“For the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
One perk of serving with MAF in Papua, Indonesia, is the beautiful beaches. We don’t go often, since getting to our favorite beach requires bouncing over potholes for an hour, scaling narrow heights as the road winds down to the ocean, unloading all our gear from the car and pitching it into a local boat for a twenty-minute trip to “Middle Beach.” By the time you do all of that in reverse, plus cleaning all of your gear, it’s a full day’s event. But, when we do go, enjoying the white sand, aqua water and colorful ornamental fish always proves a refreshing break from noisy city life in our town of Sentani.
This particular day, my eighteen year old son C.J. and I were out snorkeling. I hovered weightlessly over an earth-toned anemone that housed a resident family of clownfish, almost squealing in delight as I noticed a tiny baby clownfish, hardly big enough to be seen. C.J. swam up next to me and touched my arm. I popped up, still entranced by the clownfish.
“Don’t panic, Mom, but I just saw a shark.” C.J.’s voice had a steely intonation.
Thankfully, our family had some experience, years before, snorkeling in a different place in Papua that had reef sharks. Most of the time they didn’t seem to pay attention to us. That is the only reason I didn’t panic and bolt to shore. But, still, I didn’t like the thought of seeing one at this beach since we’d never seen one here before.
As we snorkeled our way back to shore, pausing here and there to look at the rainbow fish darting beneath us, C.J. was always behind me. Finally, it dawned on me that he was going to make sure that no shark would get me from behind. A calming comfort washed over me. I didn’t have to fear that somehow that shark would decide to come after me. I had a protector. I had a rear guard.
I was immediately reminded of the verse in Isaiah 52. And suddenly I understood what it must feel like to have God as our rear guard. Always vigilant, protecting, and making sure that nothing was going to surprise us from behind. What comfort we can take that God not only goes before us, but He also has our back.