The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. - Exodus 14:14
The Israelites are standing on the brink of freedom. They’ve been led out of slavery in Egypt due to no might of their own. All that stands in their way now is a great sea. But behind them is an approaching army, the greatest army in the world at that time. Pharaoh and his troops are heading straight for them with hardened hearts intent on enslaving them once again. It seems hopeless. There is no way out. On one side is a great sea and on the other is the Egyptian army. The Israelites begin grumbling and Moses has an answer: The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
The Lord is going to show his glory. And the Israelites job is to be quiet. That’s what we do in the presence of God. Our words are of no use. They are not worthy. We should be silent. But the Israelites could not stay silent for long. Their grumbling started up again shortly after this miracle.
God could have ended the Israelites there on that beach. He could have said, “That’s enough, which do you want: the ocean or the army? Take your pick.” But he didn’t do that. Instead he told them to be silent and he would fight for them. That’s who he is. He’s the Lord who fights for us – despite our grumbling. Our response should be silent awe. Too often it’s intense grumbling.
The Lord’s mercy is counterintuitive. If any human was god he’d have destroyed the Israelites a hundred times out of frustration. But God isn’t like that. He doesn’t stoop to our standards. He doesn’t grumble against us. He fights for us.
So what about silence? How can God still be so good to us in our grumbling though we should be silent before his majesty? Isaiah 53:7 says “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
God can be good to us because Jesus was silent for us. In the moment where silence was most necessary the crowds could not help themselves. They misunderstood who Jesus was. They were angry at what he said and did. Their pride welled up inside them. Sin reigned in their hearts and led to shouts of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And crucify him they did. Crucify him we did. And he was silent. When we couldn’t be silent he was silent for us. When we couldn’t stop our mouths from punishing him as severely as humanly possible he took the punishment for us so that the Father could welcome us back in. We don’t deserve this. This is ridiculous. This is other-worldly. This is stunning. This should leave us in silent awe. This is the gospel.