We had a horse once that was terrified of hogs. Not so much of a problem in the arena, perhaps, but quite a problem out on our Texas ranch. He was such a lovely horse to ride, until he came across even the scent of a wild hog. At that point, sheer terror took over and you just hoped you could survive until he got to what he felt was a safe distance…from the smell…which you couldn’t smell, so you had no warning. And God forbid you actually came across a live one!
One night, my brother shot a hog and had it strung up between two trees while he gutted and cleaned it. (Sorry, PETA peeps, I come from a family of great white hunters. Besides, hogs are good eatin’. Not to mention the fact that they are a menace to the land and are nothing short of a pestilence that reproduces at a rate that would make a rabbit proud.) I’d been out for a ride on Dorado and as we got close, he went into sheer panic mode.
Now, I don’t have any real interest in creating fear in anything, but I do have a great interest in eliminating it. And sometimes, the only way to do that is to face it. So, I spent the next hour or two helping Dorado face his mortal enemy, the hog. It took a lot of patience and slow progress. Baby steps. But eventually, he got right up to the “party” and got a good look. He even smelled it and put his nose on the barrel of entrails and walked right up to the skinned hog hanging from the trees. And then he sighed and released all that tension he’d been storing up and completely, fully relaxed. I mean, come on, when you see your mortal enemy get disemboweled right in front of you, it does something to your confidence!
THIS is what I’ve been thinking of as I’ve read Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea. “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:30-31). The Israelites were terrified of the Egyptians. The moment they saw dust in the distance they were terrified, the Egyptians were coming after them.
It’s hard to listen to your master when you’re more afraid of your enemy. Dorado would listen to his rider beautifully, until the threat of a hog was near. That superseded any thought of respect for or trust in his rider. The Israelites weren’t so different. They trusted God pretty well, until they sensed the Egyptians were near. Their fear of the Egyptians superseded their respect for and trust in God.
What did God do??? I doubt he took pleasure in scaring the wits out of His people by putting the Egyptians on their heels, but He wanted to set them free from that fear. They had to face it, and they had to see His deliverance from it. When they saw that there was no more army to be afraid of, because they were all dead on the shore two things happened. 1. They realized there was no more enemy to fear. 2. They also realized God was bigger than their enemies. BOTH of these facts set them free to breathe a huge sigh of relief, let out all the tension and rest in peace as they followed God into the wilderness.
So, maybe something you fear is following you, cornering you (your desperate finances, instability at home or at work, health issues, loss, failed relationships, or maybe a bully in your life, etc.)…and you’re so worried about that that you’re having a hard time trusting God. Maybe He’s just bringing you to a place where you can see your mortal enemy disemboweled in front of you, so you can be free from those fears (metaphorically speaking, of course!). Maybe God’s doing for you what He did for the Israelites, bringing you to a place where it can be said of you, “so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord.”