Stand Still and See His Salvation

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Palm Sunday 2024

Sermon Video


One of the things that happened in the medieval period was that the church calendar began to get cluttered up with numerous saints’ days and celebrations, like so many barnacles on the ark that was the church. There were many blessings that resulted from the great Reformation, and one of them was that the number of Christian holidays was pared down to what came to be known as the “five evangelical feast days.” All of them were geared to the life of Christ—Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. It is our practice here at Christ Church to have all of our celebrations of these days land on Sunday, with two exceptions. In addition to our 52 Lord’s Day celebrations, we also have a service on Christmas Eve, and one on Good Friday. On Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, we also have a sermon that is geared to that theme, and so here we are.

The Text

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (Exodus 14:13).

“Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:17).

Summary of the Text

Theses texts are not directly about Palm Sunday, obviously, but there is a principle here that we need to grasp and remember. Whenever God undertakes on behalf of His people to deliver and save them, He does so on the basis of His grace. But because it is His grace, He determines when and how He is going to manifest that grace. In the meantime, we are in the midst of the trouble that we need to be delivered from, and it is not uncommon for us to become more than a little antsy about the trouble we are in.

Moses has led the people of Israel out of Egypt, and more than this, they had left Egypt as a smoking ruin behind them (Ex. 10:7). The Bible says there were 600,000 men, plus women and children, plus the mixed multitude (Ex. 12:37-38). We are probably talking about a couple million people, on the banks of an uncrossable body of water, and the Egyptian army coming up behind them. In this context, Moses tells them, “Fear not.” In this context, he says stand still. He says wait and see. See what? See the salvation of the Lord.

The same language is used by the prophet Jahaziel when he reassured Jehoshaphat. “Stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” That is why, in great faith, Jehoshaphat sent the choir out first. The short form is that believing that salvation is by grace is a stance that commits you to waiting, standing still.

On the mount of the Lord, it will be provided (Gen. 22:14). You have heard me say this a number of times before, and we need to get the principle down into our bones. God loves cliffhangers. This is why He makes us wait.

Palm Sunday?

So what does this have to do with the context of Palm Sunday? Although God revealed Himself throughout the times of the Old Testament, we sometimes forget how much history was there. From beginning to end, the book of Genesis encompasses more than 2,000 years. The entire rest of Old Testament history is less than that. If you took the span of Genesis, and added it to the end of Genesis again, like two box cars, it would take you down to the time of King Arthur. In other words, Joseph was as close to King Arthur as he was to Adam and Eve. That is a lot of time.

And throughout the Old Testament, prophecies that God would send could ebb and flow. For example, in the time of Eli, what was it like? “Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.” (1 Samuel 3:1, NKJV). So it is very clear that one of the purposes of history is to teach the faithful how to wait.

And then we get to the end of the Old Testament, and between Malachi and Matthew there are four centuries of silence. God goes quiet. They still had the Scriptures, and the promises of the Messiah that Scripture contained, and so we need to realize that by the time of the Triumphal Entry, the faithful had been waiting in silence for four hundred years. That would extend from our day back to 1624—a century and a half before the founding of our nation. So the faithful by this point are wound tight. If they keep silent, the stones themselves would start singing. There were also numerous other people involved in what might be called Jesus mobs—also wound tight, but with a very blurry understanding (Luke 20:5-6; 20:19; 22:2; Mark 11:18,32;12:12; Acts 5:26). Lots of people were wound tight. Then there were the corrupt elites sitting on top of the whole thing, trying to maintain control.

It was in that context that Jesus entered Jerusalem, to wild acclaim, in order to go up to the economic center of the city, so that he might start flipping over tables. This was not exactly an “oil on troubled waters” approach. There was a reason Jesus was arrested and crucified.

Now this is the thing we must remember. After waiting for centuries, the faithful finally saw their long-expected king enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, just as the prophet had said, and then . . . He went and got Himself killed. The lesson is “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” certainly, but the lesson should also be “that the salvation might not be the thing you were anticipating.”   

Why All This Sounds Familiar

They had glorious stories to inspire them, centuries in the past. We have that as well. They had experienced a long stretch of spiritual lethargy, with nothing happening, and no prophetic word from God. We have that. They had corrupt managers and handlers of their spiritual establishment, and no apparent way to be rid of them. We have that. We have it all, meaning that we have the same kind of mess that requires an intervention from God.

And so what we are to do? The answer is found in our text. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. And this will not come if we are just looking around listlessly. No, look to the expected Christ. And expect Him to do the unexpected.

In our two texts, not only is it said to stand still and see your salvation, but it is also said in both places to fear not. Are we in a similar position? Are we in similar distress? Yes, and so we must begin with the fear not. A fearful people are easily manipulable. Isn’t this what was done during the COVID hysteria? And many conservative Christians do it to themselves by getting all their news from “fear porn” sites, and then they spend hour after hour doom scrolling. Be done with that.

But there are objective challenges that should have your attention. Jehoshaphat did have armies coming against him. Moses did have the people, a couple million of them, standing by a sea, and with an army approaching from behind. So in the face of real threats, fear not. In the face of imaginary ones . . .? Well, you should just stop spooking yourself.

Our stance should be that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Our God is certainly able to deliver us, but even if He does not, we are still going to fear Him, and not you. And the only way to be delivered from this fearful doom loop is to stop, rest, stand still, see the deliverance, and then act. Look to Christ, and then act. Rest in Christ, and then act. Stand still in Christ, and then act.  

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