Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The battle is too big for you. Be still.


"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14
What does this mean?  Is this one we can apply to ourselves or only the specific biblical context situation?  Or maybe ourselves sometimes?

I got this question from a friend, and I jokingly replied, “I think I’m just going to be still and let God answer that question for me.”

Honestly, I would love the permission to use this one whenever I felt like it. Political conversation that makes me uncomfortable? Sorry, I’m too busy being still to engage.  Laundry needs to be done? Nope, I need to be still.  Kids screaming at each other?  I’ll let God sort it out while I read my Bible.

Alas, this Scripture is not meant to be a trump card to use in the battles we’d rather not fight.
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It is never wise to pull one verse out of Scripture and examine it alone. So what’s the context?
Moses is leading the Israelites away from the Egyptians. All looks to be lost: their backs are up against the Red Sea, they are outnumbered, vulnerable, and they see no way out.

There have been battles that simply end at this point; sometimes, God does allow the enemy temporal victories, and the Christian is called to simply be slaughtered and yet still trust.  Sometimes, we must actively fight evil to stop its spread, and God is pleased with those who defend the weak.  (Thank you, veterans, police officers, brave souls of all kinds who God uses to stem the flood of evil in this place).

But in this case, God did something different.  God brought His people to the end of themselves: to that place where it was obvious there was NO hope in salvation coming from their own two hands.  And then, God did a miracle. He intervened when it was impossible, and He rescued His people.

Surely there was a moment when that word of hope from Moses seemed too incredible to believe. Those are nice sounding words Moses, but do you see their chariots? Look how sharp are the swords! Do you see the rage in the eyes of our enemies? They will delight in tearing us apart! They are coming, and we are defenseless!

And then, the miracle. God parted the seas, and they walked through on dry ground.

Feet stepping on dry ground where water had been only moments before... can you imagine the wonder they felt? The amazement and fear, the utter certainty that this rescue was NOT of their own doing but a work of the God of the universe!

And after God did this thing, His people rejoiced and sang. Hear the words of Moses:
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
   the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
   and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
   my father's God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15)

Salvation at the hand of God- truly this is a marvelous thing! And the glory of God is brighter in our eyes  when we have seen our own helplessness, when we have despaired of creating safety with our own two hands. This miraculous rescue of God’s people from the Egyptians is meant to give us cause for rejoicing and trust as well, because it is a foreshadowing of the same work that God is doing for us today.

Be still. The battle is too big for you. The Lord will fight for you in the most important battle you wage: the battle with sin, death, and the devil.  Have you tried fighting this battle on your own? Have you seen the futility of your own efforts? Despair of your resources and look to Jesus! Without the miraculous intervention of our God, we would be surrounded and overcome; slaughtered with glee by our enemies.   But our God does not leave us in this place.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:13)

He has won for us the biggest and most impossible battle in His death and resurrection.   We are in-between times: we hear the word of promise and victory, and yet we see the glint of the sword, we feel the gunshot wounds from the enemy.   We come up against our own powerlessness and we have reason to fear.   But even today, in the fight against the evil our God invites us to be still.

Stillness is not necessarily inactivity. The Israelites had to walk across the dry ground!  But the spirit with which they walked must have been so different than the spirit with which they sharpened their own swords in fearful defiance of the enemy they still hoped to defeat.  They no longer cried out in terror to Moses, but they walked forward in wonder and in trust, confident in the mighty hand of God, strong to save.

It’s is the word of God’s miraculous hand that gives us stillness of heart, even as the battle still rages.  Step forward, hold fast to His Word, and Let God make your heart still.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim 4:18)

Rejoice with Zecharaiah:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
   for he has visited and redeemed his people... to grant us
 that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
   in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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