In Exodus 14, the people of Israel are fleeing Pharaoh. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, the LORD is delivering His elect people from slavery in Egypt. God is doing the "impossible-according-man" so that "[his] name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). Despite God's display of power and love, the people are facing two terrifying prospects. In one direction, they see the menacing horde of Pharaoh bearing down on them. In the other direction, they see a dark and formidable sea. According to human reckoning, if they go back they will die by the hand of Pharaoh. If they go forward, they will be drowned in the sea. Predictably, the people begin to grumble against God and his servant Moses. "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?... For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness" (Exodus 14:11-12). However, through the mouth of Moses, God declares, "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. The LORD will fight for you and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14). Then, God parted the Red Sea, brought his people through on dry land, and destroyed the Egyptians. After seeing his salvation, "…the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).
This text has rich applications for us today. I want to highlight one application for every Christian and one for church planting specifically.
First, the application for every Christian: You cannot accomplish salvation by your own strength—you must be silent. Israel looked in front and behind them and saw no human means of salvation. Every true believer comes to a point in his or her life when salvation seems impossible. Things are too dark on all sides. Morality isn't enough; hard work isn't enough; ceremonies aren't enough. Rather than grumbling at our situation, God says to us: “The LORD will fight for you and you have only to be silent.” Don't fall into the pessimism of the world which says that your situation is impossible. Don't fall into the optimism of false religion which says that you can work your way out by human strength. Rather, fall into the arms of Christ who can sustain you. "You have only to be silent"! The Lord Jesus Christ fought for you on the cross as he bore your sin; he fights for you now as the Mediator in heaven through the power of the Holy Spirit; he will fight for you as he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Second, the application for church planting: You cannot plant a church by your own strength—you must be silent. In ministry, it is easy to fall into pessimism. You look at the tasks ahead and they seem impossible. It seems impossible to gather enough people to launch public worship. It seems impossible to lead people to Christ in a world that is diametrically opposed to the gospel. On the other hand, it is easy to fall into worldly optimism. Church planting becomes a business proposition where God doesn't even need to show up. You must simply network in the community, do outreach, tell people about the work, find a good meeting place, and be charismatic. If you do "A" then "B" will inevitably follow. Though it's always hard, businesses are started and sustained every day by unbelievers without prayer. False religions and cults grow and prosper without the Holy Spirit. How do we avoid pessimism that says planting a church from scratch is impossible? How do we avoid worldly optimism that says it is just a marketing scheme? The answer is Exodus 14:14: “The LORD will fight for you and you have only to be silent.”
God has done the impossible in the accomplishment of our salvation in Christ. He parted the Red Sea of sin and brought us through on dry land; he defeated Satan, the Pharaoh of this world, and will ultimately destroy him on the last day. We also see that God does the impossible in his application of salvation in the world. God does the impossible as he calls sinful people like you and me to himself. God does the impossible as he raises up new churches to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, disciple children, send out missionaries, and care for the marginalized. God does the impossible as he gathers teams to plant new churches around the world every day. We must be silent! Yet, being silent doesn't mean that we are inactive. God parts the waves and calls us to walk through on dry land.