Groaning to God

Exodus 2:23, “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.”

God’s people are in slavery in Egypt. After enjoying some time of good favor and prosperity in this foreign land, “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Ex 1:8). And this began many years of harsh treatment and oppression (Ex 1:9-22). The Lord, however, was at work raising up a deliverer who would lead his people out of slavery. Through varying circumstances (see Ex 2:1-22), God was shaping and preparing Moses to be the one to lead his people from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. Moses had been away from Egypt in the Midianite desert for 40 years when Pharaoh died, but unfortunately the new king was no better than the first … and again the Israelites felt the cruel hand of an oppressive ruler (Ex 2:23). God’s people then cried out to him in their distress. The Lord heard their cries (Ex 2:24) and acted on their behalf through the sending of Moses and the demonstration of his great power (see the plagues in Ex 7-12 as a cosmic battle in which Yahweh gloriously triumphs over Pharaoh who typifies autonomous, human power). Focusing on Ex 2:23-25, there are two lessons for the church today that I want to draw from this scene.

First, we see the patience of God with his people. God’s people had been suffering under oppression for generations; and yet they did not cry out to the Lord. In fact, according to Ezekiel 20:6-8, it was to the Egyptian idols they turned. Ezek 20:8 states, “But they rebelled against me [Yahweh] and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.” But at long last their hearts were convicted and their consciences were stirred. They “groaned” and “cried out for help.” But would God hear them? For so long they had forsaken him … would he now forsake them? Dear friends, God never forsakes his people. Yes, he may appear to be distant in order to discipline his children, but he never abandons his children. The text tells us: “their cry came up to God … and God heard … and God remembered … God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (vv. 23-25). God heard, remembered, saw, and knew. Each of these terms underscores the personality and intimacy of God with his people. That is to say, it is not as if God had forgotten his people and then one day remembered them out of the blue; rather God was with them – he knew their sufferings – he knew their hardships – and he was going to act. He was patient with them. He did not cast them off. And now he acts on their behalf!

Secondly, we see the grace of God towards his people. Notice what the passage tells us God remembered … “and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (v. 24). Israel’s prayers did not merit God’s actions. In fact, 500 years earlier God had promised to Abraham that he would deliver his people from Egypt and would bring them into the Promised Land (Gen 15:7, 12-14). In other words, God remembered his promise. God’s grace towards Israel was grounded in his promise towards Israel. For grace would not be grace if it were dependent on our action. God’s promise always precedes our response.

Brothers and sisters, God is the same towards his people today as he was 3500 years ago in Egypt. He is a God of patience and grace. Yes, he may discipline us, but he never abandons us. He is near to us – he is with us – he understands our trials and miseries (Heb 2:17-18; 4:15- 16). Moreover, all of God’s promise are yes and amen in Christ. Those who rest in Christ by

faith will know the forgiveness of sins and the blessedness of eternal life with Christ in glory. This is God’s promise – and God must and will be faithful to his promises!!