Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Fear, Watching and the Red Sea

The event at the Red Sea is one of the most important from the Biblical perspective. The event becomes almost synonymous with the idea that God saves. But what we usually loose in the big epic climax to this big epic story in Exodus is the humanity of the moment. With all these great bit miracles going on it seems like there's very little which focuses on the experience of the normal person in the story. There's one passage that captures it well.

In chapter 14 in Exodus we find that the people are terrified at the oncoming Egyptian army. Their chariots are closing in and it seems clear that they're there for death and nothing else. It makes sense that the fear, anxiety and uncertainty that they feel would take over in the moment.

Moses answered the people, ‘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.’ (Exodus 14:13-14)

Even though these words seem at first to do little to comfort the people there is a great deal of wisdom in them that surrounds two basic ideas which are actually quite common in scripture. 1) Do not fear. 2) "Look and you will see."

1) Do not fear!

The command to not fear is actually the most common command throughout scripture. And this makes sense. Even Yoda had it figured out when he said "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." Hate is most often expressed in our world through hatred, suffering, persecution and scapegoating of others. It's no wonder with this kind of expression of fear that it becomes one of the things that God commands us to avoid most.

It seems that almost every Biblical character is told not to fear at some point in their life. And with all these commands not to fear there is a follow-up statement, usually something like "God is with you," or "God will fight for you." This gives us an important principle that fear can be replaced by other things in our lives. I think that this is best expressed in 1 John 4 when he wrote "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear."

In the same way Jesus wanted us to replace our natural feelings of revenge when someone takes from us, misuses us, or persecutes us by blessing them, giving to them, and praying for them. Jesus also wants to to defeat fear by using loving action to take away the power of that fear.

  • What has been the source of your anxiety, uncertainty, and fear in recent life?
  • How has this fear expressed itself in ways you don't like? What has those expressions revealed about yourself?
  • What kind of loving action might help you?

2) Look and you will see.

There's several ways we're told to be watchful in this passage. They're told to 'stand firm,' and to 'be still.' They are also told that they will 'see the deliverance,' and that the Egyptians they will 'never see again.'

Being watchful has never seemed to be the thing we're very good at in modern day spirituality. The phrases about standing firm and being still are helpful but often misunderstood. We usually picture someone 'standing firm' on a cliff face or a mountain, but I think it's more useful to picture standing firm on the lookout of a ship. First of all, its more meaningful to be watchful while you're on something that's moving and going somewhere. Also, it takes effort to 'stand firm' on a whip while on a rock it's more passive. I think this gives meaning to the thought that in order to 'be still' and 'stand firm' in a meaningful way we need to understand the intentionality of this, but also the fact that we're going somewhere with purpose. That purpose being God moving us towards something new and different everyday. 

  • How have you chosen to be watchful in the past?
  • Do you think you are better at listening to God, or speaking to God. Why?
  • What does being watchful have to do with conquering fear?

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