Editorial note: This is a condensed transcription of Dr. George Brown’s devotional message for the General Conference and Division Officers Meeting, October 5, 2020.
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11, NKJV). And one of the things that had happened to ancient Israel is found in the story of the Exodus. We know the story.
The Exodus was off to an uncertain start. The army of the world’s superpower at that time was in hot pursuit. People were trapped between the army and the Red Sea. What could they do? Surrender and return to slavery or fight and be slaughtered?
Some were murmuring, crying, bemoaning their fate; others were praying—and they escaped. God intervened. The same God who intervened for Israel at that time is willing to intervene on behalf of His people today. The same principles that inspired the people of God then can inspire the children of God now.
“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.’
“And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward’ ” (Exod. 14:13–15, NKJV).
Three imperatives from this passage cry out to be heard.
Do not be afraid
At a time when we are confronted with a monumental global crisis, we have a tendency to be afraid. But the first imperative is validated by the promises of God. The invincible God, the mighty God, the God of miracles, says, “Don’t be afraid, for I will fight for you.”
The Lord told Israel, “Do not be afraid; stand firm; go forward!” Is it still relevant?
And, as modern leaders in spiritual Israel, we can claim that promise as well. God is our Deliverer; God is our omnipotent Defender; He is our unfailing Protector. All His promises are guaranteed by the blood of Christ. Therefore, in the midst of the pandemic and all the problems we face, He says to us, “Do not be afraid. Look up; I will fight for you; I will defend you; I will deliver you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Don’t be afraid of your modern Red Seas—the social unrest, the political chaos, the escalating violence, global terrorism, the natural disasters, the fires and the floods, and the rest of it. Which of these things is greater than our God? None!
“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teachings in our past history.”1
The second imperative is equally powerful: “ ‘Stand firm, and see’ ” (Exod. 14:13, ESV).
This standing firm is not a state of passive resignation but a posture of steadfastness, spiritual alertness, faith, and unyielding confidence in God, who has led us in the past and who continues to lead us today. To stand firm is to resolve to be unshakable in our faith. We are to stand firm on the platform of the eternal truth that God has given to us. “Hold to the sure pillars of our faith. . . . They have made us what we are.”2
“Standing firm” has many dimensions. Stand firm on the never-failing promises of God. Stand firm on the verity of the fundamentals of our beliefs. Stand firm on the urgency of our global redemptive mission. Stand firm in the sure knowledge that God is leading His people. Stand firm in accepting, practicing, and proclaiming the good news of the everlasting gospel. And stand firm in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
No wavering, no equivocation, no doubting. Like Paul, let us go forward, forgetting those things that are behind and pressing toward the goal of the high calling in Jesus Christ (see Phil. 3:13, 14). In an age of moral relativity, of religious pluralism, of neo-paganism, the appeal from the Word of God to church leaders is, “Stand firm on the solid rock of our message.”
The third imperative is, perhaps for us now, the most crucial: “Go forward.”
The final imperative is, perhaps for us now, the most crucial and action-packed; it is dynamic. God said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel: ‘Go forward.’ ” The New International Version renders it, “Tell the Israelites to move on” (Exod. 14:15).
The message to God’s church today during this terrific global crisis is, “Go forward in faith.” Don’t remain trapped, terrified, and paralyzed by the fear of our modern Red Seas. Let us move on, let us go forward. And let us remember, too, that prayer and faith are no substitute for action when God tells us to move on.
So, go forward in faith and courage in the proclamation of the three angels’ messages, giving the good news to the world. Go forward in spiritual growth; go forward in discipleship; go forward in leadership that is patterned up to the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ. If Israel did not go forward, there would not have been the miracle of crossing the Red Sea. And if we go forward, there can be no turning back, for God has won the victory for us.
“Thanks be unto God, who keeps on giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57, author’s translation). Ellen White wrote, “By [God’s] grace [leaders] [are] to go forward, despairing of nothing and hoping for everything.”3 “If we will move forward in faith, believing in the all-sufficient power of God, abundant resources will open before us.”4
Let there be no uncertainty about our salvation; let there be no misgiving about our mission. Let there be no mistake about our doctrinal solidarity. There must be no biblical detours, no drifting from the faith, no Laodicean apathy, no love affair with our status quo. We are encouraged in these challenging times to move on, to go forward under the guidance of our commander, Jesus Christ.
David Livingstone is said to have stated, “I will go anywhere, as long as it is forward.” How aptly does this apply to us?
No turning back
About 2,000 years ago, the Romans invaded Britain. And during that invasion, the commander-in-chief said to his men, “Let us burn all the ships in which we traveled to England.” One of the sailors turned to his commander-in-chief and asked this question: “If we burn the ships, what shall we do in the event of a retreat?” And the commander-in-chief answered, “There shall be no retreat.”
The message to church leaders is obvious: there shall be no retreat. We should have no reverse gear. We are called to go forward in faith in this twenty-first century, even with its daunting Red Seas, crises, challenges, and difficulties. By God’s grace, there shall be no looking back, no hesitation, no murmuring, no doubting, no uncertainty—but only going forward by faith.
The imperatives that the Lord gave Israel—do not be afraid, stand firm, go forward—He gives to us today. With arms stretched straight, eyes fixed forward, and heads held high—with hearts merged with mercy, hands joined with justice, and feet clothed with compassion—we are moving toward the celestial Promised Land and not retreating to Egypt. Healing and helping as we go, teaching and preaching as we go, we are marching to Zion, the beautiful city of God.
- Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), 196.
- Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, bk. 1 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958), 201.
- Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 23.
- Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 371.