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. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
The difference between Moses’ tone speaking to the people of Israel, and God’s tone speaking to Moses is somewhat humorous to me. Moses, it seems, it attempting to sooth the ears of newly liberated Hebrews. His words are comforting and based on the strength and power of God. Moses tells the people to quiet themselves because God is with them and He hasn’t brought them out of Egypt to let them be killed by Egyptians. In fact, Moses prophetically predicts such an overwhelming victory that day that the Egyptian army would become a mere memory.
As surely as Moses was attempting to take the stinger out of Israel’s arm, God then has a word with Mo. In the tone from God here, there seems to be a bit of exasperation. “Nice job with the pep talk sheep-farmer, now all the people are sitting in circles talking about their feelings. Get them up and get them moving!” God seems to have no qualms calling this hippy-love-fest exactly what it is: the wrong moment to get comfortable. Just because God is going to do something miraculous we are not allowed to abdicate our responsibility to do the normal things.
Victory, in the Biblical sense is multi-layered. If we need to be starkly reminded of this then we have to look no further than the cross of Christ. Victory at Calvary was the most bizarre and seemingly backward way to win anything in the history of the world. But, truly, that kind of situation is not unusual in the Scriptures. God is a mighty warrior, He has never been bested in battle, He is the ultimate fighter, the untamable lion, the impregnable defense, and the master general. He can win any battle with the blink of His eye or the word of His mouth. There is not foe that can stand in front of Him without being overwhelmed with fear and shot through with terror. The strongest among the ranks of humanity, as well as the angels, are less than no match for the swing of His sword. His existence is inextricable tied together with the idea and the reality of victory, success, and rule. But with all of that being said, and believed, He is not a God that destroys opponents so that those He rescues can do the same things they were doing before just with more comfort.
When God comes in to fight our demons, our problems, and sometimes ourselves, He does it with the understanding that we are to move forward based on His success. Jesus doesn’t win battles so His people can remain static.
We have misunderstood the point of victory if we are content to build cities on the battlegrounds. Battlegrounds are passageways and avenues that lead us to our destination, they are not the destination themselves. The true “spoils of war” are not found on the battleground, but in the land that is promised beyond the fight. When God moves in power, when He mobilizes His sword, we ought to be compelled to go forward, to advance in the confidence that can only come from knowing that the battle is the Lord’s.
There is a scene in Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” story that is a beautiful picture of this. Aragorn, Limli, and Legolas find themselves in a stronghold in a place called Helm’s Deep with King Theoden and his men. They are completely surrounded by thousands upon thousands of the forces of evil, and those imps are working a battering ram at the door of the stronghold. The realization has settled on the faithful few as to their predicament, and their limited future. The fight is gone from Theoden, he is worn down and tired and he knows that they cannot win a sword to sword fight against their enemies. The night has drawn on and on and the rhythmic pounding of the ram against the door is accompanied by the sound of splintering wood. This is the dark night of their soul.
But as Aragorn and Theoden fight against despondency, Gimli looks at the high window and simply states, “the sun is rising.” Suddenly Aragorn remembers the words of Gandalf: “Look to my coming at the first light on the fifth day…at dawn, look to the east.” It is in this moment that everything changes. There is nothing particularly different about their situation, there are no more reinforcements in sight, there are still the same amount of men and the same amount of swords. But, against all odds, that simple sunrise brings hope. The confidence that the promise of one greater will not be broken is enough to mobilize the weary soldiers and cause them to ride outnumbered, outgunned, outstrengthed into the belly of the beast of evil. They knew that there was a promise on the horizon and nothing could stop them.
The victory that was promised in this scene could have been met with a dedication to sit tight, batten down the hatches, and wait for help. But it did no such thing. The glorious truth of knowing that the greatest Warrior is going to fight for us should always elicit a boldness to move.
We will find ourselves in battles everyday, today included, and the power to move doesn’t come from our own strength, but from the knowledge that God is fighting for us, that He cares for us deeply and His light is always on the horizon of the dark nights of our soul. With that knowledge may we move. Let us not see the victory of the Lord in our lives as an opportunity to sit still, but as God told Moses, “go forward”.
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:39 ESV
If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.
– Martin Luther King Jr