My oldest daughter was going through a particularly challenging time recently. As I sat down to pray for her early one morning, I remembered her Confirmation verse, Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (NIV) Powerful words of encouragement to cover a particularly difficult time in my daughter’s early young adult life. Powerful words that originated from the mouth of Moses to the Israelites who looked up and saw the Egyptian army marching after them and the Red Sea looming before them. Trapped. Or, so they thought. That had to be terrifying.
But there’s more to the story.
Verse 15 says, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” After God instructs, He tells Moses what is about to happen and twice He declares, “I will gain glory.” Then comes verses 19-20.
It’s a short paragraph. Three sentences tucked away between what is about to happen and what will happen. “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.”
Picture this: The angel of God, whom God had commanded to travel with the Israelites, withdraws from the front, slips out of position, and moves behind them. Then God Himself, in the form of the pillar of cloud, His mighty Presence before them, now moves behind as well, providing a protective covering of light for them to travel, but a wall of darkness to keep them safely apart from their enemies. Protection before them and behind them. The Israelites are hemmed in. Covered. Fully protected. God is fighting for them. His Word is true. In Psalm 139:5, David writes, “You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” Now picture the faces of the Israelite men, women and children. God’s Holy Presence is surrounding them, His hand is upon them, and they’re about to witness an incredible miracle unfold, one they have yet to see.
In weather terms the cumulonimbus cloud, or thunderhead, is a pillar storm cloud of intense power and strength. This brings us to the month we celebrate the Reformation. Martin Luther penned this first line in the beloved hymn of faith, A Mighty Fortress, sometime between 1527 and 1529: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” A bulwark. A protective wall. A pillar of strength and might is He. And yet, in His great love and compassion, He continues to hem us in and rest His hand upon us as He did the Israelites. Even today, He whispers to our hearts, “I will fight for you. You need only to be still.” And when our souls quake, He reminds us, “Be still and know that I Am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Our theme for Resurrection Lutheran Church and Schools this year coincides with that of our synod: Joy:fully Lutheran. What joy we have in our Savior and Brother Jesus, who came so we could have life to the fullest (John 10:10). He covers our sins and lives to intercede on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). For His sake, the Father sees us clothed in robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), heirs to the Kingdom (Romans 8:17). Through the waters of Baptism we are declared children of God (1 John 3:1), guaranteeing us rooms in God’s heavenly mansion (John 14:2), guaranteeing us seats at the glorious banquet. What gifts from the Father. What undeserved love and favor!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, may we joyfully live each day, ever thankful and secure in the knowledge that we are hemmed in, fully known, fully protected, and fully covered by God’s mighty Hand of grace. May all that we do be a reflection of that joy, for His glory and His glory alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Serving Jesus with Joy,
Deb Oesterling, RLC Connections