What does it mean that God fights our battles (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30)?
Exodus 14 records the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea. The Pharaoh in Egypt had decided to destroy the people of God after freeing them from bondage. The army chased the Hebrews to the shores of the Red Sea and pinned them there, ripe for annihilation. In Exodus 14:13–14, "Moses said to the people, 'Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."
Moses says something similar in Deuteronomy 1:30 in encouraging the people to trust God as they enter the Promised Land, forty years after their flight from Egypt. Moses reviews some of the Israelites' history during those years. In part, he talks about the spying out of the Promised Land and the fear invoked by hearing about the people who occupied Canaan. Moses says, "Then I said to you, 'Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place'" (Deuteronomy 1:29–31).
When Moses tells the Hebrews that God will fight their battles, he is telling them not to trust in their own abilities—and by extension encouraging us to do the same. Time and again in the Bible we are encouraged to trust God. We see that God is sovereign. It is He who rules over our circumstances and futures.
When they crossed the Red Sea, the Hebrews were without anyone or anything else to trust. They were slaves, just freed, and hemmed in against the sea. They had no military, no weapons, no training. They were on the verge of being destroyed. Moses pointed them in the right direction. He did not know how God would save them, only that He would.
The same is true for us, often. We find ourselves in challenging circumstances that are sometimes the consequences of our own doing and sometimes not. God wants to use those times to grow our faith in Him.
Romans 8:28 says, "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Notice that we aren't promised extraction from the circumstances, but that God will create good.
In fact, Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). James encouraged, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2–4). Ephesians 6:12–13 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." There will be battles. But God is faithful in the midst. We are not left to fight on our own. Rather, we put our faith and hope in Him.
Having faith in God is the point of Moses' statement that God would fight for the Israelites. God will take care of us (Philippians 4:19) and allow nothing to interrupt His love for us (Romans 8:37–39).
God does not provide any assurances that His people will avoid struggle and conflict. It is in the midst of struggle and conflict that these assurances of His power and advocacy are made. "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed …" (2 Timothy 3:12–14). We can continue on because we know that God is with us (Hebrews 13:5–6; John 14:15–27).
In the Exodus passage, God does physically protect, then deliver the Hebrews from danger and then sets them on their way to the Promised Land. It is a physical picture of what He does for us spiritually.
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).
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