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Does God care? Doe He see you when you suffer? The character of God is at stake as we answer that question. Events of the O.T. provide a clearer picture of God as He interacts in the history of the nation of Israel. There was a particular time when God’s people may have wondered if God was paying attention – When they may have thought that God had abandoned them.
Background – the family of Abraham were living in a foreign land – in the land of Egypt. They arrived there a couple of generations before through the blessing of God in the promotion of Joseph to second in command in all of Egypt. Joseph saved his family from the famine, and for a while they prospered in Egypt.
But There is a change in the situation facing the Israelites in Egypt during the centuries after the death of Joseph. As God prospers them and they grow in number the new rulers of Egypt see them as a threat. So Pharaoh issues three commands in this chapter:
· To enslave the Israelites, setting ruthless taskmasters over them
· For the midwives to kill all their baby boys at the time of birth
· After that fails, to throw all baby boys into the Nile
Although the Israelites continue to grow in number despite this oppression, they are suffering greatly. This brings us to today’s text:
I. Crying Out For Help…(v. 23) “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.”
A. The Israelites have now been In Egypt almost 400 years. There is no biblical record of any prophet speaking to the people during this time. There is no record of any writings handed down from Abraham to subsequent generations about God’s dealings with the patriarchs. While certainly there is an oral tradition, stories of their forefathers that are told from parents to children, the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph must seem far away. Think of your own ancestors of 400 years ago – in the year 1602. How much do you know about them?
B. So here are the Israelites: slaves to a king who hates them, who is trying to wipe them out as a people by killing all their baby boys. They still cry out to God – through the generations they have been taught to do that.
C. But: Is God there? Is He aware of what is going on with His people? Does He care? Does He remember?
II. God’s Response …(v. 24 – 25) “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” (NKJ) In the Hebrew, the author uses only 15 words in these verses, but repeats the word “God” four times. Each time “God” is used as the subject of a verb, putting strong emphasis on the Lord Himself.
A. God Hears: “So God heard their groaning..” God did hear their groanings. And He always hears our cries. As the Psalmist says, When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears. (34:17)
B. God Remembers: “..and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob”. Not only does God hear, but He also remembers his covenant, his promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants.
1. Indeed, at the time of the formal establishment of the covenant with Abraham God tells him about this very time when his descendants will cry out in Egypt: Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Gen 15:13,14)
2. The time in Egypt was not an unexpected occurrence to God; He was not caught off guard by their sojourn. God had planned it centuries previously – and had also promised their deliverance.
3. More generally, God has promised each of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He will bless all the nations through their offspring (Gen 12:3, 26:4, 28:14). Given these promises, God had to remember, He could not forget His people in Egypt.
4. And what about us? God has promised to not tempt us above our ability to bear it. He has promised to provide an incorruptible inheritance to those who are faithful. Will He remember?
5. In chapter 49 of Isaiah, the prophet portrays the fears of the exiled Israelites that God has forgotten them: But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” But God replies: Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:14-16a) If we are God’s people, our names are right on God’s palms, directly in front of His face, never to be forgotten. God forget? He can never do so. God always remembers His promises; He is always faithful to His people.
a. As Paul tells us, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Cor 1:20)
C. God Sees: “And God looked upon the children of Israel”(v. 25) God sees the Israelites! He sees all that happens to them – the slavery under which they suffer, the murder of their children – even the worse oppression which is coming.
1. The enemies of God – especially Satan himself – always try to get God’s people to think that God does not see. The Psalmist quotes such enemies in 94:7: “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” 8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? God always sees. The all-seeing eye of God is not just fear in judgment, it is also comfort in affliction.
D. God Knows: “ And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” (v. 25)
1. The final clause is the most important – and also the hardest to translate. English translators have struggled with this phrase, and have rendered it many different ways.
- the NIV has “was concerned about them”,
- the NAU “took notice of them,”
- the KJV “had respect unto them.” But all of these translations include considerable interpretation. The Hebrew is quite simple: it says “God knew.”
- Young’s Literal translation says, “and God heareth their groaning, and God remembereth His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God seeth the sons of Israel, and God knoweth.
2. In this context, what is it that God knows? What does the author of Exodus mean by this phrase? The NIV, NAU, and KJV translators evidently think the primary idea is that God knows the problems of the Israelites and is concerned about them. Surely this is part of the meaning, as is brought out a few verses later in Exodus 3:7. This verse is in many ways parallel to 2:24-25, using three of the four Hebrew verbs we consider today: “And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” (NKJ) “I know their sufferings.” God knows their pain, their sorrow, their loss. And He cares.
3. But the most literal translation and understanding of this statement is also applicable. God knew more than just about their suffering. His willingness to deliver them from their bondage was based on His absolute knowledge of their circumstances.
Let me mention 4 items in addition to their suffering that God knew:
a. God knew their present weakness. He knew that they can do nothing to help themselves. He knew that unless He acts, they are lost. As the Psalmist says, For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (103:14) Or as Jesus said to his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
b. God knew their future failures. Remember how rebellious these very Israelites become. Did God make a mistake in choosing them?
- He knows our future acts and decisions, including all our sins – yet He still calls us by name to Himself. So God knew all the future failures of the Israelites, but nevertheless chose them to be His people. So do not be disheartened by your own weakness and remaining sinfulness.
- God loves us in spite of our failures. His love is unconditional
- God can save us even though we fail. He can transform the heart and change us.
c. God knew the power of the enemy. He was aware of Pharaoh’s stubborn heart. In fact He told Moses that Pharaoh would not yield to his request.
- God knows the obstacles we face. Whether that power is a physical disease or an oppressive state, whether it is a human enemy or Satan himself, God knows its strength. He knows all of Satan’s plans and ploys, and all the tricks and deceitfulness of every human enemy. As the author of Hebrews puts it: And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (4:13)
- God is not surprised by the power of Satan. He does not struggle to defeat Him.
- He will not allow me to be tempted beyond my ability to resist. 1 Cor 10:13 – 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
d. Finally, God knows His plans for the Israelites. Think of the situation of these people: God already had rescued Moses from death in the Nile; He already had placed Moses in the household of Pharaoh so that he would learn all that was necessary to play his future role; He already had placed in Moses’ heart a desire to save his people from the Egyptians. Soon, He would appear to Moses in the burning bush, display His power over all the Egyptian gods through the plagues, and rescue His people from slavery. God knew all these plans.
4. Just so in your own life. As the Lord says through Jeremiah, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (29:11) And God always brings about His plans. He declares, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Is 46:10)
a. Recall also the end of Psalm 1: “The LORD knows the way of the righteous.” Surely this means, in part, that the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, as the NIV translates it. He guards our ways, protects us from the evil one, guides us in His paths. But this verse also relates to God’s plans for us: He knows the way He will lead us, and the sufficient provisions He has made to save us. (This does not preclude our unwillingness to obey Him and be lost) But knows what we need. And He has provided it.
Conclusion So what are your sorrows? What are your pains? Why are you crying out to God? Whatever your sorrows, whatever your pains, whatever your cries, know this:
Your God Hears! Every word you cry out, even your unspoken thoughts, God hears.
Your God Remembers! All the promises of God are Yes in Christ Jesus. And He is faithful to all those promises
Your God Sees! He sees what is behind and what is ahead, all the threats, all the dangers.
Your God Knows! He knows you: Your sins, your failures, your weaknesses; He knows your enemies, and the trials they will put in your path; He knows what we need.
So persevere! Hold on! Trust in the God.