Francis Schaeffer was an American evangelical theologian who established the community L'Abri in Switzerland. French for "the shelter", L'Abri was meant to be a community and philosophy seminar for young people to discuss philosophical and religious believes. Schaeffer wrote the book "The God who is there" and in his interactions with young people in the 1960s found that the hardest thing to explain to young people was that there is a real, objective God who exists outside of their thoughts. Many people thought that God was just an extension of their mind and consciousness.
In a similar way, perhaps the people of Israel also had no reason to believe that their God existed by this time in Exodus 2. Based on their circumstance and where they lived, it is tempting to believe that all that they were taught about their God is not true. They are in slavery and subjugated under Egyptian superpower. They have no reason to believe that there is a God. But as we’ve been seeing in the past few weeks, we see how God is the invisible hand working in the background and preparing Moses for something. What it is, we do not know yet, but we will slowly see it.
(A) A people in trouble cry out (Exo 2:23)
This part of the narrative is sent in "those many days" (Exo 2:23a), referring to the events of the preceding verses. It refers to Moses' sojourn in the wilderness. In Acts 7, we know that Moses is 40 years old in Exo 2:11 and he spends 40 years in the desert before Exo 3:1 takes places. These 40 years are not a breeze. This is a man who is educated but is out in the desert for 40 years. The story flashes by, and the king of Egypt dies before the narrative picks up and goes on.
Here, we are told that the people of Israel “groaned” and “cried out for help” and we are told why — “because of their slavery” (Exo 3:23). The people are not keeping silent and being passive. In fact they are asking for help and they have not embraced their circumstances. The people did not become prayerless. Their prayers are not abstract, but they cried out to God. What does it mean that a whole nation cried out and their collective cry went up to God? They did not stop praying to the one person that they realised could help them. The Israelites went back to the God of their fathers. Years later, Moses recounted it back for the people, remembering how they prayed to Him and it was He who rescued them (c.f. Deut 26:5-7). What did they not do? Ps 10:3-4 tells us what they did not do. They did not go into problem solving mode, relying on their own devices and schemes. This approach is described in Psalm 10 as a way of wickedness.
The Israelites show us what it means to be God’s people. God’s people come to God in prayer. What about you? Is it common for you to pray and cry out to God first or last? Is He your first call for help, or your last? What does that say about what you believe has the most power? For many of us, we might not be used to praying and committing our projects, relationships and all of life to the Lord, every bit of it.
When we pray, sometimes we don't always believe it, and may even think of it as a formula. This is not the way the Israelites prayed here. This verse describes their prayers as a groan, cry, call for help and God's rescue. Here, they did so in desperation because they have no other hope. Many of us never do that because we are not desperate. We have built for ourselves our own brand of self- sufficiency. What is the state of our prayer life? Our prayer life and its robustness and vividness reveals whether or not we are truly atheists. If you never are desperate, you must be god. And if you are god, God cannot be God.
(B) The God who is there responds (Exo 2:24-25)
Exo 2:24-25 gives us 4 verbs that describe how God responds. He heard, remembered, saw and knew. Up to this point, God's involvement has been both implicit and explicit. God was explicitly at work in Exo 1:20-21, as He responded directly to the midwives. He “dealt well” with them (Exo 1:20), and blessed them for what they did. He gave them the blessing of children which they had been instructed to remove from their countrymen. God explicitly defies what Pharaoh commanded.
The writer of Exodus also wanted us to see God's involvement in implicit ways. In Exo 1:7, 12, we see that people multiplied despite being oppressed and this is a
specific formula that is repeated in both Genesis and now in this passage. What is the writer trying to tell us? Everything that goes on here is not just a mere
coincidence. God is actually preparing Moses. His name has special significance because of how God is going to use him. Moses means “drawn out” and he will lead God’s people out of Egypt after he himself is led out of Egypt. The things in Moses’ life are all meant to prepare Him for God’s work. Nothing that happens in Exodus is an accident. This same God who orchestrates and designs all these events is the God who saw, heard, remembered and knew. Long before Exo 2:23-25, God had already been acting. Therefore, the writer concludes this section in this way not because he needed to move the narrative along, but it is meant to introduce the next wonderful thing that God is going to do.
So, what does it meant that God “remembered”? It is not that God forgot, but He is telling us why He is acting — because of His faithfulness. The phrase “God knew” here is not just a cognitive understanding, but it means something more and something intimate. The God who is there is not just the being who keeps the planet spinning, but is a God who genuinely cares about His people. It is easy in the Christian life to accept and believe that we are sinners and Jesus died on the cross and we who believe have been brought into His family. It also possible for us to believe that God has an intangible, impractical love for us. But this is not what Exo 2:25 says. This verse says that when we are at the bottom and feel as if no one cares and there is no way to make this situation better, God knows and also cares.
Ps 139 is helpful for us to read and consider the various things that God knows about us. There are at least 4 things that we can learn from this Psalm:
- God knows me and my thoughts (Ps 139:1-4, 23-24)
He knows our struggles and the futility that we face and all our attempts at trying to fix our situation and problems. Let's face it, our attempts are usually futile and even grievous in the sight of God. In this Psalm, the Psalmist is not merely inviting God because God has searched and known him even without invitation.
- God knows where I am and my circumstances (Ps 139: 7-12)
God knows where we are right now even all the bits we want to hide.
- God knows my design and how I work (Ps 139:13-15)
In Ps 139, “Inward parts” doesn't refer to our internal organs, but refers to our inward character. He sees us truly as we are, in ways that will make us tremble if we knew what it is like and what He can see. And it's not just His select few that He knows in this way. He knows each one of us in this way. God knows the quirks of your character and the ups and downs of your life.
- God knows my days, both past and future (Ps 139:16).
Yes, God knows all our days.
This is what “God knew” means. He knew every single bit of their life and this is why Exo 3:1 exists. It means that our lives, right here right now is really a part of a bigger plan. Most of us probably looked at our own life and decisions today and assumed that it was just a normal life, a normal Wednesday that is not significant. But Exo 2 calls us to pause and think of it in a bigger way.
Francis Schaeffer who wrote "The God who is there" went on to write "The God who is there and is not silent", and this is an apt description of Exo 3:1. If there is a person who knows, cares and provides for me, so the next question is really, what is He doing? He is waiting! 2 Pet 3:8-9 tell us that God is patient. Gal 4:4-5 also tells us that God sent us Jesus in the fullness of time. He did so because He had heard, remembered, seen and knew all the groaning and crying for help of His people. But He acts in His time.
This is a God who knows His people, and who also acts not according to the whims of His people, but "in the fullness of time". It is this God that calls us to put our faith and trust in Him today.
Hallelujah, all I have is Christ
Jesus is all we need. Do you believe this?