Monday, September 09, 2013

Children of Israel, “Just Keep Silent.” -- Exodus 14:13-14


But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.  The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
 
As I began to unpack these two little verses, I found them to be full of powerful phrases that deliver some very commanding lessons.

Those of you who have been following my writings know that I never miss an opportunity to reflect on the Bible’s use of the word “but”.  And up until now, if my memory serves me correctly, the emphasis for the most part, has been on the “but God” phrases.  Man wanted to or planned to do one thing, but God had other ideas and that was the end of that.  Here in the beginning of Exodus 14:13 we have the word ‘but’ but this time it is used in conjunction with Moses – But Moses.  Here we have men wanting to do one thing and one man – a man of God mind you – had a different idea.  We will find a number of such characters through the Scriptures and not unlike the fictional characters that go against a trend in many a book, these men of real history become our ‘Biblical heroes’.  I believe God still develops and uses such men and women today.  They are those who go against the trend of secular society.  They do not all become famous by any means, but they make a difference.  And furthermore, they help advance the plan of God for mankind.  And many do not always know of them.  Sometimes they are national presidents like Lincoln or generals like Washington, but more often they are leaders in their small church, or in their business, their classroom, their club or union, or even among their own family.  Sometimes they are men and women just like you and I.
What matters to God and thus to our relationship with Him is that first of all we know when we are to be that leader, and secondly, that we do the right thing when it is time to speak up or act.  Are you there?

In the previous verses we learned that the people became scared when they heard the hooves of the Egyptian horses pulling their armed chariots towards them, but Moses stands out, perhaps alone with only half-hearted moral support from Aaron, and implores them to do just the opposite – “Do not fear!”  Just exactly how does that work?  How do you tell a person that is afraid not to be?  And even if he/she wanted to heed your instruction, how exactly do they go about it?

My 8-year-old grandson is a growing boy.  On thing he has not grown out of just yet however is his fear of being alone on a single floor in the house, or sometimes even in a room.  We have tried to go through various (and vary creative) exercises with him proving that there is nothing to fear, but somehow we have not succeeded in convincing him.  When he is sent to retrieve something (that he himself wants) from the basement or to go upstairs and take a shower, you will often hear him continuously talking to us or singing out loud so we can hear him and thus allow him to sense the connection with others.  Convincing him not to be afraid is not something I have been able to accomplish yet.

Recently we lost our newborn grandson just six hours after he was born.  How do we tell his loving mother and father not to be afraid, saying “the next time will be just fine”?  As a matter of fact, how do I tell my wife that?  Or closer to home still, how do I really tell myself that?  Fear is not something that is easily overcome with words – especially the words of another person.  Telling people “not to fear” when they’re afraid is about as helpful as telling someone “because!” when they ask “why?”.  It just does not cut the mustard – it just does not succeed in its intent nor meet the other person’s expectations.

Moses realizes that in order for the Hebrews to “not be afraid”, they need to do something.  So he gives them further instruction.  “Stand by and watch.”  At the time when the people wanted to act, perhaps run or put up white flags, or they wanted someone to fight hard for them because of their fear of death, their leader says, “Stand by and watch.”  Yes, that is correct.  The lesson for us is simple – when our lives are in danger and we have taken the physical, practical means of protection that are ‘humanly’ possible, our job is to then “stand by and watch”.  Are you kidding me?  No.  The secret, however, is in “what” we watch for.

Moses told the Israelites to stand by and watch “the salvation of the Lord”.  In other words, watch how God will do wonders and how you will be saved.  In the case of the Hebrews, we know how the story goes and we will cover that in greater detail further along in our study.  Moses was telling them to have confidence in God’s ability to save. But this instruction can also be applied to how we face our fears.  Do you and I have the confidence that God can save us from whatever befalls us?  Are we in such a relationship with God that whether we live or die physically is less important than the fact that we will live spiritually with Jesus in eternity?  Are we prepared like Paul who tells us, in Romans 12:1, to present our bodies a “living sacrifice” (implying physical death) as our “reasonable act of service and worship” (implying spiritual life)?

And then Moses adds these three words -- “for you today”.  What God would be doing, He would be doing for the Hebrews.  And He would be doing it ‘today’.  You see, when the child of God faces “fear”, God is able to address it “for him/her, today”.  By that, I do not mean to say that my grandson will immediately be able to freely go down to the basement without any lights being on nor do I mean my children will be able to say, “God has told us that our next pregnancy will be perfect.”  I pray it will be, but that is not the guarantee God is giving us.  By God addressing our fear today, for us, we mean that God has the means whereby we can rest assured and safe in His arms, knowing He is with us, knowing He has enabled us to face the past and knowing He will continue to enable us to face the future, no matter what it is, and that one day, all wrongs will be corrected, all illnesses will be healed, all losses will be restored a hundredfold.  Our job is to “stand by and watch.”

Moses told the Hebrews that God was doing this “for them”.  They would never see their enemy again and he adds the word “forever” for emphasis.  Are you there?  Do you have an ‘enemy’?  Is it fear?  Is it some sin?  An addiction?  Whatever or whoever it is, God is able to deal with it or him/her.  Just trust Him and obey Him.  Then stand by and watch.

I love the last sentence of this short passage.  “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”  There seems to be a condition attached, but it is one that makes the process work.  When God fights for us, He expects us to keep silent.  In one sense, that is physically the easiest thing to do.  Technically no effort is required – just breathing.  But for some of us still very much attuned to our old human nature, it is the hardest thing to deliver.  Keeping silent is no easy instruction.  But here is what I have discovered.  If I do not keep silent, God works things out in such a way that I have no choice but to be silent, so He can go about His business.  You see, my “speaking up” and not remaining silent, only delays the desired outcome (humanly speaking) and makes the journey more difficult.  Let’s “keep silent” in these situations.
 
At the time of writing, the whole world is watching and waiting to see what will be done with the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Such weapons are seen as totally taboo by almost all of the world’s powers as agreed to after World War I.  Even their limited use approximately a century later does not bode well for the world.  Every effort must be made to ensure that no one will use them again.  But how is that to be done without the shedding of more blood?  God calls us to “stand by and watch”.  I do not say that glibly.  I think we all owe it to mankind to do our part in our sphere of influence to deter evil, but when we have exhausted our human means, as the world seems to have, only God can make the difference.  Better to have Him on board from the start.  Is the message that Moses gave to the Israelites, the message that says “stand by and watch” – is that the message that God has for you and I today – be it in global matters such as Syria, or in a very personal matter that only you and God know about?
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