Deja vu

By: Dwain Neilson Esmond

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The phrase Déjà vu is a French term that literally means “already seen.” Have you ever chilled with a couple of friends chatting about something when you get the overwhelming sense that you’ve had this conversation before, with the same people, indeed, in the same place? Lest you think I’m losing my marbles by posing such question, one study reports that more than 70 percent of people surveyed have reported a similar experience. In fact, people between the ages of 15 and 25 report having more Déjà vu experiences than any other age group. (There go those dreamy teens and twenty-somethings again!!)

Deuteronomy 1 takes us to a sort of Déjà vu moment in the history of ancient Israel. Moses, Joshua, and Caleb certainly had seen this “movie” before. This was no surreal mental phenomenon. Forty years earlier Israel had camped in the desert region east of the Jordan River. From there they could look over and see a cool spot called Canaan, the land God had promised to them. As you’ll learn after checking out Deuteronomy 1, a funny thing happened when God told the Israelites to go over and take possession of the promised land (verse 26)—a thing that led to the deaths of an entire generation of Israelites, except Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and their families.

What did they do? They gave God the hand, you might say. “Have you seen the giants in that land?,” they seemed to ask. “Not gonna happen, God! There’s no way that we’re going to defeat those people and take their land, even if you are with us.”

Them’s fightin’ words, God must have thought, a real slap in the face to a God who had pried them loose from the clutches of Pharoah with plagues so fantastic that they almost defy comprehension. As if that weren’t enough, God parted a swollen river so that they could cross on dry ground and then drowned their enemies in that same river. WooooHoooo, God, right?!! Well, not exactly. The Israelites had forgotten about all of this, even though it had happened just a few months earlier.

I really shouldn’t be so hard on the Israelites, should I? God’s done some pretty amazing things in my life and I’ve forgotten him on occasion. I remember not knowing where I would go after graduation from college. Faced with no job, a letter came in the mail offering me a fully paid scholarship to Graduate School. I had not even applied for the scholarship. I went on to that school and they paid me to be there. How is it that after experiencing that miracle, I still manage to make God smaller than the giants in my life?

You know, Déjà vu can work in two ways. It can be a surreal moment of having been in a certain experience before, or it can be the real experience of having seen a thing before. Let me say it more simply. Whenever I come to a problem in my life, I want to know that God will get me through it, because I have been at similar difficult intersections with Him and gotten through them.  A journey that should have taken ancient Israel 11 days to make lasted 40 years, simply because they had made God smaller than the giants they faced.


Here are three questions I want you to consider:

  1. What fears are stopping you from pursuing the dreams God has for you?
  2. What challenges has God brought you through that can give you courage for challenges ahead?
  3. If you don’t trust God to help you in times of need, whom do you trust?


About the Author

Dwain Neilson Esmond is a recovering sinner. He is a husband, father, friend, and author of three young adult devotional books, including 24.7.365: One Year in the Word. Dwain currently serves as the Vice President of Editorial Services for Review and Herald Publishing Association.

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