Scripture passage: Exodus 14:5-20 (NIV)
Exodus 14:19 “Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them.”
The Israelites had just left captivity from Egypt and were heading out to who-knows-where. They were following a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night as their guidance, and in Ex 13:22 we read that “Neither … left its place at the front of the people.” The Egyptians realise they’ve made a terrible mistake by letting their labour force leave and so Pharaoh, with all his chariots and army set off to recapture their slaves.
When the Israelites see the approaching army they are terrified (v10) and decide they would be better off back in captivity. The angel of God, and the pillar of cloud relocated from the front of the people to be their rear guard and stand between them and the approaching army.
The Israelites were initially delighted at the prospect of embarking on this adventure of freedom, that is until they come to their first obstacle. With the Red Sea before them and Pharoah’s approaching army behind them they focus on what was, rather than what could be.
This is where God steps in, with an assurance that “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” (v14) The Angel of God and the cloud pillar are deployed as a barrier between the Israelite’s past and their future.
How often do we look back and long for the days of old when life in the ‘now’ is a bit tough? How often do we look to the past when the future seems scary and unknown? We may embark on a new venture with enthusiasm and promise but then get stuck when things aren’t happening as we expect. That’s when we need to allow God to fight for us.
What that does require from us, however, is to stand still. It means to stop trying to fix it in our time, strength, ideals and allow God to be in the battle for us. When necessary, He will become our ‘rear guard’. It’s not always those in front of us that attack, but aspects of our past that trip us up. Those times when we haven’t been obedient, or understood what God required of us and as a result have made choices we regret.
When we focus on our defeats we are less able to witness God’s victories! Choose today to allow Him to step in to fight for you.
Almighty Father God, just as you were with the Israelites of old we know you are with us, your people in this day. For the chariots that are approaching us we ask that you be our rear guard so that we keep our eyes where you want us to look. Help us to be still and allow you to fight. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen