We turned down a long driveway lined with gorgeous old trees hanging overhead. In front of us was a beautiful farmhouse with large windows facing the horizon. A large tree stood, firmly rooted in the front yard with a porch swing dangling from a thick branch, facing where the sun would set. I sat in the front seat, a tightly wound ball of anxiety, having pathetically attempted to explain to my husband how lost and irrational I felt at every level of my life on the drive over. Our new friends greeted us at the front door along with their old golden retriever. His kind face was white with age and he walked with an arthritic limp; everything within me fought the urge to bury my face in the safety of his soft fur and sob. Throughout our time exploring their farm, meeting horses and cows, and eating a tasty dinner, I felt as though an elephant was sitting on my chest, squeezing my heart so tight I could hardly breathe. Fear, over nothing in particular, consumed me and I could not relax. In one of the most peaceful and idyllic of places, I felt tense and absent. We said goodnight and loaded an exhausted toddler into the car. As I drove home, I burst into a flood of tears as I confessed my fear and anxiety to my poor husband; the weight of the elephant slowly becoming lighter and lighter.

God talks a lot about fear in the Bible. I have heard He mentions something to the effect of “Do not fear” around 366 times in the entire Bible, one for every day of the year on a leap year, but I have not fact checked it. I just know He talks about fear and anxiety often because I struggle often with fear and anxiety. Perhaps one of my favorite passages of Scripture on fear is Exodus 14, because rather than simply hearing, “Fear not!” we actually witness the behind-the-scenes events that lead a nation from paralyzing fear to forward movement toward the promise of God.

Exodus 14 opens with God commanding Moses to turn back and camp in front of the Red Sea. This is interesting because He goes on to explain to Moses that Pharaoh is going to come after Israel, regretting his decision to set them free, but that God will get the glory so that Egypt will know He is God. Moses and the people of Israel obey God’s command to camp in front of the Red Sea, but Scripture is not clear as to whether Moses relayed all of the details of his conversation with God to the people. In other words, we do not know if they realized that God intentionally placed them between the sea and their enemy. However, Israel’s lack of awareness did not change God’s sovereignty in their circumstances.

As Pharaoh and his army draw near, Israel freaks out. Remember the nation that came out of Egypt equipped for battle but not ready for war? Remember why God took them the long way around, because He knew if they encountered war they would want to go back to Egypt? He knew they would want to return to Egypt and He was exactly right. Fear will always want us to go in the opposite direction of our calling. Israel knew the promised land was on the other side of the Red Sea, but they were stuck between Egypt and the sea. Israel forgot the reality of the harsh bondage they experienced in Egypt and glorified the familiar in their fear. Fear will always glorify the familiar while glossing over the miserable parts. Fear will always cause you to focus on what you know and see, forgetting the God who knows and sees ALL things.

Moses redirects the people’s vision by speaking truth they so desperately needed to hear in their moment of panic. He reminds them that God did not bring them into the wilderness, on the brink of the promise, to leave them hanging:

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. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. {Exodus 14:13-14 ESV}

God also responds to Israel’s fear, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”

God was moving mightily on Israel’s behalf but required Israel to move on their behalf as well. He was not going to rescue them by an offensive attack on Egypt because Israel’s rescue was woven into their forward movement. Fear calls us back to the familiar. Faith calls us forward towards the promises of God. God makes a way where there was no way as He splits the Red Sea. He knew that Israel would be tempted to move backwards, so He calls them forward.

Israel’s forward movement was only possible with God, as it meant complete trust on God’s ability to rescue and provide for them. Forward movement meant that God, not Israel, would get the glory. God promised to fight for Israel with threefold purpose: to glorify Himself in Egypt, to glorify Himself in Israel, and to glorify Himself in the world so that all nations may know Him. God understood what Israel would soon learn: that where He is glorified therein lies their best interest.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians…Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses. {Exodus 14:30-31 ESV}

It was and always is the Lord who saves. The Lord conquered Israel’s greatest national fear; completely freeing them from the threat of Egypt. As He continued to reveal Himself to Israel, their misplaced fear became appropriately placed faith. Israel could walk forward into the promises of God with faith and confidence that God would make a way before them because of His rescue, might and grace towards them in the past.       

We can fear not, stand firm, and watch God work out His salvation in our lives as we move forward towards the promises He has given us. We can trust that God will continue to make a way where there does not seem to be one because of His past performance, His unchanging character and His love for us. We can rest in the sovereignty of God even when our circumstances do not feel peaceful, familiar, or comfortable, because our best interest will always rest in His glorification. We can, as Moses did for Israel, encourage one another in the midst of anxiety to fix our focus on Jesus and move forward into the calling He has placed on our lives.



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