (vv20-22). This came to pass the same day (v24). This man was a true prophet of God, who was mightily used by God, but was forsaken by him, and lost his life for one act of disobedience. This is surely a warning to any christian today who erroneously believes that he can walk wilfully in sin, or disobedience, and claim the promise that God will not forsake him.

#1.6 THE PROMISES OF GOD THROUGH OTHER PROPHETS

2 CHRONICLES 15:1-2
1 And the spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded:
2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him, Hear me Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; Yahweh is with you, while you are with him, and if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

2 CHRONICLES 24:20
20 And the spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said to them, Thus says God, Why do you transgress the commandments of Yahweh, so that you cannot prosper? because you have forsaken Yahweh, he has also forsaken you.

Note: Both of these men spoke under the anointing of the spirit of God, and they outlined certain principles:

(2 Chronicles 15:2) "Yahweh is with you, while you be with him,"
(2 Chronicles 15:2) "if you forsake him, he will forsake you."
(2 Chronicles 24:20) "because you have forsaken Yahweh, he has also forsaken you."

God treats us in the same way that we treat him, as it is confirmed elsewhere:

(Palm 18:25-26) "With the merciful you will show yourself merciful; and with an upright man you will show yourself upright.
With the pure you will show yourself pure; and with the froward you will show yourself froward."
(James 4:8) "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."

The apostle Paul said that he was, "believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets:" (Acts 24:14), so he must have believed that God would forsake us, if we forsake him. God has said, "My covenant I will not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." (Psalm 89:34), so he is not going to change what he has said, and when he promised curses upon people for disobedience, as part of his covenant, he must keep his promise. God has not changed:

(Malachi 3:6) "For I am Yahweh, I do not change;"
(James 1:17) "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning."

#1.7 FORSAKEN BY GOD BEFORE MOSES

There are some examples of God forsaking his people even before he made the promises not to, but because God does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), they are consistent with the way he has treated people from the beginning. When God flooded the world, he forsook everybody on the earth, except Noah and his family, and they all died (Genesis 7:21-22). When God rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, he forsook everybody in those cities except Lot and his family (Genesis 19:15-25). Some might argue that these were not God's people, they were just wicked people who God destroyed: but what about Lot's wife? She actually escaped the city, so she was one who was chosen by God to escape the judgement, but because she disobeyed the command of the angel, "do not look behind you," (Genesis 19:17), she was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). God forsook her for one act of disobedience. Look at some more examples:

#1.8 FORSAKEN BY GOD IN OTHER OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES

ISAIAH 59:2
2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

JEREMIAH 7:29-30
29 Cut off your hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for Yahweh has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.
30 For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight says Yahweh: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name to pollute it.

JEREMIAH 23:33, 38-39
33 And when this people, or the prophet, or the priest, shall ask you, saying, What is the burden of Yahweh? you shall say to them, What burden? I will even forsake you, says Yahweh.
38 But since you say, The burden of Yahweh; therefore thus says Yahweh; Because you say this word, The burden of Yahweh, and I have sent to you saying, You shall not say, The burden of Yahweh;
39 Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence:

EZEKIEL 3:20
20 Again, When a righteous man turns from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because you have not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.

EZEKIEL 33:12-13
12 Therefore you son of man, say to the children of your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sins.
13 When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commits iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he has committed, he shall die for it.

EZEKIEL 33:18
18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, he shall even die by it.

HOSEA 4:6
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.

Note: There are many Old Testament scriptures above which show that God will leave, forsake, or reject us, if we reject God, or his word, and live in disobedience and sin. God has promised that iniquity will separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2), to forsake people who say, "The burden of Yahweh" (Jeremiah 23:33; 23:38), and to reject people who reject his knowledge (Hosea 4:6). He has even gone so far as to promise a righteous man, that if he commits sin, he will forget all his righteous deeds, and sentence him to die (Ezekiel 33:13). This is a direct warning to people who think think that God will not forsake them, even if they live in sin and disobedience.

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