Cry for Help
Yesterday’s post about “hollering and whimpering” when at the bottom of the depression barrel triggered further thoughts. And then this morning I read in Exodus
After a long time, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor, and they cried out; and their cry for help ascended to God because of the difficult labor. So God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and He took notice. (Exodus 2:23-25 HCSB)
After the great days of Joseph and the favor that the Israelites enjoyed in Egypt, the days of affliction came to them. Not only did the political environment change, but the personal circumstances changed for every Israelite. Moses was gone when he hastily fled from Egypt when he tried to correct a wrong (Exodus 2:11-15).
The joy of Joseph is replaced by the groaning of the burdens. As oppressed people who saw no hope in their circumstances, “they cried out; and their cry for help ascended to God because of the difficult labor.” Whether this was “hollering or whimpering” does not matter. From the anguish of the burdened soul, such differences are meaningless. This is a “cry for help”—forget categories, forget subtle differences. The broken heart does not care, cannot care.
The three fold response by God
God is not indifferent to the people, His people. He “heard” and “remembered” and “took notice.” These three actions by God are critical; they are the turning point for the Israelites—and yet nothing “happened” for them. The burdens continue, the agony does not cease, and God seems to have a deaf ear.
But the reality of change depends not on their (or our) ability to see change. Rather, the key is that God is already poised to act in behalf of His people. In yesterday’s post I finished with 1 John 5:13-15, “We are confident that God listens to us.” This is something the Israelites will learn. This is something that all God’s people learn. For the Israelites in Egypt, “God heard their groaning.” Their groaning does not reflect our use of muttered sigh to a bad joke, but the extreme cry of the heart that is longing, yet cannot see any solution. The groaning is real, the expression of a heart overwhelmed by experiences. No matter the outward circumstances, God hears our groaning.
God remembered His covenant
This is the critical turning point in the story. God had made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 17). It is a one-sided covenant, dependent on God’s fulfillment. God said, “I will …” to Abraham.
I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, … (Genesis 12:2-3)
Further, it is not Abraham who fulfills the covenant, but God Himself. “When the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals” (Genesis 15:17 HCSB).
It is this covenant that God remembered, His promises, His commitment, His action, His fulfillment. Thus, while the Israelites groaned, God remembered. And that is the key for God’s delivering action. After their deliverance and as Moses wrote his farewell, Deuteronomy, notice how many times Moses urges the people to imitate God by “remembering.”
Several translations have “God took notice.” ESV has “and God knew.” This reflects the basic sense of the Hebrew yadah (ידע). Same word used for Adam when he “knew” Eve. An intimacy of knowing, and for God that means he understands, even feels, the agony and misery of His people.
We may be tempted, okay, I am tempted to think that God does not know what I am experiencing. My pain, my hurt is too deep, too personal. Or so I imagine. But no, God knows, He knows everything about me, even my desire to set up a protective cocoon that keeps out anything that might hurt.
But God wants more than that for His hurting, groaning people. He hears, remembers, and knows.