Exodus 14:19-20 My Job is To Stand Still

Photo courtesy of http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/faith-presumption
Photo courtesy of http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/faith-presumption

Ex. 14:19   Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,

20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

I hate standing still…No seriously I have to be doing something from the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning till I collapse in the bed at night.

The Lord knows I view standing still as being “lazy” and so He forces me to do just that. And it’s in those situations I’m taught the power of waiting for God.

Exodus fourteen seems strange because God confronted the Jews crying out (asking for help) and not moving forward in Exodus 14:15 [1]. Then in 14:19–20 God separated the Jews and Egyptians for a whole night while they didn’t move forward at all.

This actually wasn’t confusing for them since the presence of God normally led in this way (Exodus 13:21–22). Eventually the Jewish people learned to rely on His presence for guidance; when the cloud stopped they stopped, and when the cloud started moving again they moved.

The leading of God in this situation was understandable since He protected the Jews (Egypt couldn’t attack) but what confuses me is why God waited overnight.

It’s possible that the Lord wanted to wait for morning before parting the red sea, but I believe He was teaching the Israelites a very important truth.

I am the one who decides when to move

If Moses had asked the Jews when they wanted the sea to part their response would have been “RIGHT NOW!” but God made them wait at least one night before anything happened [2].

It’s easy to view action in the face or fear or stress faith (and in a sense it is) but true faith involves waiting because it is completing the action God wants you to do, in the moment He wants you to do it.

The thing about never standing still or viewing inactivity as laziness is I’m never able to actually slow down and seek the Will of God. Often this means I accomplish a lot of things, but not in a way that honors the Lord (ten or fifteen done very quickly instead of a few done effectively).

This of course doesn’t mean God wants me to stop working. Instead there is a need for quiet moments when I seek His Will, or wait for Him to give guidance.  This allows me to do purposeful work that is led by God.

A good illustration of this is the story in I Samuel 14 where Jonathan attacked a Philistine army with his armor bearer. At that point the Jews were vastly outnumbered, and only a few had weapons, so their defeat looked certain. Jonathan chose to approach the Philistine army, but said this to his armor bearer

1 Samuel 14:8 Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.”

Jonathan and his armor bearer stepped out in front of the army (on top of a hill) and waited. If the men said “we will come down to you” that was God’s way of saying you can’t have the victory, if they said “come up to us” then the Lord gave them the victory.

Most of us know the end of this story but just in case

11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming rout of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12 And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.”And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14 And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. 15 And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.

I’m pretty sure Jonathan wanted to just charge up the hill and start swinging his sword, but he knew without the power of God they couldn’t win. He probably was filled with fear while standing where the whole Philistine army could see him (that’s not how you fight a war!) but he did it anyways.

Take it from someone who has run up way too many hills swinging his sword without checking with God first…it doesn’t work out very well.

Far better to stop, face our fears, and allow God to bring the right moment.

  1. Why do you cry to me? tell the children of Israel to go forward  ↩
  2. it could have been a longer wait  ↩

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