"Now it happened in the process of time that they king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 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."
My Bible study lesson this week has me in Exodus, remembering the life of Moses and how the Lord set him apart from his birth to be a significant leader in the history of Israel. From the beginning of Moses' first days, he was rescued and spared from the suffering that his fellow Hebrews were enduring under the hand of the king of Egypt. While he providentially sat in a palace, under the protection and authority of Pharaoh's family, the mighty nation of Israel was being afflicted and persecuted all around him. They came to Egypt under the blessing of the previous Pharoah and because of the honor Joseph had earned. They came favorably and protected, but that favor was lifted when the change of rule took place and suddenly the displaced Israelites found themselves hated and abused. It was a difficult season that lasted for years and years. As we read in Exodus 2, over the course of time the king that hated them so, died. There would be a natural change of rule again and I'm sure the Hebrew people were in distress, wondering how it would go and if they might find favor again or just more hate awaiting them.
In that moment of great distress, they groaned and complained to the Lord. They were in bondage and had been unjustly afflicted because of who they were and the God that they served. In their pain and stress, they cried out to the Lord. To the one who brought them to Egypt and then seemingly left them there to die, they petitioned Him for their lives, and for an end to their enslavement. Mercifully, as only our God does, their cries reached His ears and He heard all their complaints. He didn't ignore them or wipe them out, although He could have. Instead He listened and He remembered the generational covenant that HE had established with their forefathers. He thought about His promise that would make them into a great nation and take them to a land He had set apart for them. A land they willingly left when He told them to go, so that they could be Egypt. The very place they must have hated being. He heard all of their groaning, He remembered the promise He had made with them, He looked down upon His children, seeing the injustice with His own eyes, and He acknowledged them.
As I read that word, acknowledged, I pondered it for a little while. It's an interesting word that packs a lot of meaning. It doesn't say that He answered them or that He gave them a reason for their suffering. We know from the story of the Israelites that He did in fact have a plan for them, and that He began initiating it soon after with Moses. It was probably not a plan they would have liked, as it was going to involve more hatred and isolation from the Egyptians, plagues, a bloody Passover night, and an ultimate exodus into the wilderness...followed by 40 years of wandering in a desert. It's no wonder He didn't give them all the details at that point, I'm not sure it would have been comforting. Instead He chose a better response and one that met their deepest need.
The Bible doesn't tell us exactly what He did to "acknowledge" them, which I love. However He chose to do it, they knew that He saw what was happening to them and He acknowledged that it was happening. And doesn't that make all the difference?? In some of the hardest trials of my life, one of the most comforting things has been the acknowledgement of a friend and certainly of the Lord. To have someone agree with me and call my pain what it is, makes a greater impact than a spirtual cliche or a lesson in character building. Yesterday, it reminded me a little bit of when your kids need shots at the doctor's office.
While they endure that quick poke, pain ensues and cries are released. It's gut wrenchingly hard to watch them cry out in pain and yet, as their parent you know it's something they need to go through because that shot will ultimately protect them. For their own good, we allow it to happen, even though at any point we could stop it. As Carter cried from the poke he wasn't expecting yesterday, I found myself holding him tight saying, "I know buddy, I'm so sorry. That hurts doesn't it? I know...I know. I'm here, Mommy's got you." I couldn't take his pain away and I didn't stop the nurse from doing what she needed to do, but I comforted my baby by acknowledging what was happening and holding him through it. And as I read this passage in Exodus today, I realized that the Lord does the same thing for us. Somethings He chooses not to remove us from, but it's always for our good. He never turns away from us or closes His ears from our groans and our cries. He always bends His ear to us and listens to every word. He looks down on us from Heaven and He remembers the promises of His Word. He sees us in our pain and He acknowledges what we're going through. Sometimes He uses a word from a friend, an unexpected blessing, the comfort of His Word, or another way He chooses. But in His mercy and love He doesn't ignore us or forget us.
And today as I reflected on that word, I realized how grateful I am for a God who acknowledges me.
Here is my big guy at his 12 mo appt., cruising all around the room while we waited for the doctor to come in.
And here are my babies last year, when we went in for a similar visit that resulted in shots for everyone. Amazing what a difference a year makes and how we managed to survive that visit, despite the pain and the cries. God heard us last year and He heard us this year too.
He is kind, compassionate, merciful and loving toward those who belong to Him.
If you're feeling alone in the desert today or forgotten in your pain, I hope this reminds you that there is One who hasn't forgotten you. As you cry out to Him, He's waiting to acknowlege you.
Happy Friday, Friends...