On Being Still
Instead of sending His people directly onto a path of relative safety, God places them with mountains on either side and the Red Sea in front of them. There is no place to go. The Egyptians are behind them. From any human standpoint they are trapped. Moses was told by the Lord that this episode was divinely planned (14:1-4), but when the Egyptians approached the Hebrews were terrified (vss. 10-12). It was then that Moses reassured them (it appears he hadn’t told them what the plan was) that all would be well.
“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 need only to be still” (vss. 13, 14).
Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
And God put Himself between Israel and Egypt as His people began their trek along the path through the Red Sea (vs. 19, 20), allowing them time to get across before the morning broke. Once the Egyptians started across after their prey, Moses records: “In the morning watch the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptians army and threw it into confusion” (vs. 24).
“Be still” didn’t mean not to move—the Israelites had to act in faith to cross the sea through the towering banks of water on either side of the path. “Be still” meant not to be afraid, not to doubt, not to worry, not to run, not to try to fix things in their own strength, to obey with confidence knowing that God was in control and working out His plan for both Israel and Egypt.
Being “still” is not always easy, but the picture of God Himself standing between us and whatever ill we think has us cornered is a certain stress-reliever. In the night, as the Hebrews trekked across the sea, they could see the pillar in which God was present standing between them and their enemy. That would have been reassuring. In the morning when the cloud moved, and the enemy seemed to have a clear path to overtake them, perhaps the “Be still” was a little more difficult. It always is. Sometimes God does expose us to that which we most fear.
But only to teach us that being exposed isn’t the same as being overcome. He is still there working out His plan in us and in whatever, or whoever, it is that has caused us to be afraid.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm…The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”