10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
13 Moses answered the people, “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. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:10-14, NIV)
The Israelites had already witnessed the power of God as He forced Pharaoh’s hand to let them leave their captivity in Egypt. They had witnessed His faithfulness to His people as He struck down the firstborn son of every family in Egypt, yet spared the firstborn sons of Israel. They had seen Him turn the hearts of the Egyptian people toward them as they willingly gave them items of value. And yet, despite all this, when the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army pursuing them as they were fleeing Egypt, all that they could do was panic and cry out in terror. They turned against Moses and began to wish they had never left Egypt.
But Moses still trusted in God and in His faithfulness. He told the Israelites not to be afraid but instead to stand firm as the Lord brought them deliverance. He told them that the Egyptians whom they now saw pursuing, they would never see again. And then, in Exodus 14:14, Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” They did not have to lift a finger. God saw their distress. God saw the danger that they were facing. God saw what they saw, but God also saw the outcome. And that outcome meant that the freedom that He had promised His people from their captors would come to pass, not because He would equip them to fight off the Egyptian but because He would do the fighting for them.
As I read these verses in Exodus 14 this past week, one phrase stood out to me: “be still.” I put it aside, but it kept coming back to me: “be still.” Believing that God was trying to tell me something through these words, I decided to do a word study and discovered that the Hebrew word translated as “be still” actually means to be silent. But it also means “be deaf.” God was telling the Israelites to be deaf and be silent. As I reflected on this God began to speak to me.
How often do we (I include myself here!) look at the circumstances that we are facing and forget about all the times that God came through for us, the times when, through His great faithfulness, He has brought us through one difficulty, one struggle after another? How often do we grumble and complain as the Israelites did when they found themselves stuck between the pursuing Egyptian army and the Red Sea? Why is it that we find it so hard to remember what He has done for us in the past when facing new worries, new problems, new challenges? Why do we seem to have amnesia when it comes to relying on the faithfulness of God to bring us through these things?
I believe it has everything to do with where we focus our hearts in those moments of life. It has everything to do with what voices we are listening to. It has everything to do with what words we allow to come out of our mouths. We listen to the voice of the world. We listen to the voice of the enemy of our souls. And we listen to the voice of our own weaknesses. What we need to be listening to is the voice of God. What we listen to will ultimately affect the words that come out of our mouths. When we listen to the wrong voices, the words from our mouths will be words of doubt, words of fear, words of anxiety and worry, or words of hopelessness. So what do we need to do? We need to be still.
As I mentioned before, the Hebrew word translated as “be still” in Exodus 14:14 also means to be deaf, to be silent. What God was telling the Israelites, what He is telling us, is that when we face the challenges in our lives, we need to be deaf to the voices that tell us that it is hopeless. We need to be deaf to the voices that create doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety. And we need to be silent. We need to quiet our hearts, to quiet our tongues, and listen to the voice of God. When we do these things, instead of focusing on what’s in front of us, instead of focusing on the problems we face, we will focus on the faithfulness of God. God promised that He would fight for the Israelites, and He was faithful to that promise. He parted the Red Sea, allowed the Israelites to walk through on dry ground, and then caused then buried the Egyptian army in a watery grave. All they needed to do was stop focusing on what they saw, stop focusing on what they heard, and be silent while God came through.
If you are facing a difficult circumstance, if worry, anxiety, or fear are causing you to forget all that the Lord has done for you in the past, remember the words of Exodus 14:14: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).