Standing still

Close to a year ago, a sister by the blood of Christ lay confined to a hospital room on strict bed rest for months. As is the Christian custom, an offering of Bible verses to encourage a fellow friend involved in dire circumstances was given. One verse that seemed most appropriate was Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” There is comfort and peace found within those words, for certain. Now though, a year later, as I read that passage, I’m convinced that, although that single verse provides much in the way of protection from our Lord, He does not support our standing still. Let me explain.

Back up a few verses and we can read that the Israelites, terrified of the approaching Pharaoh as they fled Egypt, cried out to God (14:10). They began berating Moses, blaming him for leading them on a journey that would sooner end their lives, blatantly calling him out for the alleged failure in his promises to them, as they complained that they’d have been better off as slaves to the Egyptians than to die by the sea near Pi Hahiroth (14:9,11,12). “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (14:13-14). What speech filled with encouragement! Here’s where the “being still” comfort is upset, in the very next verse “the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on‘” (emphasis mine; v. 15).

Then the picture kept forming as I read on, where the “angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel” (14:19-20). It was the Lord who was in the pillar of cloud that had been leading them by day (13:21-22), ahead of them, in front of them, that strategically made the move to stand behind them. That same night, the Lord divided the waters of the sea and formed “a wall of water on their right and on their left” (14:21-22). The Israelites had been surrounded by God’s presence, on their right, left, and behind them; but what was in front of them was unseen, though still God was in that place, too. Not seen by walls of water, a pillar of cloud or fire, but with a clear path for them to follow to enter into the next chapter of their journey. Although what eventually awaited them on the other side was forty years in a literal, and proverbial, desert, God was still there, working out His wonders in that wilderness. 

To meditate on this vision, provided by the biblical account in Exodus, brings out the profound realization and much needed remembrance that God will guide us by fortressing our faith in His good plan. He will guard our bodies and souls with walls by His water, back us up with His promptings in pillars of clouds, perhaps even regardless of whether we feel incapacitated to the point of standing still. How many instances in our lives come up that drive us to fear moving? What we can see behind us, like the Israelites saw the Pharaoh and his army closing in on them, can more than likely cause us to stop dead in our tracks. This fear of moving in any direction as we contemplate just giving up; this ought not be the case for Christians in their walk. We must heed the words God spoke to Moses and move on. Never stand still, unless it is with a heart that’s looking for God to guide your next foot forward.

From now on, when I’m attempting to console another (or myself) in their struggle by shedding light that only the Spirit and His Word can provide, if this single verse comes to mind again, I’ll undoubtedly remember the context of this gem. Moses was right in saying “do not be afraid,” God was intentional by saying “to move on,” and we can be assured by those words put together: do not be afraid to move on.

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