When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. (Exodus 13:17-18 ESV)
After a series of 10 plagues that must have devastated Egypt Pharaoh finally relents and lets the Israelites leave Egypt. They have lived there for over 400 years and much of that time as slaves. I cannot imagine what this mass of people on the move must have looked like. There were 600,000 men along with their wives, children, flocks, and herds moving together through the desert. Recently in Hong Kong there was a demonstration with over 1 million people participating. Imagine a group of people twice that large all going in the same direction.
The text tells us that they left Egypt equipped for battle. I think this means that as a part of the plunder collected, they also collected some weapons. A people need more than weapons to go to war. They need preparation, organization, and training to be able to put those weapons to good use. The Israelites had not had time to put any of these things together. They were not prepared and when Pharaoh came after them, they were afraid.
God’s solution to their dilemma required no preparation on their part. It only required that they trust and obey. If they did those two things they would be rescued, and God would be glorified. They would also be right where God wanted them to begin the process of preparation. They were going to go to war, but not yet. Notice the similarity in these two verses.
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14 ESV)
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)
We all encounter situations in life where we have three options: attack, stand, or run. I most often pick variations on run, because I let fear get the better of me. I watched an Andy Griffith show recently that perfectly illustrated how this works. You can see a clip from the show here:
The quick summary is that Barney Fife encounters two farmers breaking the law. In the first encounter he threatens them, and they push back which causes Barney to run. In the second encounter, the one in the clip, Andy has convinced the farmers that Barney is much more dangerous than he appears. The result is that the farmer’s run. Later, the farmers learn that Barney is not as dangerous as Andy portrayed him to be and return. In the final scene Barney confronts the farmers and simply stands his ground. They don’t run, but they do what they are asked to do in the face of real courage.
Fear motivates us to either attack or run. Which we choose depends on the situation. What God instructs us to do is to stand. Have you developed enough trust in God that you are prepared to stand in the face of difficulty? With everything that is happening in the world around us I have a feeling that we are going to be called to stand more often than we’re comfortable with. God has equipped us. God has prepared us. All that is left is for us to stand.
For my grandchildren:
Trust God and stand for Him.