Be Still and Move
Last week I called a friend for her input on a situation. While there were many things she said that I will hold on to, what stood out the most was her reference to Exodus 14. The portion we discussed is a verse that is often taken out of context. She so beautifully reminded me of what this scripture actually says.
Exodus 14 is the account of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea to escape Pharaoh’s army. Let me recap for you: After the final plague of the death of the firstborn child, Pharaoh was angry, finally commanding Moses and the Israelites to leave Egypt. It didn’t take long after the Israelites fled for Pharaoh and his officials to once again change their minds about this decision. And it didn’t long for the Israelites to see the Egyptians chasing them, striking terror in everyone. They cried out to the Lord and to Moses. Moses responded by saying, “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.”
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
The last sentence is what we often pull out of context. The statement is true but not in the way it is usually referenced. We fail to mention what the Lord says immediately following. Let’s keep reading for God’s response.
“Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”
Move on. Raise your staff. Stretch your hand. So the Israelites can go.
The “be still” does not mean being physically still with no action required. This “be still” appears to be a calming of the spirit, a silencing of the mouth. At times I have taken this command as to stop being active when in reality I need to calm my heart and cease striving. I love how God basically says to quit crying about it and to get moving! But usually I would rather just keep crying and waiting for God to show up. What I fail to realize is that he already has shown up. He is calling me to action.
Look at the verbs in the Lord’s command: Move. Raise. Stretch. Go. Faith is active. Love is a verb. Obviously we need to be in step with God, never running ahead of his timing. Doors open and close for a reason. There are also times we do need a physical rest, to be physically still. However, we can pull verses like Exodus 14:14 and justify a lack of movement on our part. We may not even realize this is what is happening.
Being still with good intentions can manifest in numerous ways. Personally, this has happened when I have been actively pursuing my faith with no apparent results. I may be following God’s leading but when I deem my efforts as failed attempt after failed attempt, I decide it is time to be still. In other words, I quit trying. My soul has not ceased striving; my actions have stopped.
Now that I put this in black and white, a thought just occurred to me: my heart is often unsettled when my actions stop which is probably an indicator that I am not practicing this command in the right way. I read God’s Word to mean we will have a still soul when we are in step with the Spirit. That is not a promise for an easy life but a calm spirit in the midst of the storms.
Furthermore, after God tells Moses what to do, the Lord tells him what he will do. “I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.” Then he does it! “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, 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.”
God not only requires that we be active but he is active as well. Sometimes it may be behind the scenes, making it difficult for us to see his works. But other times we will see the cloud moving from in front of us to behind us for our protection. He calls us to move because he is willing to move.
So, what about you? Is your heart still while you follow God’s leading? Or, like me, have you quit in one area of your life because you failed to follow the “move” part of the command?
I’m thankful for my friend’s gentle reminder. Cease striving. Move. Raise. Stretch. Go.