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  • Writer's pictureMatthew L. Tinkham Jr.

Riding Piggyback with God

Updated: May 2, 2023

“29 ‘Then I said to you, “Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place”’” (Deut 1:29–31 ESV).

When I was a kid, I used to love getting piggyback rides. This took on two different forms as I aged. When just a toddler, my parents or grandparents (usually the men in the family, particularly my dad and my maternal grandpa) often lifted me up and over their heads so that I could sit upon their shoulders, hold onto their heads (sometimes their hair—ouch!), and dangle my feet at the level of their chests. Being that high upward broadened my horizons and gave me new perspectives of my world. I didn’t only have to look face to face at the knees of my adults. And, of course, it made me feel like an adult because, up there, I was taller than them and could see the world through their eyes—well … sort of! As I grew older and became taller and heavier, I was down-graded to climbing onto their backs, throwing my arms around their necks, and tightening my legs and feet around their torsos, about hip level. I would bounce around as we walked—well, as they walked—with my eyes peeking over their shoulders to see where we might go to next. It was especially fun when they would run with me piggyback. The bouncing upward and downward would intensify, and I felt as if I were riding a bucking bronco, hanging on for dear life! Those are fun memories. But the times when I appreciated riding piggyback the most was when I felt tired and my little feet and legs were just too sore to go any further on their own. You see, my family went on nature hikes a lot when I was young. I have many memories of trailblazing with my maternal grandparents through the dense woods on the backside of their property. For a little guy, some of those hikes were long and often felt longer than they actually were! When my feet started to throb and my legs grew weak—which frequently happened not very long into the hike—that was the cue for me to reach my hands into the air and call out to be carried by one of the adult members of the family. When I was smaller, they usually obliged—until I grew big enough to make the journeys all on my own. Yet, even then, at times, when I felt tired (or bored!), I would reach upward to be carried.

As children of our good heavenly Father, God wishes to carry us piggyback throughout all the journeys of our lives. Have you ever ridden piggyback with God? Ancient Israel did. A lot. While resting on the east side of the Jordan River, a new generation of Israelites was contemplating their crossing over it to dispossess the Canaanites and settle in that land, which the LORD their God had promised to their forefathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For forty years, their ancestors had wandered in the Middle-eastern deserts because they did not place their trust in the LORD to fulfill his promise of giving them the land of the Canaanites that flowed with milk and honey. They permitted their feeling of fear to outweigh their faith. Now, this new generation of Israelites faced the same decision of the previous generation—trust the LORD their God and enter the Promised Land by faith or allow their fear of the Canaanites to keep them from living out his divine destiny for them.

In that desert wilderness of the Arabah, Moses gave a series of speeches to that new generation, to encourage the people to love the LORD their God, to be obedient to his command for them to dispossess the Canaanites and to settle the Promised Land, and to walk in all the ways of the LORD, as outlined in the Torah. He also sought to warn them not to follow in the footsteps of fear laid down by the previous generation.

In these speeches, Moses recounted Israel’s history from Egypt to Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea through the forty years of wilderness wanderings to the ground upon which they now stood east of the Jordan. The big question upon Moses’s mind, upon every one of their minds, was whether they would cross the Jordan River or chicken out near the finish line … again. In his historical review, Moses also drew back the curtain veiling the unseen spiritual realm in order to remind the new generation of a critical truth. They need not fear the future because God is faithful and keeps his covenantal promises.

Moses reminded Israel how God covenantally promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the land of the Canaanites hundreds of years prior to this point in time. He told of how God rescued Israel from Egypt, delivering them from their bondage and slavery, by his mighty outstretched arm and his powerful right hand as seen in the ten plagues that devastated the Egyptian oppressors (Deut 5:6; 6:20–23; 8:14). The elderly patriarch continued, pointing out how God parted the Red Sea for Israel to cross safely and, then, swallowed Pharaoh’s army in its drowning waters. Later, God gloriously revealed himself to Israel on Mount Sinai, expressing his loving desire to be in a relationship with them, making an everlasting covenant with them, and declaring them to be his special people and precious treasure (Deut 4:9–14; 7:6–16). Amazingly, God extended his mercy to them, when they made the golden calf and worshipped it right there at the foothills of Mount Sinai that glowed with his holiness (Deut 9:13–21). And, when they rebelled at Kadesh-barnea, he showed his mercy again (Deut 1:19–46; 9:22–24). The LORD led them for forty years through the dry, rocky terrain; the scorching day-time heat; and the freezing nights of the desert wilderness as a cloud by day (to shade them) and a pillar of fire by night (to warm them) (Deut 1:33). He supplied their every need, sending bread (i.e., manna) from heaven (Deut 8:3, 16) and water from the rock (Deut 8:15). Their clothing did not wear out nor their sandals break or feet swell (Deut 8:4). And, when bitten by a venomous serpent or stung by a poisonous scorpion, all they had to do was remember the LORD as their healer by looking in faith to the golden serpent on the pole, and God would cure them of their sickness (Deut 7:15; 8:15). All along the way, they never needed a map or to stop for directions because God was leading them to exactly where they needed to go (Deut 1:33).

Furthermore, when the present generation was confronted by Sihon, the king of Heshbon, and Og, the king of Bashan, in the Transjordanian land, God gave these pagan kings and their armies over into their hands of the very generation to whom Moses was speaking (Deut 2:33, 36; 3:3)! As promised, that newly acquired land God gave as an inheritance to the tribes of Rueben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Therefore, part of the Promised Land had now already been triumphantly handed over to the new generation of Israel, just as the LORD God had promised in covenant with them.

Moses hoped that this historical evidence in the distant and recent pasts of the LORD God’s perfect faithfulness, enduring presence, and eternal love for Israel would be sufficient to convince the new generation to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land. Moreover, he urged them not to be in dread or fear (Deut 1:29) because, he promised, “‘The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place”’” (Deut 1:30–31 ESV; emphasis added). He had been with his people Israel through all the “ups” and “downs” of their past—especially in the tough times—never leaving or forsaking them. Into the challenging days ahead, including wars against the Canaanites, God promised to go before them, to fight for them, and even to carry them, just as beforehand.

In a nutshell, Moses declared that, whether or not they realized it, Israel had been riding piggyback with God all along the way, and God never put them down, not even for a minute! In ordinary and extraordinary ways, God carried his people up every mountain and through every valley to usher them into the glorious future he had promised to them. This profound truth reminds me of a gospel song written by Scott Wesley Brown and performed by the Gaither Vocal Band a cappella some years ago—“He Will Carry You.” The lyrics read as follows.

“There is no problem too big God cannot solve it. There is no mountain too tall God cannot move it. “There is no storm too dark God cannot calm it. There is no sorrow too deep He cannot soothe it. “Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders I know my brother that He will carry you. Oh, if He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders I know my sister that He will carry you. “He said, ‘Come unto me all who are weary, And I will give you rest.’”

If you would like to listen to the Gaither Vocal Band’s rendition of the song on YouTube, click the button below.

You know, the same is true for you too! The LORD God that carried the ancient Israelites through their unpredictable rollercoaster history is the very same God who wishes to carry you into the fulfillment of his covenantal promises for you. God is still faithful, present, and loving, and he wishes for you to experience these beautiful attributes of his perfect character in your life. In fact, the rollercoaster of life on which you have ridden already has been guided all along the way by his hand of providence—through every climb and drop, every corkscrew and loop, and even when you’ve been upside down. You are at where you are right now because of him.

So, now that you have been brought figuratively to the land east of the Jordan River of your big decision through the course of this reflection piece, the question remains: will you place your complete trust in the LORD your God and permit your faith to triumph over your fear? Will you face with confidence whatever be your concerns that provoke anxiety and worry by placing your hand in God’s hand? Will you today choose to walk in all the ways of the LORD, fearing and loving him, throughout all that lies ahead for you? Will you hop onto God’s back, piggyback-style, and let him take you for the ride of your life? I promise you won’t regret it! He has an unimaginable future of goodness (Deut 6:24; 8:16; 10:13) and glory in store for you! So, why not choose today to ride piggyback with God?!

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