God Remembers (Exodus 2:23-25)
One aspect that we fail to grasp often when we read through the Bible is the timeline that we are given. We speak of God’s goodness and graciousness towards his people we focus on how God delivers his people from slavery in the book of Exodus, which is correct you see that in how Moses records the book. But I think it is important for us to be able to consider the dark period of time that covers the first two chapters of the book of Exodus. That We are told in Genesis that God’s people, Abraham’s offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and they will be oppressed and forced to work as slaves (Gen 15:13-14); for four hundred years! So the period of time that has passed between Exodus 1 and 2 is roughly four hundred years. Moses spends 40 years growing up in the House of Pharaoh and 40 years in the wilderness in the land of Midian. All through this time the people of God are being oppressed and persecuted. When we focus on the end of the story we often do not get to consider the important questions of where God is during the dark days for those in the period of slavery and oppression. Often this is the question that is asked, not is there a God during those times but where was God what was he doing? Now we can start to think of times in our own lives when we have felt this way or asked those questions. We do not deny the existence of God, but we are left wondering why this is happening. Not seeing any light in the tunnel. Life is filled with tears and bad news. Sorrow and sadness. Where is God? What is he doing? Well this passage today, although short should give us great comfort.
The passage starts by telling us that the unnamed Pharaoh in chapter one who sought to destroy the sons of Israel died. This will be an important point in history as God will tell Moses that those who wanted to kill Moses are dead (Ex 4:19). The people of God have been building houses for Pharaoh. The Sons of Israel are feeling the burden placed upon them by Pharaoh. They groan because of their slavery. In Deuteronomy 26:6-7 the people of God repeat the story of the Exodus, they speak of this period of time and say, “And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.” What is mentioned in Exodus chapter 2 is only a summary, in Deuteronomy we see that the Egyptians did 6 things; 1) treated them harshly; 2) humiliated them; 3) laid hard labor upon them; 4) afflicted them; 5) toiled for them; and 6) oppressed them. Again, we should not downplay this time for the people of God. Their Sons were thrown into the Nile, their hands calloused, backs whipped, but most of all their hearts broken. They groan. Their voices let out a large sigh. They are defeated and depleted. They are exhausted and their hope is eclipsed. Now we see that this happens in the days when Moses is in Midian, but we should not assume this did not happen prior, as we saw with Moses’ parents’ names, they were names of faith. But also, even if it was during these forty years we also must see that their groans seemingly go up but no one is home. Straight to voice mail.
However, we are told that God is there and God heard their groans. “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.” That God does not outsource his prayer department. Often when calling someone large department store or any business you are not connected to the person with any form of power, it is only through waiting or demanding to speak to someone with any form of power will you get through, and even then you only then speak to the manager or supervisor. However, that is not how God works. The people of God being to cry out for help, and it goes directly to God. But more than that is it not even that it goes straight to God but God is the one who hears. Now before we go any further, we need to see that God hears. Now do the circumstances change for the people of God, no. They are still under the hand of Pharaoh. Just because nothing is happening doesn’t mean God does not hear, but also notice something very important. That long before we are told the people are crying out to God, we know that God is already preparing a savior and a mediator for them.
For some of us, we need to be reminded that when we pray our prayers of not land on deaf ears, but the ears of God. Find comfort as the Psalmist writes, “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” (Ps 66:19). Or the Apostle John says we should have confidence because God hears us, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14). We need to be reminded that although we do not see the response immediately, or that the prayer has been received we are told that God hears our prayers. He hears your groans.
The next comfort we can see in this passage is that God remembers his promises. Again, we might make a promise and forget it as soon as we make it, but God does not. This suffering God’s people is going through was one of his promises. That he had told them this would happen and even more importantly that it would be only for four hundred years (Gen 15:13-14). Again this does not mean the pain doesn’t matter. “Suck it up Israel.” During this time young boys’ lives were cut short, each day Israelites would get up and carry heavy loads and cause pain and harm to their bodies. But when we think of these promises of hardship that the Lord warns us about we should find comfort in two ways. First, God knows what is going to happen before we do. God is not caught unaware, he is not caught off guard. God knows the outcome. Secondly, not only knows the outcome but he knows the outcome will be good (Rom 8:28). He has a plan and purpose that we will never be able to understand. Thirdly, These promises of hardships are always short-lived when compared to eternity. There is always an end. The end on this side might be a painful and horrific death but at that moment all of that pain and suffering dies. There is no more. No more tears, sadness, sorrow, or sickness. Eternity begins. God’s promise of persecution (2 Tim 3:12) but then the next line explains that the evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse. God promises that the believer things will ultimately be better, much better. As Jack likes to remind us, “For the Believer this is the worst it will ever be, to the unbeliever this is the best they will ever find.”
But I think the fourth point that we often need to be reminded of is that suffering and pain do not mean that people have sinned. Now sometimes it does, that is discipline from the father which although painful has a purpose (Heb 12:7-11). However, as we see in Exodus, all the people of God were doing was what God commanded or promised them. They were increasing and growing in number. Pharaoh saw this as a threat, so he started persecuting. Sometimes we have pain because of disobedience because we are doing things outside of God’s revealed will, but sometimes we have pain and suffering in our life because we are obeying God’s revealed will. Paul says the godly will suffer persecution not that the ungodly would (2 Tim 3:12). We can find comfort in knowing that God has told us in his word that we will see hardships in this life, but that does not mean it is a direct result of sin. In this case in the Book of Exodus, it is so that the wicked would be judged but also that others might see the power of God and give him all the glory.
But this is where it gets even better, notice what God remembers, it is not the promises Israel had made with God, but God’s promises he had made. Specifically, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hear the people crying out for God to help them and God does not turn to the people of God and get out his checklist of how they have been serving him lately. He is not looking to their faithfulness, but his that every single one of those promises build through the book of Genesis is about what God will do for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the other way around. He remembers the promise to make them a great nation, to bless them, to give them a land forever, be with them and keep them, he would provide the sacrifice, and bless other nations through them. All of this is based upon God’s promises and never based on obedience. God always appears to them in their sin or folly, never demanding perfection. His covenant was always based on grace. This should give us great comfort that the Lord remembers his covenant and is not reliant on his people remembering or doing. Paul says that when we are unfaithful, God is faithful for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13). This connects to the first point when we think about God hearing Charles Spurgeon said, “Because God is the living God, He can hear; because He is a loving God, He will hear; because He is our covenant God, He has bound Himself to hear.”
The third thing we see in this passage that brings us comfort in difficult times is that God sees. During those times we are crying out that God would hear us but we also want him to see us. That God sees every small injustice done to his people. The one Israelite that was alone that day when the taskmaster beat him to death, The Lord saw. The helpless young boy was thrown into the Nile River, the Lord saw. God sees the injustices done in the darkness, the ones with no witnesses. And many times, in this world, it is one person’s word against another, not so The Lord has the final say. The guilty are not able to talk their way out of it, evidence is not misplaced or thrown out because of clerical errors, but the Lord sees. For those who have gone through or are going through these dark moments in their life, you might find comfort in knowing God Hears, and God remembers but you might find sweet comfort in knowing that God sees your pain and you’re suffering. God knows the wrong that has been done to you even if no one else has or no one believes you. God sees all things and knows all things. That every creature will have to stand before God and give an account (Heb 4:13). God watches over all things as the Proverb says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Or as Luke record in his gospel, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3).
Finally, we can have comfort in these dark and difficult times because we are told that God knows. Here the people of God are under a heavy burden placed upon them. Again, this is not a comment on mere intellectual knowledge but to know in the Bible speaks of connection. It is often used as an intimate relationship of a husband knowing a wife (Cf. Gen 4:1). It is not merely that God is able to know what happens in some distant manner, but that God has a connection to his people. God knows how he is going to save his people. God is already preparing Moses. God is not sitting back on the stage of his creation but is working. He hears the prayers of his people, he remembers his covenant, he sees their suffering, he knows their pain. We will see how much he loves his people. God will go to great lengths to save his people from their oppression. He will show his power and might, he will judge those who harmed his people. We see this glorious story. We need to know this great and comforting verse, that in the midst of darkness, the Lord is for and with his people. The Lord will fight for them.
We see this clearly in the story of Exodus, but if we have a greater hope to boast in than Moses, as the author of Hebrews explains,
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14–18)
We then have the confidence to draw near to the throne of Grace because Christ, our brother, the great high priest is able to sympathize with our weakness, yet without sin (Heb 4:14-16).