God Provides a Way

Posted on 08 Jul 2019

Exodus 14:10-16

God Provides a Way

 

This summer we have been reading from the Old Testament book of Exodus. It’s the second book of the Bible and it tells the story of the people of Israel, their imperfect leader Moses and their enslavement in and departure from Egypt. Departure or exit is literally what the word Exodus means and today we finally get to hear about their exit from Egypt.

Friend’s let’s get our ears, hearts and minds ready to hear God’s word. Let us pray,

God open our ears to hear your word to us, without distraction or judgment

God open our minds to see you in new ways

God open our hearts to be changed by your actions in the world

God ready our feet so that once we have heard and been changed, we may follow You as we continue on this journey.

Amen

 

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.  But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground.

Imagine yourself in this story: your whole life you’ve lived under the anxious presence of the Pharaoh and worked endlessly to keep up with his demands.[1]  Your experiences of rest and autonomy have been limited. So as you are escaping from Egypt and you see Pharaoh’s army getting near, you question your leader and say that you would have rather have stayed in Egypt because at least there you’d have a grave. In the face of fear and possibly death, you’d rather be back in the place where you knew what you could expect (even if what you could expect was not so good). Your heart races, tears well up in your eyes, you look back and forth in a panic, no time to think about how there ever could be a way out of this.

 

Again and again I am moved by Moses’ response to the people…

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”[2]

Powerful, timeless words.

“Do not be afraid,” a phrase repeated throughout the Bible when God’s people are faced with something totally unbelievable. Do not be afraid, God’s messengers say, be assured of God’s faithfulness here and now.

“Stand firm.” Not a call to fight but rather to trust God and ready yourself for what God is about to do. In other words, take your stand and remember that where you stand is with the Lord.

“You have only to keep still.” Now this one really caught my attention. I had to look a little further in order to discover that this is not a command from God to be passive in the face of oppression & let Pharaoh’s army plow right over. 

First, this stillness implies that the main one in action here is GOD not the people[3]. Being still is a lesson in humility (that salvation is in God’s hands, not yours).

Second, “Be still” is an orientation that God desires to guide the Israelites on their next steps. This won’t be the last time the Israelites are anxious or wondering where their deliverance will come from, so the Lord gives them a foundational perspective for the journey. This perspective (though often forgotten) would carry them through the Red Sea, through the wilderness for 40 years, into the promised land and even through their years of exile.  To be still is to let your spirit rest on God’s promise to deliver and to save. To be still is to notice the ways God is at work in the extraordinary, frightening and ordinary moments of life.

 

Sometimes when we are constantly working and trying to control our own way forward (or when an oppressor has controlled our way) we get wrapped up in anxiety, anger and fear. When we think the work is all up to us, we neglect to notice and give credit to the way that is only possible with GOD.

[Jar illustration]

While on a mission trip this summer, we stopped at a place called the 24/7 house of prayer in Charlotte. Each room is filled with stations to help you spend time in conversation with God. It is always one of the highlights of our mission weeks in Charlotte. I think partially because our youth (and yes even their adult leaders) rarely take time to be still and spend time only with God. At the prayer house youth often discover that there are different ways to talk with God that they didn’t know about before- journaling, writing on sticky notes, watching tablets dissolve in water or by making watercolor paintings. Just inside the entrance there was a station that many missed. It had a rock that said, “PAUSE.”  Then you shook up a jar similar to this….

 

Then the reflection read, “Like the contents of this jar, when you’re in constant motion, it is difficult for your soul to truly settle down. But if you let yourself chill and be still with God for a bit, you may find you’re able to see things about your life more clear, and even see and hear God better as God offers input, fuel, peace and practical resources for the now and the what’s ahead. In this prayer room, you can wander around like a visitor at a museum. Instead, we recommend that you slow down and let yourself settle into the experiences prepared for you here.   God is here. And God will connect with you here, if you let God. Let God.”

This reflection made me wonder- have I been walking around life sometimes like it was a museum- glancing at each exhibit just so that I could say, “Yeah, I’ve been to that museum, it’s great!”?  It also made me wonder,  have there been moments when I’ve been too afraid or too concerned with my own ideas to see God making a way forward?

I don’t know about you, but to these questions it’s easy for me to answer “yes.” In this day and age, we can be quick to vent to our friends, make excuses for ourselves, complain on social media or put the blame on someone else. But that moves us no where. Sometimes we need to be still in order to move forward.

Today in our sanctuary I imagine we have many generations present.

The Silent generation (born by 1945)

The Baby Boomers

Gen X

Millennials

Gen Z (those born after 1996)

Each generation has general defining characteristics. Since I spend most of my time at DPC with the GenZ generation I wanted to share with you some of what I’ve read[4] and noticed.

 

From the outside this generation appears to be hooked on technology, they’ve never know life without it. They can’t stand quiet and are almost always listening to music. They are aware of so many ideas, events and people around the world. They are active voters (or soon to be) and make their voices heard through posts, poems or protests. They multitask well and can learn most any task they want to from YouTube videos.  I’ve noticed that the baseline levels of busyness, anxiety, and stress are much higher for this generation and at least in our area, I know substance abuse is much higher too. Many of their extracurricular activities are enriching and empowering. But, they are bound in culture where they are taught by to be constantly working toward goals in order to receive the best rewards. Work and grades follow them everywhere, even during the summer and until 2am on a school night. Fears of school shooters, suicides, and the future run rampant among our teenagers in Gen Z.[5]

It is scary to me how much the fears and anxieties of the ancient Israelites standing there at the the Red Sea, relate to feelings experienced by our youngest today.

Some days I wonder- how could God ever make a way through this? The pressure to keep up is too great, our kindergartners are doing active shooter drills and we as the adults have bought into this culture too. How could God ever provide a way?

Yet, this summer on our youth trips, I have caught glimpses of God providing a way through the busy lives of our teenagers.

At Montreat I witnessed our youth enjoying and craving quiet time. One brave person asked for more of it so we spent 10 minutes each morning in solitude on the front porch of our house. We also spent extra time lingering beside the creek, on the mountain top or on the hill by the lake.  In this I witnessed God making a way through the busyness and noise to speak peace into our lives and reminding us how valuable our lives are, especially when shared together.

This summer at Montreat many in our group were still heavily grieving the death of one of our own. Though I tried to plan and anticipate, I did not have the capacity to provide a way through this for our youth or myself. But God worked through worship, small groups, conference leadership, adult chaperones and the gifts and vulnerability of each of our youth. In this, I witnessed God providing a way in the midst of our grief. I watched youth laugh, cry, hug, and in the same day enjoy intense card games or carefree match of frisbee. I heard youth share their heartache and untold stories and I saw God working to bring peace, advice and comfort to the burdens that lay on their shoulders. It was as if God said to us, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” 

I noticed God providing a way for our mission teams in Charlotte too. Youth overcame fears and anxieties to sit at tables with recovering addicts, children at summer camps, and adults with disabilities.  God provided a way for our youth to see themselves and others in new ways.

To stand firm and be still and just watch all of this this summer has been has been to catch a glimpse of the redemptive loving community God has been creating in our midst.

God has used some of us as vehicles or literal vehicle drivers…but God has been doing so much more in the midst of GenZ than we ever could on our own. In the midst of a generation where many do not care much for church/religion, our youth have found a home and family at DPC and show great commitment and leadership.

God has provided a way for healing, community and faith to be alive and growing even in the midst of anxieties, busyness and fear.

How have you noticed God providing a way through worries and fears in your life?

How might God be paving a new way of salvation through the busyness and fear of our world?

Or have we yet to still ourselves long enough to notice how God is already at work?

 

As we journey on, how we stand and how we still ourselves will be a testimony to who we believe God is and what we believe God is capable of doing.[6] It will be a testimony to future generations and current ones of either the fear or trust that guides us.

In Scripture we see God’s power provide a way and today our challenge is to trust that in new and surprising ways, God is already providing a way for us. 

God knows that some need released from the chains of poverty and others from the pressures of achievement. Some need a clear path through pain and others a release from anxiety, insecurity or pride.

Be still. Stand firm. Do not be afraid.

“If you’ve got pain…God’s a pain taker

If you feel lost God’s a way maker

If you need freedom or saving, God’s a prison shaking Savior

If you’ve got chains, God’s a chain breaker”[7]

 

God will provide a way, and we trust that God already is. May we have the courage to be still enough to notice. 

Amen.

Rev. Allysen Schaaf

Associate Pastor for Youth and their Families
Decatur Presbyterian Church
 

 [2] Exodus 14:13-14, NRSV

[3] Blenkinsopp, Joseph, Terence E. Fretheim, Walter Brueggeman, and Walter C. Kaiser. The New Interpreters Bible. General Articles on the Bible, General Articles on the Old Testament, the Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, the Book of Leviticus. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.

Fretheim, Terence E. Interpretation. A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1991.

[4] Stucky, Nathan T. Wrestling with Rest: Inviting Youth to Discover the Gift of Sabbath. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2019.

[5] Stucky, Nathan T. Wrestling with Rest: Inviting Youth to Discover the Gift of Sabbath. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2019.

[6] Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017.

[7] Song sung by Triennium Band leaders, 2019