The Second Sunday after Christmas January 4, 2015


Stand Still! Go Forward!

Exodus 14:13-15

Scripture Readings

2 Chronicles 20:1-30
Ephesians 6:10-18
Matthew 3:13-23


98, 522, 410, 119

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.

Dear children of our heavenly Father through faith in Jesus Christ:

At the command of Jehovah the children of Israel had left Egypt with great haste. The days and nights that followed were exhausting for the people, and they didn’t stop for rest until they had reached the Red Sea. When Pharaoh realized that the Israelites had not gone to worship God, but were escaping from Egypt and from him, he chased after them with his army, his chariots, and a heart full of vengeance and murder!

True, the Israelites had left in the night, and they had a good head start, but they were on foot and they had no army! So it was that “when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness’(Exodus 14:10-12).

Where is the Christian, familiar with this account, who does not shake his head at the faithless fear of Israel at the Red Sea? After the miraculous ten plagues they had witnessed in Egypt, how could they doubt that God would deliver them again? But then, if we are honest with ourselves, we remember that we have also tasted the grace and power of God in our own lives and yet our frail faith is often fickle too!

But our God is gracious toward us. He does “not quench the smoking flax(Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20), but fans the flame of faith again and again with the breath of His Word so that we may continue to go forward in Him. So the Lord calmed the troubled minds and hearts of Israel and Moses. “Fear not!” He said to them. “Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD…the LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace…Go forward!

Since all Scripture is written for our learning, the Word of God addressed to Israel is also for the fanning and strengthening of our own faith. STAND STILL! GO FORWARD!

Today is a day of rest at the end of another week. Perhaps we are still resting after the fast pace of another year. We are still basking in the light of Christmas morn, the celebration of our Savior born to live and die for us that we may have rest from our sins now and eternally. We still have our faith in spite of all the attacks of the Evil One this past year. We may say, “Thanks be to God we made it! We are another year closer to that eternal rest our Lord has promised us!” But we may have battle scars and scar tissue which cause fear as we begin another year.

Ours is not a large church in the eyes of the world. We are even smaller and weaker as individuals. We take our fleshly weakness with us into the new year. Satan and his devilish dogs will continue to nip at our heels with all kinds of hateful, loveless, covetous, and lustful thoughts. He will threaten our faith, our relationships with others, and our work as a Christian Church.

Are we at all serious about pursuing eternal salvation and performing the Lord’s work for His glory and the salvation of others? Then we ought to be a little frightened! Our great enemy will pursue us even harder in the coming year than he did in the past, just as Pharaoh did when he thought he was losing his slaves! We may be running scared as this new year begins. But our Lord says, “Stand still. See My salvation. Go forward.”

One dark night a woman opened the door of her refrigerator. A mouse suddenly jumped to the floor. Panic struck. The woman began to dance about in one place while the poor confused mouse ran back and forth under feet. The mouse knew that he was no match for the woman’s greater size and strength, but for a few seconds the woman forgot.

Fear also makes us forget. Satan will sneak up on us in the days ahead, not because he seeks to escape a cold place, but from Hell he walks about “seeking whom he may devour.” He will surprise us with his condemning accusations when we have sinned. He may come at us from a place we never expected. What shall we do?

An aged Christian woman who trusted in prayer for healing throughout her life, was troubled that she was facing death from cancer in spite of her prayers. The Devil was causing her much fearful anxiety. She doubled her prayers and even had “prayer sessions” with those who also believed in healing through prayer. As often as the pastor visited with her, she did most of the talking, seeking to convince him of her prayer-power. She could not have guessed that the Devil would sneak up on one who prayed so much. One day, when the pastor visited, he said, “Your anxiety is rooted in your fear that you have not lived well enough or prayed well enough. Today, I want you to be still and listen to what Jesus has done for you, that you may place your faith and hope for a glorious future in Him alone.”

Rather than panic in our fear that Satan is right and we are without hope and salvation, let’s remember the Word of our Lord: “Stand still. Don’t be afraid. I have fought for you and will fight for you so that you may keep your peace and your place! I am greater than the Devil. Stand still now and resist him with the words of my grace and forgiveness. Resist him in My strength. He will flee from you and you shall go forward in peace and safety.”

Going into the new year it may be that we see greater financial problems and personal responsibilities coming after us. Before any one of us begins to run in panic, let’s stand still and consider the eternal pleasures of Heaven laid up for us in Christ. Let us stand still and consider the pattern of our Lord’s faithful provision of our every need this past year. Let us stand still and focus on the Christ who blessed the five loaves and the two small fish so that He was able to feed 5,000. Let us not stutter in our steps with happy feet, but stand still, and hear Him say to us: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you(Matthew 6:33). Standing still, we shall go forward.

Do we desire to bring the Gospel of forgiveness to the hearts of more people in our area? Perhaps we are fearful that our theology is not what people want. We’ve seen how the mega churches will say and do almost anything in order to seem relevant and progressive in changing times. But the greatest missionary of all time wrote to the Corinthians that he was “determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Like a rubber band firmly fixed at one point, Paul would stretch as far as he could without breaking away and snapping loose from the moorings of salvation in God’s Word. He would be “all things to all men that he might save some” (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:22), but he knew that he must continually stand still on the Word of God in order to go forward in the work of bringing the Savior to lost souls.

To stand still in the living and powerful Word of Christ is to go forward with the work of Christ’s kingdom. That’s why Jesus said to His disciples: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you(John 15:3). It was the Lutherans standing still on the Word concerning Christ’s righteousness at Wittenberg, Worms, Magdeburg, Augsburg, and Smalcalden 500 years ago that led to the salvation of tens of thousands in Europe. Let us stand still on this cleansing Word in our day, and we too will go forward in our ministry of His saving Gospel.

This year we all want to improve our relationships with members of our family, our church, our friends. We want to show more love, patience, kindness. Can we make progress by rushing to defend ourselves when we are hurt? No! Stand still on the Word of your God which says: “Repay no one evil for evil(Romans 12:17), and “we count them blessed who endure(James 5:11).

Is it progress to run away from those who need our loving correction, admonition and encouragement, or get “in their faces” to defend ourselves? No! Stand still on the Word of your God for their sakes. Let’s not hasten away or rush in to kill, but stand still and reflect on the words and promises of Christ, our own Savior. For He assures us that He will “Fight for us.” [v.14] We do not need to fight for ourselves! He is our army of One!

We are not to run away from admonishing others. Neither are we to quickly point out the weaknesses of others. But standing still on the Word of our own Savior, we are to gently “bear one another’s burdens(Galatians 6:2) in Christian love. Then we will go forward in love, patience, and kindness.

May nothing drive us away from the peaceful scenes of the cradle and the cross. May we all wait on the LORD for every good thing and follow no “star” that appears in our sky unless we are standing still on the Word of our Lord.

Do your waiting at the foot of the cross where Jesus fought the greatest battle so that He might cancel our sins and take death captive! Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which He accomplished on the cross—when Satan and his armies were drowned in the Red Sea of Christ’s own precious blood!

May we all, STANDING STILL, GO FORWARD in this new year with joyful confidence that as our Lord leads us to the Promised Land, He will be with us every step of the way and make a path for us through the deepest waters! Amen.

—Pastor Vance A. Fossum

Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at