Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord

Last week, I read once again the story of the Exodus. The Old Testament speaks to me. Clearly and profoundly. The metaphors contained in those stories pop out and impact my life like no other body of scripture or any other writing for that matter. The Old Testament's penchant to use simple stories to teach much broader concepts works for me. Always has. And this held true once again as I re-read the story of the Exodus.

So many different angles from this story have influenced me over the years, but none more so than the verses that struck me this past week. In Chapter 14, the Israelites have just fled from Egypt and Pharaoh. As they race away from their bondage, they reach the Red Sea and see an impenetrable wall of water standing in front of them. They turn and look behind them and they see the armies of Pharaoh bearing down on them. They find themselves stuck between two imposing forces facing in their minds a most certain death. They feel trapped, angry at Moses for leading them to their destruction, wishful that they had never left their homes in Egypt, longing for their days of "comfortable" captivity. They lose faith in their chosen course of action and become angry and bitter.

Here the Israelites were, problems behind them in the form of Egyptian soldiers bearing down on them, trying to pull the back to their lives of bondage. Problems in front of them in the form of the immovable Red Sea, blocking their path and preventing them from reaching their long-hoped for freedom. I can imagine their frustration. They felt they had done their part. They had left their lives of bondage. They removed their shackles and departed from their masters who were keeping them down. They had left their chains behind them, but they could not do anything about the Red Sea.

In this moment of desperation, they cry out to Moses saying, "What have you done to us? Why did you take us away from our homes to die out here in the wilderness? Why did we trust you?" 

It is in this moment that Moses turns to them and says, "Fear ye not; stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show you today: for the Egyptians ye see today, you shall see them no more forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." (Exodus 14: 13-14). Moses realized what they did not see. Although they did their part in leaving behind the bondage they lived in, they could not reach their freedom using their own power. Not even Moses could lead them to their freedom alone. They needed the help of the Lord to reach their freedom. They needed to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

I read this and it hit my like a ton of bricks. How true is this in my life today? Just as it was incumbent upon the Israelites to take themselves away from a life of bondage, so to is it my responsibility to pick-up my things and leave those parts of my life that keep me in bondage. At the same time, just like the Israelites could not reach their freedom using their own power, neither can I reach freedom on my own. The Lord needs to part the Red Sea for me, just like he did for the Israelites.

I don't know about you, but I can relate to the Israelites here. I have ghosts in my past that keep me in bondage. For years, I have tried to put those things behind me, to remove those chains like the Israelites did of old and walk out of my own personal Egypt. That process has never been easy, though, and I consistently reach a point where I look back and see the armies of Pharaoh coming after me wanting to bring back to that bondage, and I look forward and see the waters of the Red Sea--an obstacle that is too challenging for me to overcome on my own. Many times, I gave in and said to myself that I would rather go back in bondage than die in the wilderness. Just like the Israelites, I thought those were my only two options.

I failed to understand, just like the Israelites failed to understand, that it was not up to me to fight my battles on my own. I failed to understand that I needed to fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. I failed to realize that only through the Lord's power would I be able to not see the Egyptians anymore, that I would be able to move past those chains of the past. I needed to realize that I need to allow my Savior to part the waters of the Red Sea for me so I can walk through on dry ground. The only way for me to get to my own personal promised land is to let the Lord fight for me after I have done all that I can do.

For me, this story of the Israelites has very real and very powerful implications. The Israelites had done all they could. They broke their chains of bondage. They left their past lives behind them. They walked with faith into the wilderness. But they could not do it all on their own. I believe this is the same for me today. I can do all that I can in those areas where I fall short, but it will take the Lord's power and mercy for me to gain true freedom. So when we reach those points where we can't go any further, those points in our lives where we say, "I have done all that I can do, Lord," we need to do like Moses instructed and fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.