“The Crossing of the Red Sea” by Nicolas Poussin
But Moses said “ Do not be afraid, stand firm… The Lord will fight for you and you have only to keep still”
I recently heard a podcast of a homily by Fr Mike Schmitz and he talked about this passage from Exodus. He spoke a little about the events surrounding Moses’ saying this to the Hebrews. Moses had just led them out of Egypt and out of slavery. The Hebrew people were standing at the edge of the Red Sea and behind them they saw Pharoah and his army, which was the most powerful entity they had ever known, chasing them down. As they stood there, with this situation at hand, they yelled at Moses and told him that they would have been safer if they would have just stayed slaves in Egypt. They were convinced that that would have been better off there than in this situation they now found themselves in.
Doesn’t this sound all too familiar? When we face moments where it looks as if there is no hope, no way for us to win, no way for us to survive, don’t we too listen to the lies whispered in our ears? The Hebrews were being told a lie, one that they believed. We know they believed the lie because we hear them grumble at Moses and tell him they were better off in slavery. This thought is not one that comes from God, our creator, who made us with free will and loves us so much that he would never enslave us. This thought came from Satan and it infiltrated the minds and hearts of the Hebrews because they were facing a moment that seemingly had no hope, no way for them to win, and no way for them to survive.
But it was at this moment that Moses says some pretty profound words, “Do not be afraid, stand firm… The Lord will fight for you and you have only to keep still.” If we break these words down, we will see the beauty and truth of these words, which were relevant for the Hebrews back then, but also for us today.
The first part is DO NOT BE AFRAID. There are 365 “Do not be afraid” verses from the bible. These words are important to every generation, and so too for us today in a world filled with fear, anxiety, and distrust. Satan continues his mission of spreading lies and he is no doubt whispering in our ears, just as he whispered in the ears of the Hebrews so long ago. He seizes the moment in times of struggle, in times when we can see no light at the end of the tunnel, by convincing us of the lie that we should be afraid, angry, anxious, etc. But Moses reminds us DO NOT BE AFRAID, not even with the most powerful enemy at your back and a vast sea ahead. We must not let our situation swallow us up. Instead we must hand it over to God, trusting in his power and allowing Him to work in our lives. This step of handing it over to God is not an easy one. It is not one that takes away our fears or anxiety, but it is of utmost importance. Spiritually, you have given to God what is His to save, while you are placing your trust in his saving power. One phrase that I find helpful in practicing this step is saying “Jesus I Trust in You” over and over again.
The next part is STAND FIRM. I love this one because it is real. It reminds us that by handing our problems over to God doesn’t mean that he will necessarily take them away completely or immediately. So when Moses tells the Hebrews to STAND FIRM, he is reminding them to be strong in their commitment to trusting in the Lord. The struggles may remain, or they may return, but either way, we must continue to trust no matter what. In all reality, trust is really a humbling of ourselves. It is ceasing our attempts at trying to fix things and allowing God to step in. We must remember that God has the whole story. We see only a portion and thus our attempts at finding solutions is limited. But God sees the full picture and so trusting in Him will always bring about the best and most lasting solution to any of our problems.
Then Moses says,THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU. What a beautiful thing! Our God who is all loving and all powerful reassures us that HE will fight for us. It is almost as if a weight has been lifted and the pressure is off. Why would we NOT want God, with all his power and glory, to fight our battles for us. He is actually the most powerful entity, more powerful than Pharaoh and his army, more powerful than any struggle we are going through. Truly believing in this can do a world of difference in our lives because it switches the roles; God as powerful Savior and us as the “saved”. Often times we find ourselves trying to control things and when that doesn’t work out, we begin to lash out, just as the Hebrews did. Wishing ourselves out of our circumstance, out of our struggle. But it is through this exact situation, this very predicament, that the glory and power of God was revealed to the Hebrews. And it is the same with us! It is precisely IN our current struggle that God is there, ready to reveal his power and glory. If only we would trust in his saving power and allow Him to fight the battle for us.
The last part is YOU HAVE ONLY TO KEEP STILL. This is perhaps something we can learn from Our Blessed Mother. Not much is said about Mary in the Gospel accounts, but there is one very profound statement that is repeated and it refers to how she reacts to situations… She ponders things in her heart… she keeps still. Good or bad, whatever the situation at hand, Mary ponders in her heart what the Lord has done, what He has revealed, or what He might reveal in the future. This keeping still is Moses’ final instruction for the Hebrews. He didn’t want them to miss the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea… LOL, like that is something one could “miss”. But it is true in the sense that we could miss God’s part in the miracle. Many miracles happen every day, both big and small. But how often do we see them and recognize them as miracles? How often do we slow down and reflect on the work of God in our lives? Keeping STILL is such an important command because it opens our eyes to see and opens our hearts to ponder, as we wait, watch, and ready ourselves for the glory of God to be revealed to us in our own lives.
So today, in your struggle and suffering, do not be afraid, stand firm trusting God, THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU, just keep still in the moment and be patient, because God is a good God all the time and He personally holds you in the palm of his hand.