What are we to do when we perceive a threat that is greater than our resources to resist? There is danger bearing down on us and there is no place to hide. We see what feels like the proverbial “death star” on the horizon. How should we as believers respond to these situations?
One of the blessings of the word of God, the Bible, is that it is filled with teaching and stories that give us guidance for every circumstance in life. Because we are weak people living in a fallen world and we frequently encounter frightening threats, one of the most common themes in the Bible is that of overcoming overwhelming and dangerous situations with the power of the Lord. In Exodus 14, the children of Israel were in a dangerous situation.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR EXODUS 14
The people of Israel have just escaped from Egypt after the LORD killed all the first-born in the Passover, and now they are heading out into the wilderness. The LORD directs the people to encamp in front of the Red Sea, intentionally making them vulnerable to an attack from behind. The LORD then hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he regrets letting the people go and decides to chase after them. So, the situation is that the people of Israel have murderous Egyptians closing in behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. The people of Israel became very frightened and cried out to the LORD (Exodus 14:10).
Was this threat real? It most certainly was! In fact, the situation appeared hopeless. The Egyptian army with chariots and horses was bearing down on defenseless Israel and they had nowhere to run or to hide. This is the nature of our God, that the Lord will sometimes ordain situations which test our obedience and that tempt us to fear. In those circumstances, we are to continue to obey Him and to do those things He has commanded us to do.
A TIME TO ACT
Moses tells the people, “Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the LORD. The LORD will fight for you (Exodus 14:13-14).” Moses reminds the people that the LORD is with them and therefore they need not fear. Even though the danger appears to be great, “the LORD will fight for you.” If the LORD is the one fighting for you, the danger has suddenly lost its threat.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” – Exodus 14:15
There is a time to cry out to the LORD and there is a time to ACT. The LORD is making clear that now is the time to obey Him with action. “Go forward!” Huh? To obey the LORD’s command, the people need to begin walking out into the Red Sea.
Of course, the LORD has a plan. “As for you . . . (14:16)” Moses will divide the sea with his staff and Israel will walk through the sea. All Israel must do is obey and go forward.
“As for Me . . . (14:17)” For His part, the LORD will be honored through Pharaoh and his army as He destroys them in the Red Sea. “Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD (14:18).” Thus, the LORD delivers Israel, destroys the Egyptians, and receives honor for Himself as He displays His power.
“Be strong and courageous and act (1 Chronicles 28:20).”
“Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed (Joshua 1:9).”
“Tell the sons of Israel to go forward (Exodus 14:15).”
These commands in Scripture are all given because the Lord is with His people. That is, I can be strong and courageous not because I am competent and mighty, but because my Lord who guides me is all-powerful. Because the Lord is with us like a dread Champion (Jeremiah 20:11), the believer is to have these commands as a persistent attitude and is to be ready at any time to put this attitude into action.
This world is filled with threats and dangers, and our fallen flesh fans the flames of fear, but we are called to fear not, stand firm, and courageously go forward with the Lord.
SDG rmb 12/29/2020