To hold your peace can be the most difficult thing to do because it’s a command for absolute faith in God’s ability and willingness to intervene. The peace that passes all understanding is key to victory in Him.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
The idea of the God of the universe intervening on behalf of His people gives encouragement and faith-building assurance. While we won’t have the entire Egyptian army bearing down on us, we’ve all had moments when the forces of darkness are ranged against us. We’ve all wanted to cut and run or take matters into our own hands – even when we know that in our own strength and ability, we’re toast. There are moments when every believer is paralysed with fear or loses sight of the awesome truth that our God is so much bigger than everything else. We want to see God act for us but forget that a critical element of His supernatural intervention is that we stop trying to do it ourselves. Our verse today says ‘hold your peace,’ something we struggle with because it’s against the nature of the flesh.
What hold your peace really means.
These days, this isn’t really a familiar expression. Back in the old days it had the connotation of keeping quiet, as in to stop arguing or complaining. Spiritually, though, there’s a far deeper meaning that is easy to miss. It essentially means to hold fast to or hold onto your peace. This does not imply passivity, nor does it mean being peacemakers, e.g. in the context of a disagreement. The key word here is peace, which is God’s antidote to fear. It’s God’s peace which passes all understanding rather than ours. In the midst of whatever turmoil or trauma we might be facing, His peace is what grounds us and shores up our faith. It’s a peace that enables us to see Him rather than the circumstances and see His power instead of our weakness. This is what we need to hold onto in flood or fire.
The other side of this is expressed in God’s command to us to be still and know that He is God. Significantly, this is a shift of focus from self and what we feel or our reactions to Him. This isn’t simply inactivity or passivity. It’s an active, dynamic surrender to the sovereign power of God in every situation. The effect is to place us under His wings, to release His authority into the circumstances, and to remove self from interfering. When we are still we have His peace because we know that He is God, which means He’s willing and able to do what we cannot. Our peace comes from the assurance that all things work to the good of those who love Him. No matter what the outcome in the natural, He is a God of supernatural victory in everything when we hold fast to His peace.
Hold your peace is the antithesis of self-control.
One thing we can be sure of is that if we hang onto the problem, God won’t work. He’ll never push His way in and thrust us aside. So long as we exercise self-control in a situation, His intervention will be limited by what we release to Him. So often, we yodel for help when there’s no room for Him to move. We fling the problems at Him and then yank them back because we feel insecure unless we’re hanging onto them. But He wants us to hold onto Him. His words are hold your peace not hold the problem. Yet we hang on and then whine at Him when He doesn’t do what we expect. Having grown up believing that I could only ever depend on myself made this truth a very difficult one for me to take hold of, and I know I’m not unique in this.
The Bible mentions self-control as a fruit of the Spirit. This refers to controlling self so we live by the spirit rather than by the flesh. Negative self-control is when we allow the dictates of self to drive our lives and circumstances – control by self rather than controlling self. This panders to the need to have control, a human weakness that denies our weaknesses. When we remain in control, we feel secure. In reality, we may be totally overwhelmed. The situation may be totally beyond our control. But so long as we convince ourselves that we’ve ‘got this,’ self controls the situation and denies God access. It’s incredibly hard to hold your peace, step back, and relinquish it all to God – even when we know we simply cannot do it. Survival says we have to hang on. The problem is what we hang onto.
Hold your peace is a key to victory.
We can only imagine how those Israelites must have felt seeing the approaching army. They weren’t soldiers at that point. Those men, women, and children had lived as slaves and really were wholly unprepared to face a disciplined, trained force. Not only that, but there was this nice wide ‘road’ leading straight to them through the Red Sea and the inhospitable desert on the other side. No place to run and no place to hide. But God tells them unequivocally, through Moses, ‘you shall hold your peace’ and leave no room for argument. Shall is an imperative. It’s not negotiable. Why did God tell them in no uncertain terms that He would fight and they should step back and be quiet? It seems ludicrous, especially when we consider what they were actually facing. Would any of us zip it and stand back with army tanks bearing down on us?
Human instinct is always to do rather than be, yet hold your peace was key to the victory God accomplished. For one thing, it made a powerful statement – no running, no screaming, and no frenetic activity. The Egyptians no doubt thought they had them trapped and easy prey. More importantly, though, it shows every believer what God is able to accomplish when we quit interfering and let Him get on with it. The reality is that no one could have predicted what God did. His plan was perfect, powerful, and effective. In one move, He annihilated the enemy of His people. There is no limit to what God is able to do, but there are limits to what He will do. One of these is that He will never bludgeon us out of the way and assume control. He will always wait for us to relinquish control.
Hold your peace is a command.
Had the Israelites not obeyed Him, His perfect victory would not have occurred. If they took ownership of the problem and rushed around, making their own defences, they would no doubt have been decimated. In our walk with God, our relationship with Him is multi-faceted. At times it’s Father and sons, or God and His people. Another aspect is that we are soldiers in His army, which means we are required to obey the orders of the Commander-in-chief. When He says fight, we fight. If He says step back and hold your peace, that’s what we must do. Failure to obey orders is a serious military offence. It can cost the battle or even the war. Which begs the question, how many battles might have been won had we heard and obeyed? God will always command and make His will known. The question is whether we listen, hear, and obey.
Of course, it takes practice – training – to hear and listen. It takes prayer and stillness and surrender to God. Most of all, it takes discipline. We have to control self and deny control by self. Our natural responses and instincts have to be yielded to the leading and guiding of the Spirit. Military strategy is a powerful tool, but it always has to allow for innovation. Some of the most incredible victories in history have resulted from a commander taking an unconventional approach. Things that seemed impossible have been achieved by thinking out the box. Our God is an out the box kind of God. So when He says hold your peace, it’s because He sees something we do not. He sees the way to achieve the impossible. If we disobey the command and let go of our peace in favour of our own control, we lose the victory.
Hold your peace commands faith.
This is the nitty gritty of it all. In simple terms, God is saying that we must have faith – not in our selves but in Him. It’s the kind of faith that challenges self on every level because it is founded on supernatural peace – the peace of God Himself. This lifts us beyond the limitations and natural fears. It elevates us to a place where we see from His perspective, not ours. The things of God seldom ‘make sense’ in the natural. The command to hold your peace may go against every natural instinct we possess. It takes faith to both step out and act or step back and watch. Either way, the peace of God is our assurance that He is totally, powerfully, supernaturally, and perfectly in control. Faith says God can do anything necessary. Peace says anything God does is necessary. How great is our God.
Sovereign Lord, forgive us for all the times we hang onto things and still expect You to work. Help us to learn and to listen, to yield our battles and to hear Your commands. Grant us the faith and the courage to hold our peace in You, to trust You to know what is needed and to accomplish it perfectly. In all situations, Lord, let Your glory and power be seen so that Your victory may be complete.