‘You need only to be still’

This blog post was published on Wednesday 14 February 2018.

‘The LORD will fight for you; you only need to be still.’

In Exodus 14, the people of Israel have finally been allowed by Pharoah to leave Egypt.   En masse, they arrived at the Red Sea, supposedly trapped between the oncoming Egyptian army and the body of water.   God had told Moses that this was all deliberate, that he was using the apparently helpless situation to show the Egyptians, ‘that I am the LORD’ (14.4, NIV).

But the people still cried out,

‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?   What you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? ... It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’

Exodus 14.11-12 (NIV)

(As a church leader one of my first thoughts was – I’m ashamed to admit – that Moses needed a better communications policy... but perhaps it was a lack of faith on the part of the people as well.)

This seemingly helpless situation was causing distress, anxiety and downright panic.   God’s response to them through Moses is one we all need to hear:

‘Do not be afraid.   Stand firm ... The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Exodus 14.13-14 (NIV)

When it feels as though God has abandoned us, is ignoring a situation, or is unable to do anything about it – certainly I can sympathise with the Israelites.   They felt helpless, trapped, doomed.

And yet it is only in those moments that we truly understand what it means to trust God.   It is only when all our reserves are gone, when we feel spent, when our strength gives out and we give up – it is only then that we proud humans discover what it means to lean on the Almighty God.

The challenge of discipleship is learning that lesson, learning to lean on God in all circumstances, not only the ones when we have no other option.   We need to learn the lesson of being still, which for me includes being quiet, and resting in God’s presence.   It doesn’t mean doing nothing – the Israelites needed to follow the cloud and the fiery pillar – but it does mean stopping telling God what to do, and learning to be still instead of anxious and frustrated.

‘The LORD will fight for you; you only need to be still.’

Those words echo through the centuries – if only more of us heeded Moses’ command and learned to follow God instead of trying to force him to follow our agenda.