Exodus 14 offers a well known, and favorite, verse about trusting God.
The Israelites had just walked out of Egypt after 430 years of slavery, plundered the Egyptians as they left, and were on their way to the land God promised their ancestors centuries before.
They were free, and they were loving it.
That is until they turned around and realized Pharaoh and the entire army of Egypt were pursuing them. Chariots, horsemen, foot soldiers — an impressive and intimidating army — were hunting them down.
There was an impassable river on one side and a raging army on the other.
Freedom looked like a cruel joke.
In that moment, Moses uttered the words so many have clung to in times of trouble:
“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 only need to be still.”
Those two words have a lot of power.
Life throws a curveball at you. Be still.
The doctor gives you bad news. Be still.
You get laid off from your job. Be still.
You lose all your money in a failed business. Be still.
Life didn’t go the way you expected it. Be still.
Your latest decision is the topic of gossip around town. Be still.
Your child makes a series of bad decisions. Be still.
Your house gets broken into. Be still.
God hasn’t answered your prayer. Be still.
Those words have become synonymous with being at peace no matter the circumstance, of being at ease, resisting the urge to fret or worry or allow anxiousness to steal your joy.
Being still is the essence of trust.
And Shut Up!
The phrase be still in Exodus 14:14 is translated from the Hebrew word חָרַשׁ (charash) and means to be silent, to keep quiet, to remain silent, to be deaf, to let alone, speak not a word, hold your peace, leave off speaking, to cut in, to plough, and, as it’s seen in this verse, peace and to be still.
Remain silent. Hold your tongue. Keep quiet.
In essence, Moses told the Israelites to shut up.
Right before Exodus 14:14, the Israelites started to whine about their situation.
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?
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!
Trouble hit, and the first words out of their mouths were complaints.
These were the same people who saw God triumph over the false gods of Egypt. They watched as he pummeled their oppressors with locusts and frogs, and flies, and hail, and darkness, and blood, and gnats, and boils, and killed off their livestock, and killed the first born of all in Egypt. He gave them favor with the Egyptians and, as they were leaving, their former oppressors gave them gold and riches. They walked out of Egypt with more wealth than they had in all 430 years they were bondage.
God, their God, brought them out of slavery without them raising a single weapon.
In only a few days, they forgot the miracles God performed on their behalf, saw the same people God left in ruins, and cried to go back to their bondage.
Be still wasn’t so much a reminder to trust God as it was a command to shut up.
I doubt Moses told roughly a million people to shut up out of frustration (although, as a leader, I would completely understand his desire to do so).
He was giving them sound advice — words we should heed ourselves.
Our natural reaction when life gets tough is to complain — to forget the miracles God performed on our behalf in the past, and cry out about the situation we don’t like right now.
Why is God allowing this?
Why isn’t He answering me when and how I want Him to?
Why do I have to go through this?
This isn’t fair!
I wish things would go back to how they used to be!
Hardship hits, and we are no better than the Israelites as they stood on the bank of the Red Sea and forgot the power and nature of their God.
When we complain about our situation, we miss out on the miracle God is about to perform.Click To Tweet
The complaints we utter in times of hardship do two things: they make us forget the power and nature of God — this same God who created everything in the universe and has shown time and again that He can be trusted; and they keep us from walking in faith.
In the moments when we are inclined to complain, we need to take the advice of Moses: shut up.
God never promised life would be easy. He never said we would be free of oppression and trials and hardship. In fact, He said the exact opposite — there will be trials, there will be hardship, there will be persecution.
In those moments, we have a choice: Trust or complain.
Complaining is another way of saying: ‘God, I know better than you.’ Click To Tweet
God could have brought the children of Israel out of Egypt in an easier fashion.
He could have blinded the Egyptians and let the Israelites walk out undisturbed. He could have killed all the Egyptians and given their land to the Israelites. He could have brought them out and kept the Egyptians from pursuing them.
But He didn’t.
The circumstances God used to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt did something powerful: they showed the Egyptians and the world God is real — and in the same breath, showed the Egyptians their gods were powerless.
God will allow hardship in your life to bring Him glory and strengthen your faith.Click To Tweet
It did both for the Israelites.
God’s name and power was known — to the point that other countries wouldn’t mess with the Israelites out of fear of their God — and helped them see that their God was, and still is, trustworthy.
(Image via Tim Geers cc)