The Stress of Standing Still
Does God deliberately lead His people into unpleasant circumstances, circumstances where the situation seems impossible? What does He teach through these opportunities? As Exodus 14 opens the Israelites have trekked 50 to 75 miles over rugged terrain in their flight to put distance between themselves and the Egyptians. God through Moses instructed the group to make camp and pin-pointed the specific location.
God warned Moses that Pharaoh would mobilize his army and pursue Israel. The Egyptian economy depended on the labor of these 600,000 slaves, and the desperate monarch would launch a recovery operation. As evening approached unmistakable clouds of dust illuminated by the setting sun alerted the camp to impending danger. The Egyptian army approached. For Israel, poorly outfitted and ill prepared to fight the world’s super power, escape was impossible. The fight would be swift and one-sided.
The decisions to leave Egypt and camp in this vulnerable spot were not chosen by committee. God commanded, and Israel obeyed. We find ourselves in similar distress often. Certain of God’s call and direction we obey. Then circumstances change for the worse, and perhaps we start second guessing our choices.
God had issued a single command to Israel in these verses, “Camp here.” That directive was forgotten as panic permeated hearts. Disillusionment with Moses coupled with discouragement over the certainty of the outcome led to a consensus (Exodus 14:12), “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
God had full control of the circumstances. He knew His people. He understood the desperation overloading their hearts and minds. Psalm 103:13-14 paint a comforting portrait of God, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
God spoke through Moses a second time in Exodus 14:13-14, “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.”
Would Israel’s response differ much from our own upon hearing this message? “What? But Lord…Can’t you see…” Reminding God of His complete failure to understand the gravity of a situation came easy for these frightened people. His answer remained the same, “Stand still”.
Israel had no chance in a war with the well-armed Egyptians. God knew that. Note the actions He expected from Israel: camp, stand, and be silent. That’s it. Were these futile steps to take against a massive army, or might they be marks of confidence in the Almighty?
Circumstances are the cauldrons where faith is tested. Israel could not defeat the invading horde. But God? God was able to destroy the Egyptians so thoroughly that according to Exodus 14:13, “…The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”
Sometimes we see the approaching clouds of adversity and forget about God’s power and His presence. We lose focus on His call. As panic rises we contemplate moving backward to the familiar rather than face the future with faith. God left a word for us to contemplate.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5
…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5
His message is clear. His words are trustworthy. And they are ours to claim. Standing still in the face of grave circumstances tests our faith. In those moments each of us must ask, “What has God commanded me to do?” And we have to continue to do it…until He delivers the next command.