Exodus 14:13 “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.’”
“Do not be afraid.” Even before delivering these people from the Egyptians, the Lord wanted to deliver them from their fears. How many times don’t we hear the Lord or his agents express God’s intention to take our fear away? “Fear not!” the angels say to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, or the ladies at his tomb. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told the disciples just before he invited Peter to get out of the boat and walk to him on the water. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus came to free us from our fear of death, by which the devil has kept us in slavery to him.
Isn’t that the nature of the God we worship? Fear can be a very effective tool if you want to control someone else. How many evil dictators haven’t used that truth to stay in power? That also explains why Christianity is rarely welcome in their countries. Although Christian faith generally produces obedient citizens, it is hard to control people who have been freed from their fears.
But with fear, control is all you get. You do not trust someone you fear. You certainly cannot love them. Because our Lord wants to live with us in a relationship of trust and love, he comes to take our fears away. He does not stop at alleviating the fear of our enemies. He removes the terror he himself could hold over us. While he still promotes fear in the sense of respect, he wants us to know that he loves us. We can come to him with confidence, as we would go to a father or friend.
For God’s Old Testament people, this very story of God’s deliverance at the Red Sea would become the gold standard for understanding that the Lord was someone they could trust and love. He cared about them and delivered them. They didn’t need to be afraid every moment of their lives. For us, the life and death of Jesus reveals just that much more clearly that the God of all grace delivers us and frees us from our fears.
Deliverance from fear comes just because he delivers us from our enemies. Moses continues, “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” I think you all know how this story ends. Israel walks through the middle of the Red Sea on a dry path that miraculously appears in the middle of the waters. But when the Egyptian army tries to follow them, the waters close in and drown them all. The Lord turned an impossible situation and certain death into complete victory and deliverance from their enemies.
For us, the great story of God’s salvation lifts our eyes to a cross where our God is hanging in indescribable anguish, dying for our sins. It looks as though he is suffering total defeat at the hands of his enemies. Then we see that Jesus lives again, body and soul, the conqueror of sin and death. His grave is empty, his fight is finished, his victory is secure. As a result, it’s not the Egyptians, but the sins you see today that you will never see again. Christ has taken them away, drowned them in the waters of your baptism, freed you from their slavery, locked them away in your past where they can never trouble you again. He has turned death into a safe path through the skies, leading all the way to the safety of heaven. None of your enemies can follow you there. The same death that brings you deliverance washes over them bringing only defeat.
And as with Israel, God does everything for us in his grace. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). Not a single Israelite drew a sword in the crossing of the Red Sea, or shot an arrow or threw a spear. That’s still how his saving gifts work. He gives us forgiveness. He gives us eternal life. He gives us the very faith that receives it. He gives us patience to endure hardship, wisdom to turn to him, and peace that he will turn all things for our good. “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
A little proverb about life and success says, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” That couldn’t be more true if who you know is the Lord. Look to him, and he will deliver you.