The runaway slaves have no idea where they’re going. Their memories fresh with the stench of a bloody river and the crawling of frogs and locusts- they’re heading out blindly into a desert. Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. The number pounds through their minds in a mix of anger and fear. Slavery is all they’ve ever known, but now they’ve been liberated and freed to. . . go.
The walking isn’t easy. It’s a rocky and dry country, oppressively hot. Kids whine about being tired. Mothers shield their babies from the sun with scraps of clothing, willing their numb arms to hold them steady. Fathers heft along bundled-up possessions.
Their only comfort is the strange pillar of cloud in front of them. It stands out loudly against an empty blue sky. Yes, God is with them. This cloud is his promised Presence and guiding, moving along day by day as they follow.
Surely this leading is supernatural, so it’s somewhat obvious that the Israelites would follow it. . . but I wonder if they ever felt hesitant. All they knew, all they could do anything about, was to take the steps shown for the day. Escaping from violent slave masters, traveling in the eerie unknown of a desert: I can imagine they wanted to get where they were going! Pure panic would be my motivator.
Still, God asked them to follow him steadily and trustingly. He was the only one who knew the way to the land he promised. The cloud was never skittish or mixed-up. It was a pillar: steady, sure, authoritative. There’s not an ounce of uncertainty in God. Thank goodness for that!
Even when the cloud led the Israelites directly onto the banks of a great sea, with the now-fuming Egyptian army approaching them from behind, even then, God asked them to remain calm and steady.
“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.” Exodus 14:13-14
“Seriously? I’m about to either drown or get murdered, maybe even both at the same time! And your advice is to be still?!” If you can’t tell, that would be my natural thought process. However, once again, God takes the situation completely into his hands. The only instruction? “Stay still, keep steady, don’t be afraid: just watch this!”
If the Israelites thought they could do something, I don’t know what they’d have tried: swimming or fighting. But this command to be still, found all throughout the Bible, had the purpose of reminding them of their dependency on God. Every step of their journey so far, no matter how uncertain in their minds, has led them up to this point: and God isn’t about to abandon them.
By following a seemingly arbitrary instruction from God, Moses drives back the waters of the sea, creating dry ground for the escaped slaves to walk through on. Once everyone rushes across, the great army of Egypt eagerly follows: only to be crushed on both sides by the collapsing walls of water.
In the moments that the Israelites were most hopeless, they saw their need for God most vividly. It was in those moments, too, that he showed up most mightily. If you’re going through a time of uncertainty right now, seeing with new eyes how hopeless you are on your own, God’s message to you is the same as it was those thousands of years ago: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Look forward to new posts every Monday morning!