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.


  1. Josh, this is wonderful! What you express is common to all believers, I think. We're all superstars when it comes to breaking free. But staying free--living free--that's a real battle. It's sort of a faith version of Battered Wife Syndrome. We hate continually getting beaten by our weaknesses and living in constant anxiety that we may not be as lucky next time. We're always on edge with a constant foreboding that the worst is yet to come. And when we summon the strength to break free, we go for it.

    The exhilaration between Egypt's gates and the Red Sea is out of this world. But there's that business about crossing the sea, which we're not at all familiar with and have no idea how to do it. In that moment, it just feels safer to return to what we know instead of taking the necessary risks to move further away from what we've escaped. And we do it over and over--and will keep doing it until we figure out we're putting ourselves in greater danger every time.

    My former pastor in LA preached what, for me, was a watershed sermon on this text, pointing out many of the same things you do here. What would have happened if Israel had resigned itself to life under Pharaoh, he wondered. Whatever life was like before they left, it wouldn't be the same now. It would be harsher. The chains would be shorter, the shackles tighter. And if the cycle repeated, life would be even worse when they returned the next time--less hopeful, more brutal, humiliating, and futile. I'll never forget his closing line: "So, do you really want to go back to Egypt?"

    Every time I'm tempted to return to slavery, I start a long talk with myself with that question. Do I really want to go back to Egypt?

    It takes a long time for Israel to conquer its urge to return to Egypt when times get rough. The minute something goes wrong, they start grumbling, "We should have stayed in Egypt. At least we had this and at least we had that." (How easily we forget that for all our bondage provided, it would never give us what we crave most: freedom!) And every time Israel sinks into griping and self-pity, they come within a hair of missing an incredible manifestation of God's power on their behalf. Bitter water turns sweet. Manna falls from the sky. God's own words come down from the mountain. Eventually they learn, but it's a struggle to let go their familiar fantasies when facing new fears.

    May God grant all of us the strength to stand still and see God's salvation. It's never easy. But, from my own experience, I can say it's always worth it. Thank you for this reminder. I needed to hear it and will carry it with me.

    Finally, congratulations on starting this journey! I pray you'll be led to find everything you need--and all you seek--while you travel. Online faith is a powerful thing and you're joining a mighty community of passionate believers who won't be confined by boundaries and labels. It's one big old family out here, and I couldn't be more thrilled to welcome you in!

    Blessings, dear friend and brother,

  2. Tim-Thank you so much for your comments. And yes! Exactly. That question your pastor asked is exactly the question we all need to ask ourselves. At least what I need to ask myself. Fearing not is the hard part for me. I just need to learn to trust more openly.

  3. Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Josh. (You know you'll always be Josh to me.) ;-)

    I'm glad to have a means of glimpsing your life - although I'm sure to be a terrible disappointment in the area of discussing profound things.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts here, though, as I always do enjoy your thoughts. And I look forward to more.

    Cheers and Hugs to you, my dearest friend! ;-) I miss you.

  4. Josh, thank you for writing this and sharing it. Bondage is a funny thing and most times only in my mind.

    I echo what Tim said in that I needed to hear this today, more than I can express.

    Love you so much!


  5. Ally-I miss you too! As for profound thoughts, don't come here for that. This is just going to be my rambling thoughts that pass through my head as I commute to work. :) I hope all is well with you. Are you getting excited for your birthday??


  6. Annette- So we are still going to make it to San Fran one of these days. Now that we have direct flights from IF there is really no excuse. I needed to hear what I wrote as well, if that makes sense. I find myself in those spots all the time. It would seem that at some point I would break free of that and finally get across the Red Sea. I am hoping that I can get there someday soon...

  7. Josh,
    this is one of the most powerful testimonies i have ever heard about how stepping into a bit of the unknown can be frightening but clearly necessary in order for the Lord to bless you with the insights and other blessings he has in store for you. i am so proud of your acknowledgement of Him

    Terry S.

  8. Terry,
    Thank you for your words.I think that in the unknown a person can find peace if they have faith. That is my hope. I hope you and your wife are doing well. Thank you for your part in my journey.

  9. My favorite part, "posted by Joshua at 4:03 AM. Nice Josh!