The reports came pouring in. During what seemed to be a great time of victory, with Boko Haram losing major ground, and captives being freed, the shocking news that Boko Haram had been appointed a new leader– one who has threatened to no longer target Muslims, but directly target Christians, instead— has sent fear into the hearts, and minds, of many Christians, and their pastors, in Northeastern Nigeria. On high alert, these people are panicking. Some have started to leave their homes, running for their lives from the terrorist group.
One cannot imagine the terror, discouragement, and hopelessness these pastors, along with every Believer they pastor, are feeling and experiencing. More than ever, these Christ-followers must have some sort of Hope, of Comfort, of Courage, to steady and strengthen them, in such a time of terror and apparent instability.
The God who Provides
King David, in Psalm 18, quotes his own song, found in 2 Samuel 22:34: “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.” In the midst of the battle, King David trusted Christ, and his feet were made “like the feet of a deer.” Though God did not take King David out of every war, or trial, He was all King David needed: Christ was his Sustenance, his Protection, his Strength, and his Courage to go out and fight. Was King David ever scared, to go out and fight his countless enemies– or, in some cases, to run from them? One can think so, based on Psalm 56.
Psalm 56 enforces a seemingly simple, yet poignant Truth.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
(Psalm 56:3, NIV)
Psalm 18 expounds upon this Truth, even more; all throughout, David trusts and praises Christ, for saving him, and making him victorious in the day of battle. This concept of Fear vs. Faith is very prevalent in the Bible. All throughout history, Christ has been seen as truly saving, helping, and being in relationship with those who humbly seek, trust, and obey Him. As Believers in Christ, Christ promises to save, love, comfort, and hold those who humbly trust in His Name, today, no matter what they “fight” or walk through.
The God who Fights
But, this is not the only thing Christ desires to do. Not only does Jesus want to walk with us, strengthen us, and comfort us through our struggles; He wants to fight for us.
In Exodus 14, one can see this in a very powerful way. The Israelites were being led out of Egypt, and Moses followed God’s commands to “encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon” (Exodus 14:2, NIV). As they encamped by the sea, what Christ said would happen, did: Christ hardened Pharoah’s heart. This hardening of Pharoah’s heart resulted in him pursuing Moses, and the Israelites, wanting to capture them, and bring them back to Egypt again, as their slaves (Exodus 14:5-9).
Encamped by the sea, and being surrounded by Pharoah and his army, the Israelites started to panic, crying out to Moses, “‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'” (Exodus 14:11-12, NIV).
The Israelites were terrified.
They saw no way out, and all they could seem to focus on was that their enemy had surrounded them. They were disappointed, confused, and desperate (for good reason). They were angry with Moses– and, quite possibly, angry with God (YHWH).
But Moses’ reply, as YHWH’s mouthpiece, was profound, and is something Christ Followers can put their faith in, as well:
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.‘”
(Exodus 14:13-14, NIV)
In their panic, the Israelites probably wanted to run to the right or to the left, or to escape somehow, some way. Christ’s Words to “be still” required a huge amount of trust in Him. To trust that somehow, Christ was going to move on their behalf, took a huge amount of trust in who Christ was– and is. It meant life or death, for them.
But, an amazing thing happened: Christ did come through. After commanding Moses to “Raise your [his] staff and stretch out your [his] hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground,” YHWH makes His plan clear to Moses: He will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, so that they go into the sea after them, and He will be glorified through the very chariots that were being used to hunt the Israelites down (Exodus 14:17-18).
Jesus was faithful. The angel of God, as well as the pillar of cloud, moved from the front, to behind the Israelites, separating the two armies for an entire night. The waters of the Red Sea rose, as they were separated in two, down to the very sea bed; and “the Israelites went through the season dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 14:22). Just as YHWH had said, the Egyptians pursued the Israelites through the Red Sea, and the walls of water came crashing down on top of them, killing each Egyptian, from the least to Pharoah himself.
The Israelites waited upon Christ, and He made a way, where there was none, so that He might be glorified. The Israelites did not need to fight their battle, alone– instead, they only needed to trust that YHWH would do the unimaginable on their behalf, rest in that fact, and simply obey Him, even amidst the terror of it all.
Today, for Christians in Northern Nigeria, the story is very similar. Hunted by Boko Haram, they too face a battle. But, Christ wants to do the unimaginable on behalf of His People, fighting for them, and providing them with all they need to obey Him.
The days ahead of them may be precarious, frightening, and seemingly insurmountable. But, just as Christ split the sea, when there seemed to be no other way, Christ will fight and provide for those who humbly call out His Name– using what the enemy meant for evil, to produce good (Genesis 50:20).
May these Truths be the promises all Christians– especially those struggling in persecution– cling to.
Do you know Jesus?
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. 11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. 12 For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.”
(Psalm 9:10-12, NIV)
As the Israelites encamped by the Red Sea, and looked out over its vastness, the news that the Egyptians were coming filled them with unimaginable, overwhelming, horror. Stricken by fear, they knew that there was nothing they could do, to escape the certain death that seemed to await them.
The same can be said about mankind’s problem of sin. Inescapable, there is no amount of “good works” that can save a person from their sin, just as there was no amount of running, or swimming, the Israelites could do, to save them. But, as Psalm 9 promises, God heard the cries of those who cried out to Him. He made a way, where there wasn’t one, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world.
Learn more about the God who Saves, and how He saved us, here.
Please pray with me…
“Dear Father God,
I thank You, Father God, and I praise You, Father, that You “hear the cries of the afflicted,” and come to their aid (Psalm 9:12). You have never failed those who trust in You, Father God, and I praise You, that You never will.
Father God, right now I just lift up our brothers and sisters, in Christ, in Northern Nigeria. Father God, I thank You that You have protected so many of them, and have given them ways to get out of this horrible situation. Father God, I pray, in Jesus’ Name, that just as You led the Israelites through the desert and out of Egypt, providing for all of their needs, You would protect them on the way, and fight this battle, for them. Please hide them under the shadow of Your Wings (Psalm 17:18), and lead them to safety.
Father God, I also pray for and over pastoralists in Northern Nigeria, who are having to “migrate,” or flee, from their homes and lands, because of the threat to their lives, and their livestock. Father God, please bring these men and women to You, and protect them, as they flee, as well.
Father God, I also lift up those Christian Nigerians, that cannot flee, or have decided not to flee from Boko Haram. Father God, please lead and guide them in Your Way; and give them Your Wisdom, Protection, and Guidance. As Your Word in Matthew 10:23 states, please help those who can flee, flee from their homes and towns, so that they might be protected.
Father God, I thank You for the Nigerian Army, and for the Joint Civilian Task Force, that is currently fighting Boko Haram. Please bring these people to You, and be their Strength, Wisdom, and Guidance, as they fight this battle against Boko Haram.
Please, Father God, in all, use this horrible news for the good of Your People, and for the Glory of Your Name. Please save many through this, just as in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
May Your Word Spread, Father, Your People be helped, and Your Name always be praised, no matter what. For You are good! In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”
Please continue to pray for all those fleeing. Jesus will make a way! Praise Him for that. ❤