The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
It is helpful, and not a little humbling, to be reminded that the things that happened to the Israelites on their Exodus, “happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us” (I Corinthians 10:11). The Israelites’ story is a picture of our redemption story.
After the Israelites see the mighty wonders God performed in Egypt, and after their miraculous deliverance on Passover night, they are afraid once again. They are unbelieving and complaining right up to the moment of their deliverance through the Red Sea: “For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness”. This demonstrates that God’s deliverance at the Red Sea is undeserved grace, and not a reward for their faith. In fact, when God answered their complaint it wasn’t because they were expecting any answer. It is established at the beginning of the Exodus that salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is always about what God is doing rather than what we do or have done.
The Israelites are unable to press forward, move sideways, or retreat. The Red Sea is before them, the mountains around them, and Pharaoh’s armies in hot pursuit behind them. Again, all of this is permitted and ordered of God. Sometimes God does not intervene until circumstances are humanly impossible, and often at our eleventh hour. All the more is His glory revealed!
In one of the most practical verses for everyday life, Moses tells the Israelites: “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still”. Could anything be plainer, more emphasized in the Bible! Salvation is the Lord’s work, not ours. It is God who saves, not according to our works, but according to His grace and loving purpose in Christ Jesus. God works as we keep still: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).
- In practical terms what will it mean for you to “keep still” as the Lord fights for you?
- Take a few moments to ponder the psalmist’s reflections on the Exodus in Psalm 106:7-8:
When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled against you by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.