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.
Exodus chapter 14 depicts the earlier days of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, when they were still being pursued by Pharaoh and his troops. The Israelites were struck with extreme fear, and even though you may read the Bible and think that the Israelites are being immature by crying, 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? [Exodus 14:11] – it was probably very understandable. They were first given great hope by being brought out of Egypt, but not long after their supposed ‘freedom’, the Egyptians have caught up to them, and the prospect of returning to slavery – this time as runaways caught back to Egypt – would certainly be extremely terrifying. It was bad enough being slaves, but when you run away, and are caught back as slaves again, life is bleak. It’s like being brought up to the clouds and suddenly pushed to the very edge of it, where you struggle to keep your balance and not fall off, where you look down and see nothing. Moses’ instruction for them to be courageous, stand firm, and witness God’s deliverance comes as a direct response to that, and to back up his words, God instructed Moses to split the Red Sea – perhaps one of the most well-known miracles in the Old Testament that is fondly remembered even till today. In today’s study, we will examine the three steps that the Israelites were told to take in the face of immense danger and fear – do not be afraid, stand firm, and witness God’s deliverance.
When I was a child I heard of the story of 2 men meeting a bear. One man reacted quickly, and managed to climb up a tree as soon as he saw the bear. The other was not blessed with as athletic a body, and before he could make a move, the bear was already in front of him. Frozen in fear, he lost the courage to even move, much less to be able to run away. Surprisingly, the bear merely sniffed at him a few times, but, thinking that he was dead, left him alone and moved on from the pair of friends. When the bear was gone, the man on the tree jumped down and asked his friend curiously, what did you do to make the bear go away? The man, still in shock and hence hasn’t moved from his original position, answered, I don’t know, I just wished I was dead.
That’s the story that I recalled when I came across this verse. Stand firm and witness the deliverance that God will bring you. Sometimes it may seem as if standing firm, unmovingly is the most dangerous thing to do on earth – like when you come face to face with a bear. Even so, do not fear. Trust in the Lord, and witness how He delivers you. Well, that said, I grew up in the city with no bears around me, so it’s probably easy for me to say – but if I see a bear, I think I’ll faint first and think second.
Do not be afraid – There were good reason to be afraid. Who wouldn’t be – Pharaoh not only took six hundred of his best chariots, but also other chariots of Egypt, with officers all over them [Exodus 14:7] just to chase after the Israelites. How flamboyant. The Israelites didn’t even have troops. By human logic, there was no hope of escape. By human logic, they would certainly be caught. Yet Moses reminds them of a valid reason to curb their fear – God. Their almighty God, capable of the impossible, as He had already proven with the 10 plagues, capable of delivering them, as He had already proven by bringing them out of Egypt; capable of sustaining them, as He is about to prove with one of the greatest miracles of all time. ‘Do not be afraid‘ – is not unique to this situation, in lesser situations, in more drastic situations, God has comforted his people with this instruction, as he did to Abraham [Genesis 15:1, Gen 46:3], through the prophet Elisha to the King of Israel and his people [2 Kings 6:15], through Jahaziel to King Jehoshaphat [2 Chronicles 20:15-17], and many other instances.
Stand firm – This verse precedes an even greater promise – The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still [Exodus 14:14]. There is no need to panic, there is no need to fear – you don’t even have to do anything. Be still, but firmly so. Do not freeze because you’re too scared, do not freeze because you don’t know what to do – like the man who encountered the bear; but instead, stand still firmly in confidence in the Lord. Be still, and know that I am God [Psalm 46:10|Article] – that knowledge is our hope and our assurance, that can remove our fear and fill us with courage.
see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today – not only to not fear; not only to stand firm, but also to witness the deliverance that the Lord will bring. Imagine you are the King of an ancient kingdom, and you want to show off the majesty of your troops to your 10 year old son. Will you bring him to a battlefield in which you know you will be outnumbered, surrounded, and defeated? No – if you knew it would be a bloody battle, you wouldn’t want to bring your son on the excursion. You would bring him along when you are the one outnumbering, surrounding, and defeating your enemies. You would bring him along when you are confident that you will win the battle. You would bring him along when you know that it is safe. In the same line of logic, we’re given the first row seat to witness God’s deliverance for us. Can God bring us deliverance in another way, when we’re somewhere far away, away from the tension, away from the battle, away from the circumstances? I’m sure God can, but we’re given the privilege of the first row seats; we’re given the privilege of witnessing first-hand how God delivers us. Samuel puts the same idea across eloquently in his farewell speech to the Israelites – Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! [1 Sam 12:16]
Who or what are the Egyptian troops and the Pharaohs in our lives? Who or what are the Red Seas in our lives? We may not face with the terror of warfare, or blatant oppression, or inhumane slavery – even though these still exist in the world today. However, we still have our Pharaohs in life – that source of unceasing oppression, stress, burden and fear; we still have our Red Seas – that which we see as a dead end, but can be split by the Lord Almighty to open a way out for us. Can we split the Red Seas of our lives with our own strength? No, we cannot. Moses wouldn’t have been able to split the sea no matter how many times he raised his staff over the sea, if not for God’s divine interference. We have been granted a first-row seat to God’s deliverance. It will come, in God’s own way. We just need to be courageous, stand firm, and be a witness to God’s might.