Through revelation from the Holy Spirit, David declared that Abba Father told Jesus to “sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet” (Mark 12:36). We know that Jesus is now sitting at the right side of the Father because many passages in the Bible clearly state this.
For instance, in Acts 7: 56, Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Standing or sitting at the right side of God is a reference to intercession. In Hebrews 7 we read that Jesus is sitting at the right side of God the Father, continuously interceding for each one of us. Therefore we need not worry about our enemy, the evil one.
It is very difficult not to worry. In some situations, even though we know the word of God, even though we know that God is there and will help and protect us, and that He will clear the path, we struggle to believe this.
The fear of the evil one, a constant in many people’s lives, is not new. It was there even in biblical times; for instance when God saved the Israelites from Egypt through the miracles of the ten plagues.
A safe place
At first the Israelites were delighted! They felt bold enough to follow Moses out of Egypt. They had seen that whatever Moses said happened, therefore they knew that God was with him. They began to follow Moses out of Egypt. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon’” (Exodus 14:1-2). God told Moses the exact place where they were supposed to stay. The selection of the place where you sit to pray to connect to God is very important because the land is very influential. Land needs to be healed and blessed and consecrated .
For instance, a new retreat center needs to go through a purification process—through a lot of intercession, a lot of prayer, sacrifices, pain and struggle before the Lord will lift it up. The same applies to any other places where you go to pray. It should be consecrated and purified through continuous intercession and prayer. When you move to a new house, pray in and bless every room and protect the house with continuous prayer and intercession.
That is why God told the Israelites the particular place where they should camp. This world has got so many unseen enemies, but God knows which place is safe and is always protecting us even without our knowledge.
Think of how the atmosphere protects us every day from hundreds of meteors by causing them to burn up and just disappear. Just take a look at the sky on a clear night and you may witness this. The atmosphere protects us in this way 24 hours a day. Just once in a while, a meteors may come through and fall on the earth, making big news. In the same way, every day, every second the evil one is trying his best to attack. He’s not just waiting for an opportunity once in a while; he is trying to destroy humanity, to destroy each of us always— our children, small babies, adults—everyone. But God’s protection is always there; always covering us.
We call it luck when a falling object narrowly misses us or we escape an accident, but remember, the Lord is always protecting each of us.
Conflict between God’s children and the evil spirit
Recall the Israelites in the desert. God showed them where to camp but Pharaoh had something negative to say about it. “For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’” (Exodus 14:3). Pharaoh is a symbol of the evil one, and conflict between Israel and Egypt symbolizes conflict between the children of God and the evil spirit. Through this word God is telling us that when you start following Him, the enemy will attack. He will spread rumours saying that you are wasting your time, that you are wasting your energy, that you are wandering here and there.
When Fr. Joseph decided to follow God by becoming a priest and joined the seminary, he recalls that many people, even some of his friends and distant relatives, asked him “Why do you want to waste your life? Why can’t you use it for something fruitful? We are missing you. We don’t want you to go and join the seminary. We want to be able to see you and we want you to be a successful man.” Sometimes when you spend your time for God, when you decide to serve in a ministry or when you try to go and help in something spiritual, many people will say to you that you are just wandering here and there aimlessly, or that you have no plan for your life, or that you are not planning your future.
In the same way, Pharaoh said of the Israelites that they were wandering aimlessly, that the wilderness had closed in on them, that they were not able to proceed, that they were just wasting their time in front of that sea. But God warned the Israelites—when you follow me you will hear people telling you such kinds of things. Don’t listen to them. I know where I’m taking you. I know how I’m taking you. Make a decision not to listen to them.
Many people begin to follow Jesus but when some people discourage them, suddenly they stop following Him and follow these rumours instead. They will never reach anywhere. If God’s right hand is leading you, no other hand can stop it, so just follow the right hand of God and He will take you to the right place. Don’t be controlled by the the fancies of people. The Lord will guide you and He will lead you. Don’t worry when you think everything is closed in front of you and that the only way is to go back. When the Israelites came to the Red Sea, they too thought that the only way for them was to retreat.
An important secret
Listen to God’s word about what will happen once Pharaoh assumes that the Israelites are stuck.
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. (Exodus 14:4)
Here God is revealing a very important secret. Remember when Moses went to Pharaoh for the first time asking Pharaoh to let the people go and Pharaoh made fun of God. He thought his gods were more powerful and he was not ready to follow the the command of Moses. Instead he hardened his heart. In the Old Testament it is written that God hardens the heart because that was how the people thought of it then, but really it is each person’s responsibility to harden or soften their heart. So here we should say rather that God says: Pharaoh will harden his heart and he will come after you, but I will show him who I am and he will come to know who I am; who the God of Israel is.
This promise from God is not a message just for the Israelites, but also for the enemy. Besides, every miracle that happens here on earth, every intervention in your life by God, is not only a teaching for you but also a teaching for angels, who are also not perfect and also receive instructions and guidance. God alone is perfect.
God wants everyone to see His plan. “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things.” (Eph. 3:8-9). That is why He intervenes in our lives miraculously. “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). Through all His interventions in the church then, God is teaching the heavenly angels, the Israelites and also the evil one.
Keep alert always
When the Israelites came out of Egypt they were very happy and confident that they were safe, but Pharaoh, who had himself given permission for them to leave, still came after them with his army to recapture them. “When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, ‘What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?’” (Exodus 14:5).
When we are delivered from the evil one, we too tend to think that we are safe; but stay alert because the devil will not leave so easily. Be very careful as the temptation to return to the bad habit will come after you at any time, and it will come with a bigger army.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and He overcame each of the three temptations, the devil “departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). The devil was defeated completely, because three times defeat means complete defeat. But still he was waiting for an opportune time. Therefore, anyone who thinks that they have come out of every bad habit should be very careful as he’s waiting for an opportune time.
So, what are we supposed to do? We need to have only one thing—faith in God. What kind of faith? The only option we have is to hold on to Jesus. Until and unless we enter into the Promised Land—heaven—we are not completely free. When we are holding onto Jesus inside us, we are free on the inside. But outside, this world is always holding us back.
Pharaoh “made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them” (Exodus 14:6-7). The chariot was the most sophisticated weapon for war; one that made the Egyptian army very powerful. Picture this army of the evil one coming against the poor Israelites, who did not have even one single chariot, not a single army officer, or even a soldier.
True colours in a crisis
“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” (Exodus 14:10).
Crying out to the Lord was the right thing to do. In a crisis, it is natural to cry out and the best thing to do is to cry out to God. But they did something else that was not so good. 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?” (Exodus 14:11).
We all have this tendency that the Israelites displayed in that moment. To this point, Moses had been successful in whatever he did. They were positive that he had God’s power in him. But now that there was a problem, they were very angry with Moses and all the respect and reverence they had shown him was gone. They started shouting at him, all the good work he had done forgotten.
This can happen to us. When we follow Jesus, we may be so bold and happy and humble. But when there is a crisis our true character, our true colour will come out. We may react, losing respect for people and forgetting the good things that they’ve previously done for us.
The Israelites had enjoyed freedom for barely one week after being tortured terribly in captivity by the Egyptians for 430 years. And already they started missing Egypt and thinking that it had been better than this freedom. They said to Moses: 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” (Exodus 14:12).
Similarly, when we start following God and suffering or a crisis comes, we may say, ‘Oh this is a horrible place! That place of captivity and slavery was far much better than being in the presence of God.
You have only to be silent
“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” (Exodus 14:13).
How could Moses say this? Certainly what he was saying on the outside was different from what he was going through on the inside. He must have been so shaken and broken on the inside, but Moses, with full conviction, put on a strong face and told the people to stand firm and see the Lord’s deliverance. Yet he had no clue what God was going to do. Not even one small boat was available and the huge Red Sea stretched in front of them, while behind them a whole army was approaching, leaving no escape route. Yet.
He continued to say: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Exodus 14:14). Sometimes in a moment of crisis we despair, and this makes us feel low or even fearful, which makes it difficult to stand still. We may also have impatience in such situations, which will not help. But remember what God said through Moses. Stand still in the moments of crisis. Just wait. Don’t do anything in a hurry—don’t jump, don’t retreat, don’t weep, don’t abuse anyone, don’t bounce on Moses. Just stand still. Remember the word of God in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God… .” Be still wherever you are. God is in action. God will come. Listen to what the Lord said next.
A small instruction
“The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward (Exodus 14:15). This means that Moses was telling the people not to be afraid and to trust God, but though he spoke these very powerful words to them, he himself was secretly crying out to God because he had no clue what to do next. The instruction God gives Moses is simple. “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:16). It is very funny to hear God command Moses to take a stick, stretch out his hand, divide the sea, and go—like it’s a very simple, small matter. God is giving a simple instruction for a great miracle. We tend to think that for a great miracle you need great instructions, but that’s not true.
Fr. Joseph recalls that one day someone came to Confession after about a 40-year absence and made a long Confession. When he was given just one Our Father and three Hail Mary prayers as his penance, he could not believe it. Our sins are not forgiven because of our prayers; they are forgiven through the crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary 2000 years ago. Therefore the penance we get is only a simple instruction. Just follow it and a mighty miracle will happen, just as it did when God told Moses to take a stick and stretch his hand over the sea.
Let us promise to trust and obey God, even though sometimes it’s very hard for us to believe that He is with us and can help us to escape from big problems unexpectedly. May the Lord help us to just follow the small instructions that He has already given, and not to wait for big instructions, so that mighty miracles will happen in our lives. God is going to do great things if you are faithful in the least ones and will entrust you with great things. This is the promise of the Lord to you.