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The thing which ultimately sets God’s people apart from everyone else has nothing to do with people’s skills, righteousness or goodness. The thing that marks us out as God’s people is God’s presence.

God with us is what makes us different, special, chosen and loved. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.’ (Ps 146:5) Throughout the Old Testament, we see God reminding His people that their privileged position came as a result of His grace and mercy, not because of their own merit. Moses, at the end of his life, reminded them of the promise of His presence: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Deut 31:6) To Joshua, he said, ‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’ (Deut 31:8) These words were reinforced by God at the beginning of the book of Joshua: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ (Josh 1:9)

The writer to the Hebrews also reminds us of the promise of God’s presence, quoting from the passage in Deuteronomy.

‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”‘ (Heb 13:5-6)

In times of adversity, trials and persecution, it is easy to feel that God has abandoned us. That’s a reaction recorded in the Bible too (e.g. Is 2:6, Ps 22:1), but ultimately. we have the promise of God’s word that He is always with us, no matter how we may feel. The promise of God’s presence has sustained Christians throughout the centuries and will sustain us too.