The absurdity of “letting go and letting God”

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14)

This verse is one of the most frequently quoted by proponents of the “Let go and let God” philosophy of life. But the context of this verse completely undermines this thinking.

The Israelites are standing at the edge of the Red Sea about to be obliterated by the Egyptians who are rushing in to take God’s people back into slavery. That’s when Moses utters the words of Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Watch what happens next: “Then the Lord said to Moses…Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16).

So, immediately after Moses essentially says, “Let go and let God, trust him and be still,” God says, “Move on,” get going, the Egyptians are about to destroy you!

And you can only imagine how fast God’s people moved! The Egyptians were on their tails while enormous towers of the untameable sea rose on their right and their left. I’m guessing the Israelites gave new meaning to the word “hustle” that day.

And we all know the rest of the story: God in his great grace delivered his people across the great sea so they could serve him.

Last week, we saw that God alone produces results in our work, leading us to an uncommon level of trust in him. But today, we see more clearly how God’s Word instructs us to marry that trust with a healthy dose of hustle and hard work.

With the full context of Exodus 14 in view, we can understand Moses’s call for the people to “be still” to be a stillness of their hearts and souls, not their hands and feet. It would have been the height of absurdity for the Israelites to verbalize their trust in God and not trust in their God-given legs to hustle across the floor of the Red Sea.

Trusting doesn’t mean “letting go and letting God.” Trust is meant to be accompanied by hard work because we believe that God often produces results through our hustle. This is likely why Scripture continually commands us to work hard (see Colossians 3:23, Jeremiah 48:10, Colossians 1:29, 1 Corinthians 15:10, and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, just to name a few).

We are called to trust God to produce fruit through our work, while simultaneously recognizing that more often than not, it is through our faithfulness and hustle that he chooses to deliver that fruit. Trusting God and working hard are not mutually exclusive. They are ideas meant to be held in a healthy tension. 

How do we know if we are managing that tension well? That’s the question we will explore next week.


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