Finding the time to Stand Still?
It isn’t easy to find time to think. Life is so busy and there is always such a lot to do. Even when on holiday there are places to go, things to see, shops to visit and meals to eat. It can be exhausting! Just sitting and thinking is seldom an option.
Sometimes we need to find time to take stock, especially when we are really stressed and times are hard. Fleeing refugees were once being pursued by their erstwhile slave masters when they came to an impassable barrier. What were they to do? Fortunately they listened to their leader and he gave them this startling advice:
“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever’”(Exodus 14:13).
As it happened the fleeing Israelites couldn’t do much else. The sea was in front of them and the Egyptian army was behind them, so they had to stand still. Then it was that God opened a way across the sea which enabled them to escape. Thus it was that Israel moved forward as a nation and reached Mount Sinai where God declared them to be His special people, through whom He would communicate to all nations.
Less than two years later, the infant nation assembled on the edge of the Promised Land and hesitated. God had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey and now they had to possess it, under His guidance. But they asked for a scouting party to be sent in first, so they could see what they were up against, and selected twelve men – one from each of their tribes – to go and spy out the land.
Their report was discouraging. Only two of the twelve recommended invading; the other ten said it could not be done. What was the nation to decide? Would they believe God and go forward in faith or would they falter and fail? They faltered, because they could not believe that God could do what He had promised and the result left them with a lot of time on their hands. Moses pleaded on behalf of the faithless nation and this is what God said:
“I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it”(Numbers 14:20–23).
The nation had been on the brink of entering the Land but because of their unbelief they were sent back into the wilderness for another 38 years until that entire generation died out. It was their children who eventually crossed the Jordan with Joshua and proceeded to conquer and cultivate the Promised Land. The promises had always been in place, but the faith wasn’t there to activate them. It was just as God had said at Kadesh Barnea. His promises would indeed be fulfilled, but only those who believed would see that fulfilment.
The people did not take the time to think things through when they had the opportunity but they now had a lifetime for reflection and regretful thought, and their experience is intended to teach us. For, in the New Testament, we read this inspired commentary on those far off happenings:
“With most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted … Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come”(1 Corinthians 10:5–11).
Reflecting upon Israel’s history many years later, King David urged his contemporaries to use their opportunity to believe in God, and he used a specific word, saying:
“Today, if you will hear His voice: do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness”(Psalm 95:7–8).
Israel had been hard-hearted in that they had not been willing to believe God but had made their own assessment of the situation and had followed their own reasoning. David was urging his subjects to think differently and was encouraging them to do that now – today, not tomorrow.
A thousand years later an inspired apostle looked back at David’s advice and repeated it for early Christian believers, for God’s promises have not changed with the passing years: they remain sure and certain. What He promised David, God will most certainly fulfill, but we have to believe if we want to be part of that new age to be established when David’s heir – the Lord Jesus Christ – returns to rule from Jerusalem. So what is the apostolic advice?
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…”(Hebrews 3:12–14).
Every day we need to make some time for serious thought about our lives and the lives of those we love. There is no better way of doing this than regular Bible reading and prayer. Find out about the promises of God and you will learn that God has an escape plan for mankind from all the problems that now beset our world.
Things may be getting worse year-by-year, but that should come as no surprise to Bible readers. They have to get worse before they will get better. But make no mistake! There are better times ahead and if we want to be part of those good times with God, we need to find the time now to think seriously about God’s offer of salvation.