Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today… The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13–14, NIV)
The people were terrified; they were expressing their regrets; they saw no way out of their dire situation; they were between a rock and a hard place. This is the context for one of Moses’ finest speeches. Visualize William Wallace in Braveheart or Aragon in Return of the King and it will give you an idea of how impressive it was. There was fear, panic, and chaos among the people and Moses was able to calm and reassure the people. He exhorted, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and watch God deliver you today.” He went on, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
It was a great speech and apparently effective, but there is just one small problem. The next verse says, ‘Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to move on.”’ (Exodus 14:15).
Are these 2 passages contradictory? Almost certainly, there was not a significant span of time between Moses’s declaration and God’s question. It is easy to stop at verse 14 and bask in the comforting words, “The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still,” but the context demands that we read on. What will it be, should they stand still, or should they get moving?
The obvious answer is that both are necessary and true. From the viewpoint of the average person standing in the wilderness that day with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh along with his armies in hot pursuit, the situation was dire with no obvious route of escape. It was necessary for Moses to get the people’s attention off their circumstances and back onto God who had already demonstrated great signs and wonders and had orchestrated their escape from Egypt.
It is impossible to believe that the people would have been receptive to a command to march into the sea without first being reassured that God had not abandoned them and that he would fight for them and deliver them. This is a great lesson in leadership. A frenzied mob will not receive direction. Whatever the circumstances, whether in a family or in a church, effective leadership must refocus attention from the problem to the answer.
“Go” has always been an operative word for God’s people. Moses challenged Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go.” Jesus commissioned the disciples, telling them to “Go!” However, the “Go” was conditional upon waiting: “…stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” (Luke 24:49, CSB)
it is crucial that in our Christian lives, we learn the balance between waiting and going. Depending upon personality and other characteristics, it has been observed that some people have a predisposition to “waiting” while others are inclined to “going.” We must learn to do both.
“There is a time for praying, but there is also a time for holy activity. Prayer is adapted for almost every season, yet not prayer alone, for there comes, every now and then, a time when even prayer must take a secondary place.” – Charles Spurgeon
The battle is not ours to win, but it is required that we be ready and present. In the face of great opposition and a vast army, Jehoshaphat first gathered the people and led a prayer meeting. Jahaziel prophesied, “…This is what the LORD says to you: Don’t be afraid or discouraged by this great army because the battle isn’t yours. It belongs to God! March out against them tomorrow…” (2 Chronicles 20:15–16, CEB)
We must learn the rhythms of waiting and going. For each one of us, there will be seasons that will seem as though not much progress is being made (for some, the present pandemic is such a time). It is a time to: “Be still before the LORD, and wait for him. Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead— someone who invents evil schemes.” (Psalm 37:7, CEB).
Learn patience and completely trust God for everything that concerns you. Listen to this instruction and warning: “…You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. But you are not willing.” (Isaiah 30:15, CSB)
The greater the turmoil and confusion that surrounds us, the greater the need to quiet and calm ourselves before God before acting. Our foe is constantly injecting noise and distortion, but with effort and persistence we can still hear: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21, NIV)
Photo: “Exodus: Gods and Kings”