“You say, ‘I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity.’ – Psalm 75:2
Feeling a bit stuck and not sure what to do? No worries, you’re in good company. When the Israelites found themselves trapped between the Red Sea directly ahead and the Egyptian army following closely behind, they wondered the same thing. Exodus 14 tells the story of God’s people who were trapped in a difficult place and weren’t at all sure what to do about it. They worried, wondered, waited, and then finally moved at His command.
First, Moses told the Israelites to be still.
Moses answered the people, “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, NIV). Listen to me, Moses implores the people, don’t go anywhere, just hang out. Chill. Stay calm. Yes, it’s scary. Sure, you feel anxious. But stop fretting and watch what God will do. Good advice for those times when God is silent. Because sometimes, try as we might, we really can’t hear a thing. So be still.
A bit later things change dramatically; God commands Moses to get going.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:15-16).
Circumstances seen only by God fall into place, the situation is suddenly right and it’s time to move. The Lord in His wisdom wants Moses to take action, so He lets him know loud and clear. Moses obeys. He lifts his staff, the waters part and God’s people find themselves in the middle of a miracle.
So how do we know? At what precise time do we wait, and when exactly are we supposed to move? Conversations with God like Moses got way back when don’t happen today. Good thing the last chapter of Exodus gives us a little insight…
When the cloud was taken up over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all of their journeys (Exodus 40:36, NIV).
For the rest of the Israelites’ forty year trip to the Promised Land, God uses a heavy cloud to tell His people what to do. When the cloud lifts high above the tabernacle, the people know that it’s time to pack up and go. Did they know exactly where they were going? No. Did they have every detail of the journey ahead, the struggles and challenges they would encounter? Not quite. But they trusted that God did.
But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40:37).
Other times the cloud stayed put. The tabernacle was covered with a thick fog and could hardly be seen. This was God’s way of telling the people that the timing wasn’t right. Things had to be adjusted before they could move on, circumstances had to be set up perfectly for them. If things are foggy, if there is no direct direction, it’s simply not time to move. As difficult as it is to do nothing, sometimes doing nothing is the absolute best action we can take.
I love that God cares enough about our lives that He wants us to move, or be still, at just the right time. When things are clear, even if we can’t see the entire journey, we can trust Him with the first step. Whether it’s a job change, a move out of state, a new ministry, or simply a hobby, goal, desire or talent we start to pursue, we can rely on God with the get up and go. But when we are seeking and He isn’t speaking, it is time to be calm, rest in Him.
Have patience and watch what He will do. Whether it’s that still small voice of the Holy Spirit, a change in circumstances beyond our control, or scripture that clearly gives direction, we know His voice when we hear it. Our only job is to listen, and obey.
♡ Kathryn O’Brien is author of children’s picture books and writes for Proverbs 31 Woman.
If you like this story, you’ll love this too → Waiting on God for Mr. Right
Sign up for Proverbs 31 Woman newsletter!