ADMONITIONS OF MOSES AND GOD
T. PIERCE BROWN
When we consider any great person of the Bible, we may raise the question, “Would you want to be like that person?” In every case, both the question and answer would have to be modified for it to be valid. How was Moses? How was David? How was Abraham? It depends on whether you are thinking of Moses at the time he killed the Egyptian and fled in fear, when he disobeyed God and struck the rock instead of speaking to it, or at some other time. In David’s case, it would depend on whether it was when he was on the roof looking down on Bathsheba and the subsequent days, or on the roof looking up to God in joyous, faithful praise. Even in Abraham’s case, it would depend on whether it was when he in faithful obedience demonstrated reliance on God, or when in fear he lied about his wife. One person about whom we would not need to have such qualms is Jesus. The only kinds of questions that might need to be raised if we say, “Do you want to be like Jesus?” would be such as, “Do you want to love your enemies enough to die for them?” That is, “How much like Jesus do you want to be?”
As I meditated on the question of being like Moses, my mind turned back to Exodus 14:13-15. “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will work for you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. Jehovah will fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Wherefore cried thou unto me? speak unto the children ofIsrael, that they go forward.”
Some would assume that Moses’ admonition to stand still and God’s command to go forward are contradictory. It is not necessarily so. The words “stand still” both in the Hebrew and Septuagint do not mean “stand in one place and do not move.” They refer to the attitude of standing firm, and are almost synonymous with “Fear not.” When we say, “Stand your ground,” we mean about the same thing. It is interesting to note as one visits various congregations and the song leader chooses, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus” he often asks the congregation to stand up when they sing it. We have no objection to standing up when we sing a song, but the implication that one stands up for Jesus merely by standing up in his pew may actually do damage to one’s spiritual insight and growth. The point I am making now is that one may sit down and stand up for Jesus at the same time. One may also stand still and go forward at the same time, in the sense that Moses used the term. One can stand on the promises while sitting on the premises.
These admonitions and encouragement from Moses and God in these three verses in Exodus 14 are all good for us today and fit together. First, “Fear not.” There are some things we are to fear, in the sense of having a holy reverence. When we are told to fear God and keep his commandments, the fear enjoined is not the craven fear, or feeling like a dog that slinks under the house fearful that his master is about to kick him. When in Ephesians 5:33 in the ASV, we find that the wife is to fear her husband, we should understand that the word does not always mean, “be scared of.” Here, when Moses exhorts them not to be afraid, he wants them to be confident of success. We do not need to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar to understand the difference in the kind of fear that would cause us to not run across a busy interstate highway in heavy traffic and the kind of fear that paralyze us and keep us from walking on a highway at all. It would be well for each of us to look at the various passages and contexts in the Bible in which we are commanded to fear and in which we are commanded not to fear, and learn to do each in the proper way at the right time.
As we have indicated, “stand still” meant to them about what Paul’s admonition means to us when we read in 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” When winds of adversity come upon us, or we have to face opposition from false teachers, we need to stand fast in the faith and acquit ourselves like men. That is, be strong and of good courage.
Then he said, “Ye shall hold your peace.” Whether he was giving a command or merely stating what would be the result when they realized God was fighting for them, the lesson is about the same for us. If and when we realize that regardless of what obstacles confront us, and how limited our own resources may be, when we become aware that God is for us, we can cease our murmuring, complaining and expressing fear and doubt. Again, as Paul put it in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” The words “hold your peace” in the Septuagint basically mean, “shut up.” They were to stop their complaining and fearful negative talk.
Then God said, “Go forward.” There is an important principle here. When we are confronted with something we fear, we can verbalize the fear, dwell on it and be paralyzed, or run from it. Or we can face the fear, move on and overcome it. In some cases we will discover, asRooseveltsaid in one of his fireside chats which meant so much to so many in the dark days of World War II, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Procrastination is not only a thief of time; it is a thief of faith, courage and achievement. Anytime we procrastinate and stand still when God has commanded us to go forward, we sin and fail to glorify Him.