“Stand Still…” Exodus 14
God often leads His people into situations that do not make sense to us. His ways are not always logical. Our perspective usually includes the shortest distance between two points, while God plans for the best route from an eternal perspective. After God had delivered Israel from Egypt, He led them right into a trap. They were penned in by the mountains, the desert, and the sea; this was not a reasonable strategy of escape. But God knew exactly what would happen, and this is exactly where Israel needed to be for reasons they would only understand later. God did not need their assistance, only their obedience. He was in total control and only needed their surrender for His plan to work perfectly. In the midst of this tremendous pressure, God gave His people a few simple commands:
When Israel saw that Pharaoh and the Egyptian army was barreling down on them, they freaked out (v10-12). They lost their composure. Despair immediately took over and they began to cry and blame Moses (and God). They lost faith in God and hope of deliverance in an instant because their eyes were on their problem. When our pressure point is our focal point, we will inevitably lose hope. That’s what happened to Peter after a few steps out of the boat, He began to sink when his attention was drowned out by the waves and storm. Don’t let your peace get hijacked by a bill, a deadline, a habit, or a relationship. Keep your eyes on Christ (Heb. 12:2-3).
Moses addressed the people plainly and bluntly: “Fear ye not…” But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Nearly 100 times, the Scriptures give us this clear commands to not fear and dozens more that challenge us to fear God alone. We need not worry when Christ is in control, but we will when our eyes are on the circumstances. Sometimes I think that God won’t get me out of the messes that I’ve made, and I take all the credit for getting myself tangled up in the world (v3). I seldom assume that God might be directing me into the mess, as He did Israel, so that He might show Himself strong on my behalf and teach me to fear and trust Him (v31).
Run! Retreat! No, don’t! “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (v13). One of the hardest things for me to do is to stand still in difficulty. It’s hard to be steady when you feel so squirmy. My natural instinct is one of escape. So many people today look for the quick, easy way out… of their church, from their marriage, even from life itself.
Where would they go? To cross the desert, climb the mountains, swim the Red Sea – at night!? They wouldn’t have gotten far. Yet they were tempted to run. We all are tempted to run. The lies are whispered in our ear of an easier path, fewer problems, and more fun. But that’s all they are – lies. The plain truth is that God is always with us and, like Peter said, we have no where else to go (Jn. 6:68). The prophet Jonah tried to flee, but quickly realized that our God is ever-present with us. Moses records in verse 24 that God was not high above watching this event as we would imagine, but was down with His people, on their level, through this entire situation.
God was orchestrating all of these events for at least four reasons: so that a severe judgment could be declared upon Pharaoh and his armies (v17), and so that Israel would be finally free of their taskmasters (v28), and so that the One True God might be glorified among the heathen (v4, 18), and so that Israel might grow in their faith of God and followship of Moses (v31).
Quite possibly the most difficult of all these commands: “hold your peace” (v14). Do not defend yourself, the Lord will fight for you. Do not retaliate, do not fight for yourself — let God be your defense. They had already seen God deliver them with ten mighty signs (plagues) and their guiding column of fire and cloud had become their protection. Now the Lord began to open the door to in the sea, His way is in the sea (Ps. 77:19). They only had do watch and wait and see God work.
Fast forward to the Garden of Gethsemane… A simple task was given: to watch and pray. When they came for Christ, Peter picked up his sword and aimed for the throat. A near miss, but a severed ear was a satisfying consolation. Yet Christ picks up the dismembered flesh and repairs the wound, healing Malchus’ ear and destroying the evidence of the attempted murder. Read what Jesus says to Peter between the lines… ‘Put down your sword. Quit trying to force your plan on this situation. I am in control, total control. Allow me to work my plan for you.’ A spiritual battle cannot be fought with human force (Zech. 4:6; 2 Cor. 10:4).
In a day and age when human rights are of such high regard, the message of lesser rights is unpopular. Self-denial and self-defense hardly coexist with each other. While culture screams justice, Jesus whispers mercy. While the world demands their claim, disciples of Christ are called to give up their claim (Matt. 10:39). Which will you choose? Your wars will always be won when God fights them for you (Psalm 2).