This story is one of the more familiar Bible stories, perhaps. This story is the exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. An unwilling but obedient Moses has taken Pharaoh to task over having held the Hebrew people in slavery for 400 years. Moses comes with the word from the Lord to let the people go. Pharaoh doesn’t want to let his workforce go so Moses has to bring down the ten plagues. The locusts, and the hail, and the rivers turning to blood. You know, the fun stuff. Pharaoh eventually lets the people go but then has second thoughts, regretting his decision. He takes all the chariots of Egypt into the desert to chase the fleeing former slaves down.
When the fleeing former slaves realize that Pharaoh is chasing them down they get a little tense. Snarky, even. The people asked Moses what in the world he was thinking when he led them out of relative safety as Egyptian slaves into the wilderness. Well, they more than asked. They ranted at Moses in loud voices letting him know they were unhappy with him leading them into the desert. 12Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” They are seriously not amused at having their back against the wall, in this case a wall of water, with the army of Pharaoh bearing down on them, intending to do serious harm.
It is often thought that the Lord used Moses to part the sea and everyone traipsed through the channel without difficulty. Which leaves us believing in something of a Disneyland God where all prayers come true without difficulty. I grew up irrigating corn out of a ditch. None of that fancy center pivot or gated pipe for us. All summer long, twice a day we spent time in a ditch with siphon tubes to get the corn watered. One thing I learned in that is that even after the water was shut off in a particular part of the field, the mud stayed for a while. Now the text does say it was dry land and I suppose that a God that can create a channel in a sea with walls of water that are 1500’ high can probably make the land dry.
Even so, I think it is still fair to say that even when God answers prayers that doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy from there on out. Even with answered prayers life can be hard sometimes. Even with answered prayers there will likely be some hard work sometimes.
However they got there the newly freed people reach the other side and with Pharaoh’s army hot on their heels you’d think they’d wheel around and attempt to make a stand there. I don’t know what, if any, kinds of weapons they have but they need to do something, don’t you think? They can’t just stand idly by whilst every chariot in Pharaoh’s Egypt is getting ready to thrash them, man, woman, and child.
Interestingly enough, the solution proposed by Moses is just the opposite. 13But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Stand firm? Keep still? Just stand there as if God has it covered? What kind of nonsense is that?
To be certain, there are times that a response is needed. I remember a time when a German shepherd came running across the street threatening my youngest, about age 3 at the time. Without thinking about the insanity I was about to engage in I charged the dog and fortunately for all of us it ran away. Standing firm and being still would not have been the appropriate response for me or my daughter in that situation.
Still, I do wonder if there are more times we need to stand firm while at the same time being still rather than charging into the fray. We do have a responsibility to protect the oppressed but putting ourselves in the middle of every fight is usually not necessary. And frequently not helpful in any way, making the problem worse. I can think back to a time as a much younger man where there was a certain machismo in certain venues that required defending those who didn’t need defending, much less not even asking for someone to come to their defense. Not to mention that in much of the political discourse of our society right now it would be better if people didn’t lean on their political and often times religious certainty to join in every discussion. For whatever reason we have a tendency to be drawn into these kind of things and Moses makes a point that sometimes doing, and saying, nothing is the right approach.
We have a tendency to think we’re in control and sometimes that’s fine. We should indeed take responsibility for the things we say and do. The reality is, and this is the point that Moses is making, is that in the grand scheme of things it is God that is in control and God has it covered. And we need to get out of the way. It’s a fair point with the newly freed slaves. I mean, what exactly were they going to accomplish standing up against Pharaoh’s phalanx of chariots? That’s be like a day care standing up against a battalion of armored vehicles. Instead, they let God be in control and God saves them. God has it covered.
It’s a fair point with our sin, too. I mean, what exactly are we going to accomplish standing up against our sin? I tried to think about what that would be like and couldn’t come with anything. Imagine trying to keep track of every sinful thought, word, and deed in your life so you can ask for forgiveness. That’d be pretty well impossible. Impossible for us but not for God. Like the Hebrews with their back up against the wall of water, we can let God be in control so that God can save us. Save us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God has it covered.