“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14, NIV
I for one have heard it a million times. Whenever there’s chaos or confusion somewhere, whenever we’re not sure what to do or how we’re going to get through something, this seems to be one of those go-to verses that’s thrown out. I know I have taken comfort in it. I know it’s made me calm down and hand things over to God. And that’s so awesome and GOOD. But today, my mind is reeling after reading a different translation of this verse:
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ESV
This post is going to be a bit more informal and candid than usual, so let me just start out by saying that I’ve been falling in love with the ESV recently, particularly for study. I started using it all the time on my phone because of the Beth Moore studies I’ve been doing (I’m always doing a Beth Moore study – that’s another candid tidbit about me – she’s mentored me and taught me so very very MUCH, and I love her dearly). Anyway, for the past few years she’s been using the ESV for most of her studies, so I am using it too. All that to say, I really needed to get a paper copy of it because my phone just wasn’t quite doing the job, and last week, my husband got me a beautiful ESV Bible for my birthday, and I’m in love.
Today I’m in Houston for a brief little getaway, and, candidly (as that seems to be the theme right now) I am dealing with a LOT of crap in my life (sorry for the language, but you know – it seems appropriate this time). So for the past couple of hours I’ve been searching the Word for hope and maybe kind of journal-wrestling with God a little bit, too (that’s how you wrestle-pray when you’re in a public place…when I’m at home it’s a tad bit noisier). As per usual, I decided that the healthiest thing for me to do is to find Scriptures to help center my mind and heart back on truth – and this one – this “you need only be still” naturally came up.
But I have this new Bible, see. And I wanted to underline the verse, see. And maybe make a note or two. But then I opened to this Scripture and I saw this new word: SILENT. Not still…SILENT. And I was taken aback. Because, you know, silent to me seems very VERY different than STILL. Some of my best fights have been fought sitting still in a chair. Why? Because my mouth can keep running while I’m sitting there. I didn’t know what to think when I saw this word silent because I had just spent about an hour talking to God and telling Him how desperate I am, and how much I need to see Him come through for me. And I thought to myself, wait a second – is He telling me to shut my mouth??
Naturally, me being me and needing to get to the bottom of things, I decided to look into this some more. So I pulled out my concordance (no, I don’t carry around a 10-lb tome in my backpack – though I wouldn’t put it past me – but I do have Strong’s Concordance on my phone. It’s a $5 investment well worth making!!) and I looked up this Scripture to find out if I should be still or silent, because these are very different and I needed to know!! Here’s what I found out:
The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. (KJV)
“…for you, and ye shall hold your peace” is the Hebrew word,
חָרַשׁ – charash
I. to cut in, plough, engrave, devise [we won’t look at this definition this time around :)]
II. to be silent, be dumb, be speechless, be deaf
i. to be silent
ii. to be deaf
i. to be silent, keep quiet
ii. to make silent
iii. to be deaf, show deafness
When I saw this my mouth literally hung open. I could not believe my eyes. Could resting in the fact that God is fighting for me be more about my silence than my stillness? You know what – I think the answer may be YES.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I have been sitting still. Trust me, this is a big deal in and of itself. By nature I am a go-getter, a doer, an achiever, so this season I’ve been in of having to settle down and literally take care of just what is right in front of me, of not being able to run forward or really pursue the things I feel called to do has been hard and HUGE for me. Sitting still HURTS, but in the back of my mind I’ve kind of been like, “Ok God. I’m being still. I’m doing it! Come on – fight for me!” And my disappointment in facing the same really hard challenges every single day has knocked the breath out of me. Now listen, I KNOW in my head that God owes me nothing, that the mere facts that He has redeemed me and He Loves me are enough to get me from here to eternity, enough to thank Him forever and ever, because I don’t deserve any of that, and He has done this purely out of His great affection and a longing for redemption. At the same time, I think I’ve been facing this tension that many (if not most) believers face at one point or another – the tension of seeing something in the Word about what we should do (like “BE STILL”) to see what God CAN do (like “THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU”). But this equation has not seemed to be working for me. Seriously. Not. Working.
But this? This “be silent”? NO. I have definitely not been silent. If I’m not hashing things out with God, I’m hashing them out with my husband, this round and round, back and forth “ok what should we do? Should we do this? Should we do that?”…talking talking to God and to my husband, sometimes to my friends, not to mention the endless talking inside my own mind. And it’s all been driving me mad because I CANNOT FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO.
And now, I think God is really asking me to STOP TALKING. And when I look at these definitions in the Hebrew, I think He’s wanting to stop up my ears a bit, too, “to be deaf” particularly to the lies of the enemy that are swirling around me and causing me to feel so unsettled in the first place.
The context of this verse in Exodus 14 is this: the Israelites are poised at the edge of the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his vast army are marching straight toward them. The Egyptian army is described as a host of people with chariots and horses. This is a NOISY enemy bearing straight down on the Israelites who are standing on the shore a vast sea! So it seems they’re either going to be taken captive by the Egyptians or drown in the Red Sea. The clatter of a host of chariots and horses getting nearer and nearer was extremely difficult to ignore. But that’s what they’re being asked to do! To become deaf to the clattering advance of the enemy and to silence their mouths from panicked words.
God was saying, “BE QUIET and STOP LISTENING TO THE ENEMY. I AM FIGHTING FOR YOU. Don’t you see?? This isn’t about the enemy or the impassable sea. It’s about me. About my Love for you, about my promise to deliver you. And I CANNOT BREAK MY PROMISES. Calm down. Stop talking. I will do what I promised. I will finish this good work I have begun.”
For me today, this new perspective has sparked fresh courage in me. I am both convicted and excited, because I have been set free to:
1. Stop listening to the enemy. To become deaf to the sound of the advance of his hordes bearing down on me and my family, and to open my ears instead to the promises that God has spoken over us.
2. Be quiet. Wrestling in prayer is not always bad. There is of course much precedent for this in the Bible. But recently for me this endless wrestling has turned into my times with the Lord into moments of distress and despair because I’ve been so busy talking about the aforementioned advancing enemy and asking for God’s deliverance that I have not been able to calm down and rest in the fact that deliverance has been promised and therefore it is done. I can stop talking now. He knows. I’ve said enough. Now I can listen to HIM alone and simply watch Him fight for me. And oh what a relief that is.
I hope you feel relieved, too. Maybe you, like me, are standing at the edge of a seemingly impassable obstacle on one side and an enemy horde bearing down on the other. Let’s be deaf and dumb together now and watch God act.
And you know what?
I suspect one day very very soon we will be standing on the other side of that sea singing songs of deliverance, just like the Israelites.
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name…
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”
Exodus 15:1b-3, 13, ESV