The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.Exodus 14:14
I keep coming back to this verse lately. I love the faith that’s expressed in this curious command.
Maybe you know the story … God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. After 430 years of bondage, they take their first steps of sweet freedom, following the Lord as he led them (the long, winding way) “around by the desert road by the Red Sea” (Ex. 13:18).
In fact, the Israelites marched out of Egypt with great boldness (Ex. 14:8).
And yet, shortly into their journey: trouble. Turns out, the Egyptian king felt the loss of all that labor. Changing his mind, he came after the Israelites with massive military power.
Consequently, the Israelites were terrified as they watched hundreds of chariots closing in on their camp. (Goodbye, boldness.) With the Red Sea ahead, they were trapped.
So they cried out to the Lord. What else could they do? Oh yeah … yell at Moses. Among their complaints:
It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!Exodus 14:12
One minute they’re praying; they next they’re complaining, fixated on their impossible circumstances.
Too bad this isn’t relatable at all. (Ha!)
Have you ever asked God for help but simultaneously (maybe even subconsciously) doubted his ability and/or willingness to save you? Better have a backup plan, right?
Amid all the doubting and panic is when Moses gives his counterintuitive command: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The other day, I decided to refresh my memory of this story and read a little further, and I quickly noticed a contrast that confused me:
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’Exodus 14:15
Wait … what? Moses tells them to be still. But God says to move on.
Hmmmm. Well I did some (light) digging and learned that be still is actually better translated as silent or speechless.
So basically, Moses is telling all the complainers to shut their mouths and just watch how God will come through!
With a rock-solid faith that came from intimacy with God, Moses knew that the Lord indeed would deliver them. Sure enough, God answers Moses, urging the Israelites to take action.
When it looked impossible, God made a way out of slavery and sure death, splitting the sea. The Israelites walked on dry ground, while the enemy washed away.
Freedom was ahead, accessible only by faith. Faith to leave what was familiar in Egypt and follow God … into the unknown.
Far too many people choose to live in Egypt instead of by faith.Eugene Peterson (Run With the Horses)
What’s so shiny and tempting about Egypt? Well, Eugene Peterson lends some insight: It’s compelling because of its clarity — a sense of control, set boundaries and rules, routine. Its pull stems from the seeming security there.
Honestly, I’ve sensed the strong pull of “Egypt” over this last year. I’ve struggled with loss of salary, stability, and status, questioning whether I made the right choice to change careers, wondering whether I even heard God correctly.
Did God really call me here? What have I done? Nothing is going as expected. This was my internal dialogue. At times, I’d also daydream about my “old life.” I mean, it wasn’t THAT bad.
I had a lot of time to ponder these things this fall. I had surgery and then stayed at home for two weeks. I was, quite literally, still and quiet … physically, mentally, socially. I was incapacitated by my physical pain. And in my stillness and solitude, some dark emotions seeped to the surface.
I felt sad and angry and fearful of my future. I prayed, but I also complained.
Yet in the days and weeks that followed, God met me right where I was … in my pain. His presence was powerful. He sent people to help me. He poured out his love so tangibly in big and small ways … through text messages, meetings, circumstances, gifts.
God is a rescuer! Recently, I have witnessed him bring resolutions and opportunities to pass that I could not have done (or even dream up) on my own.
As I was simultaneously dwelling on my past, freaking out about my future, and tempted to quit my current course, my Father was fighting for me. He exposed some sin and lies I was believing, and he made a way forward … to greater freedom.
The truth is, I’ve come too far in my own exodus to turn back now. Going back isn’t an option. But I needed reminding. I needed a new encounter with the eternal and unchanging God to confirm who I am and what he’s invited me into: a life of faith.
Egypt’s surface-level clarity cannot compete with the true clarity that comes from a “courageous commitment to God,” as Peterson puts it.
The clarities of faith are organic and personal, not mechanical and institutional. Faith invades the muddle; it does not eliminate it. Peace develops in the midst of chaos.Eugene Peterson (Run With the Horses)
Life’s chaotic, isn’t it? Whether it looks like 600 chariots chasing you down a dead-end road or fill-in-the-blank with your latest crisis (internal or external).
In this life, you will have trouble (see John 16:33). Suffering and pain are part of the package. But Jesus tells us to take heart. Why? He has overcome the world. Over and over in Scripture, God says, Do not fear. Because in the face of his perfect love, fear crumbles.
In our suffering, in our confusion, in our wandering, when circumstances seem impossible, God Almighty is making a way. He is with you and fighting for you. He loves you and wants good for you.
In the Israelites’ moment of crisis, Moses, recalling God’s character, was able to keep calm and act in faith amid the chaos.
I’m not sure what suffering, situation, or circumstances you’re up against. I’m just here to point you to Jesus, who suffered and died and is alive right now, seated at God’s right hand. Your faith in his life, death, and resurrection means you are forgiven and adopted as God’s child.
And, as a result, I’m here to remind you that you don’t have to stay stuck in Egypt — whatever or wherever that is for you. And don’t despair when you run into trouble on your exodus journey. God is calling you to move on and stay the course. Whatever happens, keep calm and watch him fight for you.
You see, no amount of human striving or strategy could have saved the Israelites. And it’s the same for you and me. As David writes in Psalm 37:7, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”
You know what’s better than our striving to make things happen? God’s supernatural power. It’s the same power that split the sea and raised Jesus from the grave, and it’s available to all who believe (Eph. 1:19).
What I also know to be true is that God’s presence is what matters most. You can endure anything knowing that he is near, he loves you, and he holds your future.
So … as we get ready to ring in the new year, a new decade (crazy!), take some time to get quiet, to be still, and ask the Lord to show you where he’s at work in your life. Where is he leading you? What does he want you to know? What is he asking you to do? What is he reminding you?
To get you started, soak in this beautiful and powerful prayer from the apostle Paul:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:16-21
I don’t know about you, but those Spirit-filled words fire me up! I’m eager to see what 2020 has in store. I pray that God allows all of us to experience the love of Christ in deeper ways, leading to more freedom, wholeness, and fullness of life. Yes and amen.
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash