Line of Departure

“Does that tree look familiar to you?” I asked the squad leader in front of me. “We’re in the jungle, man; it all looks the same,” he responded. I let it slide, as it was more forest than jungle. We were headed toward a distant Vietnamese village we knew was being used by the Viet Cong. It seemed like it was taking longer than we thought, but traveling at night is something you don’t rush when you’re in enemy territory. About an hour and a half passed when we came to the same tree again. I tapped the squad leader on the shoulder and told him we needed to stop. Long story short, the point man was aligning his compass along the barrel of his rifle, and the metal was pulling the compass needle to the left, leading us in a wide circle.

It’s easy to get pulled “off course” in life, and the Christian walk is no exception. Once you realize you are off track, it’s easy to reorient and keep going. A bigger problem is when we deliberately “turn aside” from where God is leading us. If God has charted a path for me from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10) then He will make that path clear to me in a way that I can comprehend. Joshua took over the leadership of the children of Israel after the death of Moses. After forty years in the wilderness with a bunch of knuckleheads, he was most certainly apprehensive about the way forward. God went to great lengths to encourage him to not be afraid and to be courageous (Joshua 1). Then God made this statement:

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7, ESV)

Let me put this in military terms. Joshua and Israel were moving up to the “line of departure.” This invisible line on the ground is the point where units move forward in coordination with adjacent units to engage the enemy. As Christians, we are going to have many lines of departure in our spiritual lives. We move forward with the Lord and win a battle in an area of our lives that needs corrective action. Once we win the victory, we move forward to the next line of departure to begin the next battle. The only difference is that it is the Lord of Hosts, King Jesus Himself, who is crossing the line with us to engage in the next battle. Sometimes it is the enemy’s schemes we are attacking. Sometimes it is the weakness of our flesh and the “sin which clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1, ESV). Not yet perfected in love, we become fearful. It is possible to fear the battle ahead and turn aside from the line of departure.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18, ESV)

The children of Israel feared the occupants of the land and would not enter the promised land. God led them through the wilderness for forty years until He brought them back again under Joshua. This time, they obeyed and received blessings. In the wilderness, they learned to trust God’s love and faithfulness and finally to cross their “line of departure.” Scripture makes it clear that, if I turn away from my “line of departure,” God will take me through the wilderness until I am ready to trust Him and His perfect love to take me forward in victory.

What “line of departure” are you turning away from today? What battle of sin or Satan has you fearful? God doesn’t want His children to stay in the wilderness. He wants us to cross the line of departure with Him because He wins every battle over sin and Satan. So then, let us not turn to the right or the left, but with the Holy Spirit led boldness, let us cross over into the victory God has ordained from the foundation of the world.

What say you, Man of Valor?

Adapted from Men of Valor Devotional by Ron Helle, 16 February 2024

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