Exodus 14 describes how the Israelites were caught between the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian army. In response to their characteristic complaining, Moses tells the people of Israel, "The Lord will fight for you, and you won't have to do a thing." (v. 14) Then, interestingly, God says to Moses, "Why do you keep calling out to me for help? Tell the Israelites to move forward. (v. 25) So the nation of Israel is hopelessly jammed, from a human viewpoint, but the message they receive is "God will take care of this as you rest and watch; just move forward." Forward? Toward the sea? Yes! Move forward toward your obstacle, in faith in God.
But why does God rhetorically ask Moses, "Why do you keep calling out to me for help?" Is that another version of Jesus' question, "Where is your faith?"
King Jehoshaphat prayed for help in combating powerful armies (2 Chronicles 20:8-12). God answered in a similar manner to His promise to Moses: "I will fight on your side!" (v. 15) and "You won't ever have to fight. Just take your position and watch the Lord rescue you from your enemy." (2 Chron. 20:17). Early next morning, Jehoshaphat's army "took their positions." The King, in confident expectation, appointed men to lead his army with praise songs: "Praise the Lord! His love never ends!" (v. 21)
God waited until the praise songs began, then He "confused" the enemy. They killed each other! When Jehoshaphat's army moved in to occupy the freed territory, it took three days to carry most of the valuables of the dead enemy back to Jehoshaphat's camp.
Here are some parallels between the deliverance of the Israelites and Jehoshaphat's army:
1) In both cases, "the battle is the Lord's." His followers were told to take their positions and watch, staying out of God's way.
2) The deliverance was done in the spiritual realm. Ephesians 6 explains our armor is spiritual as well as our weapons. Psalms 118:5-9 eloquently declares, "When I was really hurting, I prayed to the Lord. He answered my prayer and took my worries away. The Lord is on my side, and I am not afraid of what others can do to me. With the Lord on my side, I will defeat all of my enemies. It is better to trust the Lord for protection than to trust anyone else, including strong leaders."
3) Moses and Jehoshaphat prayed for help, however, they didn't tell God how to provide it. Who would have ever imagined God would send an all-night wind to blow the sea apart or have Jehoshaphat's enemies kill each other off out of confusion? As Jesus did many times, God tells us to "take our positions" and watch Him work, resting and trusting in Him.
These three points sum up a formula for an effective spiritual and prayer life, with one element still to be addressed. Psalms 46 describes a city "which is the sacred home of God Most High." The redemptive gift of Christ permits us to live in that sacred home, as we abide in Him and He in us. "God is in that city, and it won't be shaken. He will help it at dawn." (v. 5) Timing. The Hebrew for "dawn" points to the pre-dawn darkness at the end of a long night. That's just when God helps.
Abraham can speak of that just as his sacrificial knife was just a second from bleeding out his son. Peter can speak to that just as Jesus grabbed his hand as he started sinking into the water as his faith also sunk. God doesn't always move on finalizing our prayers at the time we expect, but He is never late. God is always on time, on His perfect timetable.
The city is also mentioned in Isaiah 26. "Our city is protected. The Lord is our fortress and He gives us victory. Open the city gates for a law-abiding people that is faithful to God. The Lord gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm. So always trust the Lord because He is forever our mighty rock." (v. 1-4)
Philippians 4:6-7 also describes this transcendent peace which is beyond understanding. This is not a circumstantial peace and it doesn't depend on our physical or emotional situation. When you experience this peace, you marvel because it doesn't make sense from the physical world view and it doesn't fluctuate. You are engulfed in it upon sleeping, upon awakening, and all through the times in between. Your dreams are even peaceful.
However, a crucial element in those verses is that "with thanksgiving" follows "By prayer and supplication." This reminds me of Jehoshaphat's praise singers leading his army. Unwavering faith, coupled with praise and thanks, framed by a trusting peace that our Lord gives us, is a prevalent theme of prayer and communion with God throughout the Scriptures. And as far as God's timing, "Everything on earth has its own time and its own season... God makes everything happen at the right time." (Ecc. 3:1-11)
"Only God can save me, and I calmly wait for Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and the fortress where I am secure... Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him... Trust God, my friends, and always tell Him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety." (Psalms 62)
Our loving Father wants us to understand and experience all that His prophets and teachers say about His ways and "turning to me." He even announces, "I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test... Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing... Everyone of every nation will talk about how I have blessed you... I, the Lord All-Powerful, have spoken!" (Malachi 3:10-12)
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © November 11, 2000
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