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Being Still

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Being Still

The other day I wrote about the dragons that we all fight as we battle through life. In Exodus 3, God had a beautiful land waiting for the Israelites but they would have to fight their way through a desert to get there. We all have choices to make every day, battles of temptation to overcome every day. I’ve often said that being a Christian is not for the proverbial timid church mouse. Today I am reading in Exodus 14 and came across this verse:

The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still. Exodus 14:14

I think of all the times in the Bible that men like David and Joshua and countless others led the Israelite army into battle and realize that there are just as many times that they are told to “be still” and let God do his thing. So I wonder how do you know when to step up and fight and when do you need to “be still”.

Just today a friend was telling me that several times in devotionals ever the last two days, she had read verses that emphasized the need to be still. She felt that it meant her need to stop the hectic pace of her daily life and just rest in Christ. This is how I have always viewed verses about being still and it’s a very important practice that should be the foundation of your daily prayer life. But reading this verse in the middle of the very active story of the Israelites flight from Egypt, the whole idea of “being still” seems a bit out of place.

Then I realized something that has been nibbling at the edges of my thoughts as I read these passages about Moses in Exodus. There were times when Moses was called to do battle with Pharoah and there were times when he was told to lay low.

“Stretch out your arm”,

“Stretch out your staff”,

“Stand before Pharoah and say…”

These are all the things that Moses had to do before God would “lay bare His holy arm, in the sight of all the nations, and the end of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10). Moses had to make a choice each day about whether he would obey God. God sent plagues, pillars of fire and parted a whole sea but always allowed Moses to make his own choice first.

I’ve come to think that the dragons that we face in daily battle are the choices we must make in response to the temptations that we do battle with. Every day, in multiple ways, we are faced with the choice of whether or not we will follow God. As we slay each dragon another may rise up and we will fight again and again. What we need to keep in mind is that as difficult and dangerous as our individual battles may be, Jesus has already fought the biggest battle of all. The cross is the place where He won, and where we should be still. We have nothing to prove, there is nothing more to do and we can rest in assurance that Christ has prepared everything for us. That battle has been fought, swords have clashed and He has won. In that, I can be still.

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Be still before the LORD, all mankind… Zechariah2:13

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Fighting Dragons

dragon drawingThe Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey- the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”

Exodus 3:8

The Israelites were in trouble. They were being held in slavery because the Egyptians were afraid of them. God, who is always merciful, hears and responds to their pleas for help. This story is often used as one of encouragement. I, too, have thought of the the story of the Exodus and felt renewed hope for a personal struggle. But we usually only read the first part. We stop reading right after God promises to rescue His people. And why not? That’s the good part. That’s the part where we can draw reassurance from. But it’s not the end of the verse. God promises to lead them to a wonderful land “flowing with milk and honey”. Notice that God doesn’t just promise the necessities, like bread and water. He’s offering luxuries to a desperate people. But there’s a problem. Because this land is a fertile area, others have settled there during the Israelites absence. And those people may not be willing to step aside and let these ex-slaves take over prime real estate. Israel will be leaving one brutal exsistence only to step into a time of violent war to secure what God has promised them. Doesn’t sound like God is doing much “rescuing” here. In fact, it sounds downright cruel, but that’s only because we don’t understand the larger picture. Reading the story now from the comfort of my couch, I can reread parts or skip ahead and only then can I see God’s hand throughout this. God does have a purpose for everything He does and can draw something positive out of everything that He puts us through.

Let’s take a closer look at the story. Why were they in Egypt anyway? Weren’t they supposed to stay in the land the God had promised to Abraham? If you recall, they left during a time of famine to find food. At this point in their history, we see the sons of Jacob intermarrying with the Canaanites and the family is in danger of losing their relationship with God as they interact with other cultures. The exile into Egypt actually forces them to depend on God as never before. When they return to Canaan, after years of slavery and another 40 years wandering the desert, they now know exactly where their strength and safety come from. They have been transformed from a ragtag family group to an army of faith-filled warriors. They will still make mistakes and unwise choices but they have learned to depend of God.

That has been a great lesson for me. Sometimes when I find myself in a bad situation, I have to remind myself that God is still there. He is still protecting me and most likely has a lesson for me so I better start paying attention. The problem for me is that I tend to equate God’s rescue with putting me in a place of safety and are then disappointed when I find that I still have problems to face and dragons to fight. I’ve come to realize that God does not keep trouble from happening. Trouble is what living in a fallen world is all about. God will help us, strengthen us and even rescue us from those dragons. He may also send us right back out there to fight a new dragonfiery dragon. This is where I get confused and cry out, “Lord, why me?” Sound familiar? It’s hard to remember that whatever comes at us is always either from His hands or at least, allowed by His hand, perhaps a consequence from your own actions. The trick is to learn to trust that hand. Even when we aren’t allowed to see down the road to prepare for those dragons that await us – trust that God’s hands are holding you, protecting you, guiding you through it. Whether you are able to enjoy the ride or are just clinging to the hem of His robe (been there!) – hang on! Sometimes He will take us out of one unhealthy situation only to face another one, but we are safe with Him. Maybe it’s just that He defines “safe” differently than we do.

dragon-1And keep in mind that dragons are just imaginary creatures – God is very real!