A couple of days ago, my oldest child and I went to worship with a friend of mine at the church he serves as Rector. He is a priest in the Anglican tradition.
The liturgy for the service was The Great Vigil of Easter. (If you are interested in reading the liturgy for yourself in starts on page 582 of the Book of Common Prayer 2019)
It is the service that ends the season of Lent and the corresponding fast and initiates the season of Easter. It was a beautiful service and was actually the first time I was able to participate in one.
The general format of the service follows a series of lessons from the Old Testament, each accompanied with a psalm and a prayer. The lessons are followed by a message and then the celebration of the Eucharist (or Lord’s Supper). It’s a simple structure, but it can certainly pack a punch when we stay engaged and pay attention to what is happening!
The purpose of the lessons is to lead us from creation through the fall and then through the story of deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt. From there the promises of God for salvation are shared as we get ready to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
With each lesson, we are given a clearer picture of the story of God’s redemptive plan.
One story in particular stuck with me. It is the retelling of God’s deliverance of the people as they stand with the Red Sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other. The selection is a bit longer in the service, but here is the paragraph that really captured my imagination.
10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:10-14 ESV)
A Curious Problem
The part of the story that stood out was verse 14: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
As I was listening to the reader, when they said this line a thought popped into my head.
"How many times do I talk back to God rather than be silent as he fights to deliver me?"
When we are talking it is very difficult to listen. When we are talking we are also not able to pay attention to what is happening around us. Our minds are so engaged and focused on what we are doing it is difficult to see or hear anything else.
It can be tempting to try and figure out everything God is working out. The biggest issue with this is that it just isn’t possible. But that temptation is also a trap.
When we are not able or willing to trust God to do what he has said, we are exposing a deficiency in our faith. That deficiency being that we have a hard time trusting God at all, at least in the area that we are questioning God about.
A Dangerous Attitude
I am not saying that we can’t consider and wonder what God is up to. That is not it at all. What I am saying is that our desire to know every aspect of God’s plan is thinking we can sit in his chair and make the “big” decisions. This attitude is a childish form of hubris and it’s a mistake.
If we know that God is going to do something, we need to let God do it. How he is going to make it happen is not really our problem. And we should not make it our problem. But too many of us do.
The number of variables that God is considering and dealing with would literally make our heads explode. But that doesn’t stop some of us. We rush right in and we question not only God’s motives but his affection. We even go so far as to question God’s competence.
A Time to Hush
I don’t have a tendency toward telling God how to do his job. I never have. But I felt the weight of this story and the verse in particular.
For better or worse, I know there are times and places in my life where I speak when I should be silent. Not because what I would say or do would be wrong or a sin.
I should be silent because God is going to do something that will be remembered and celebrated for all eternity.
My silence gives me the space I need to see the wondrous works of God in the world around me and in my life.