As Pharaoh drew closer, the Israelites looked back and saw the Egyptians marching toward them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you took us away to die in the desert? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt like this? Didn’t we tell you the same thing in Egypt? ‘Leave us alone! Let us work for the Egyptians!’ It would have been better for us to work for the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand your ground, and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never ever see again. The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to get moving. As for you, lift your shepherd’s rod, stretch out your hand over the sea, and split it in two so that the Israelites can go into the sea on dry ground. But me, I’ll make the Egyptians stubborn so that they will go in after them, and I’ll gain honor at the expense of Pharaoh, all his army, his chariots, and his cavalry. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I gain honor at the expense of Pharaoh, his chariots, and his cavalry.” God’s messenger, who had been in front of Israel’s camp, moved and went behind them. The column of cloud moved from the front and took its place behind them. It stood between Egypt’s camp and Israel’s camp. The cloud remained there, and when darkness fell it lit up the night. They didn’t come near each other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord pushed the sea back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were split into two. The Israelites walked into the sea on dry ground. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left (Exodus 14:10-22, Common English Bible).
This time I get it. Really, I do get it. The Israelites are shaking in their boots, again. The other times, maybe not, particularly those times after this event. But this time, the cause for fear is really clear, at least to me.
After everything that has happened, it is pretty clear that Pharaoh is more than just a little bit miffed. Moses, we really God, has shown Pharaoh up at every turn and then there is the death of Pharaoh’s son. If the old movie The Ten Commandments is to be believed Pharaoh’s wife bated him into going for a little chase in the wilderness. And, yes, I know, that part isn’t in Scripture and the screenwriters took some artistic liberties with the story. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
For whatever the reason, Pharaoh does take off in search of his former “property.” And God tells Moses to let them come. The result is, Moses and the Israelites have the Red Sea and no boats on their right hand (or so to speak, my artistic liberty) and an angry Pharaoh and his army on the left. The Israelites probably had a pretty good understanding of what the bad guys could and would do.
If most of us are honest, we would probably feel pretty frightened as well. Sure, we saw all God did with the plagues that came over Egypt. And sure, they suffered the relatively minor consequence of making bricks without straw but this was entirely different.
Moses then tries to calm the Israelite fears. “The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.” I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in that idea. In the biggest struggles of our lives, God is with us. In essence that is what Moses (and God) is saying to the Israelites. “Sure, we are in a bind right now, but God is with us and God will be with us until we reach the end.
But, there is one other thing. Moses says “The Lord will fight for you.” but Moses wasn’t finished talking at that point. He continues, “You just keep still.”
When I think about that last sentence my mind goes to a picture of the Israelites quite literally shaking in their boots, well sandals. It isn’t hard for us to imagine someone shaking in fear. We may have been the ones shaking in fear. I shared with you a few days ago about my fear of snakes. I’m not sure I actually shake on the outside but I sure do feel like it on the inside.
It could be that God, through Moses, is saying to the Israelites, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve got this.” Then, before their eyes, they say the awesome power of God at work, but first they had to be still.
It has been said that “faith is the opposite of fear.” In essence God was asking the Israelites to have faith. Things might look bleak but God was present.
In our lives things can look bleak too. We don’t like to be in those positions of fear but still, we can find ourselves there. I believe God says to us, “Have faith. I am with you.” In other words, there is no reason for fear because we are in the presence of The Omnipotent. God is with us. And, where God is there is always hope. With hope we have no reason, real or otherwise, to be afraid.
So, what we need is, to be still. Calm the shaking, calm the fears, God is with us, have faith.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved