As the children of Israel traveled from Egypt to the promised land, God repeatedly promised to prepare the way before them. On Mount Sinai, after declaring a number of commandments (including the Ten Commandments), the Lord provided the following assurance:
Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
For mine Angel shall go before thee…and ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.Exodus 23:20, 23, 25
After the children of Israel worshipped the golden calf and were punished for their disobedience, the Lord reaffirmed this promise to Moses:
Go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee:Exodus 32:34
An angel is a heavenly being who represents God and assists with His work. God was promising these people that they would not be alone in their journey, that He would send heavenly help to precede them in their journey and prepare the way for them.
The Lord affirmed this promise a third time as He later spoke with Moses face to face in the tabernacle. This time, however, Moses objected to the offer of an unnamed helper: “See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me.” Moses requested something more: “If I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people” (Exodus 33:12-13).
Moses wanted more than a messenger to lead the way. He wanted to know that God Himself would lead them. In response to Moses’s request, the Lord amended His promise: “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (Exodus 33:14).
Moses replied, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us?” (Exodus 33:15-16).
Isaiah later referenced these promises as he described the personal kindness of God:
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.Isaiah 63:9
“The angel of his presence” is such a beautiful phrase. Yes, he sent messengers to accompany them and to assist them, but the most important messenger of all was His own personal engagement and investment in their success and happiness.
As Lehi’s family traveled in the wilderness, they also received heavenly help. Sometimes that help came in the form of angels, but God Himself had promised to guide them on their journey:
I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.1 Nephi 17:13
In Febuary 1834, the Lord spoke to a group of church members who had been forcibly ejected from their homes in Jackson County, Missouri. “Let not your hearts faint,” He said, “for I say not unto you as I said unto your fathers: Mine angel shall go up before you, but not my presence.
“But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land” (Doctrine and Covenants 103:19-20).
Just as He had promised to Moses and to Lehi, and just as Isaiah had observed, God was not distant or detached, sending angels but holding Himself at arms length. He was personally involved with the struggles these people were experiencing, and He was willing to engage and participate in their redemption.
Today, I will remember that God is willing to be personally involved in my life. As I choose to follow Him, He will not only send helpers; He will also personally guide me and prepare my path.