Fireworks on the Fourth of July

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13,14

The circumstances may vary from one person to another: dwindling finances, moving from one location to another, health issues, pursuing a new career path, retirement, questions on the education front. The list goes on and on. Still, wherever you find yourself, the commonality for all is that such circumstances can be quite unsettling, disorienting, confusing, leaving you in a quandary and perhaps quite befuddled.  

This is about the time we start asking all those “who, what, when, where, why and how” kinds of questions. Beneath the questions we might add those feelings of being completely out of control along with a dash of panic for good measure.

All of this has reminded me of the plight of the children of Israel. The Pharaoh of Egypt has set God’s chosen people free from the bondage of slavery. Marching forward under their leader, Moses, these former slaves are at the shore of the Red Sea preparing to enter the land their God has promised to give them.

There’s just one problem, though. This same Pharaoh has had a change of heart. Why on earth did he let these slaves go free? That change of heart demanded action! To to the dismay of the Israelites, Pharaoh and his chariots are in hot pursuit. No way is he going to allow those slaves to leave! For the Israelites there is “no where to run, no where to hide.”

What to do? What to do? What to do when there seems to be no way out? What to do when there is no clear sense of direction? What to do when everything is just up in the air? Which brings me to the subject of “fireworks on the Fourth of July” (or any other date for that matter.)

In another lifetime I was pastor of a house church. We met (you guessed it!) in a house. That house was located in a neighborhood. And for whatever (stupid!) reason we were meeting in the house, in the neighborhood on the Fourth of July. So guess what the nextdoor neighbor decided to do right in the middle of our service? True to form, he did what many Americans who bleed red, white and blue do in their back yard on the Fourth of July? He set off firecrackers!

Oh, but not to worry. One dear brother, panicked at the disruption of our service began to shout and scream in tongues in a futile attempt to drown out the cacophony next door. Naturally, I did the spiritual thing one does as a house church pastor given the situation. I told the brother to shut up!

Now perhaps this doesn’t sound quite as spiritual as Moses’ command to the  children of Israel in their particular dilemma. “Stand still!” he shouted to the hemmed-in souls caught between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. I suppose “Stand still!” does sound better than “Shut up!” Nevertheless, the sentiment is the same.

The children of Israel were terrified. Remember, they had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The fireworks next door to our house church service weren’t life threatening. Still, for one church member, it was upsetting! There was seemingly no escaping the “Bang! Pop! Pow!” of the mini fireworks show going on outside. What to do?

Now let’s bring this closer to home. What are you and I to do when the “fireworks” of our particular circumstances would cause us to run around like chickens with their heads cut off?  What do I do? What do we do? What do YOU do? Why “Stand still!” of course!  That’s the word of the Spirit when life brings us to our unique Red Sea experiences.

Here’s what one commentator has to say about Moses’ word of command to the children of Israel:

“Moses told the children of Israel to stop. This is often the Lord’s direction to the believer in a time of crisis. Despair will cast you down, keeping you down, keeping you from standing. Fear will tell you to retreat. Impatience will tell you to do something NOW! Presumption will tell you to jump into the Red Sea before it has parted. Yet as God told Israel he often tells us to simply stand still and hold your peace as he reveals his plan.

“Moses didn’t know what God would do. Yet, he knew what the result would be. He knew that God would save his people and that the enemies of the Lord would be destroyed. He could say to Israel, ‘The Lord will fight for you.” (David Guzik, Enduring; 12/16/2015)

Happy Fourth! (Or any other day for that matter!)

“By this I know your favor:
that my foes do not triumph over me.
In my integrity you have upheld me,
And have set me in your presence forever.”

(Psalm 41:11-12)

Barry Grecu

Barry has served in ministry over 40 years. As director and founder of Ministry Emmaus his passion is for the spiritual, psychological and vocational development of the believer that flows out of a growing awareness of one’s belovedness having been created in the image and likeness of God.

Barry holds BA degrees in Christian counseling and religious education and an MA in pastoral ministry. He is a certified spiritual director and member of Spiritual Directors International and holds certificates in missions debriefing, pastoral counseling and life coaching.  Barry has also served as a ministry consultant and has led spiritual formation programs, days of reflection and retreats both in the USA and overseas.

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