God not only knows what we are going through; he also acts on our behalf:
That God knows everything and is aware of everything is a biblical given. He is God after all, and that includes his omniscience. He sees all things that are happening, and he knows what we are going through. And his knowledge often leads to action.
All this is especially true of God and his people. He knows their condition and their situation. If they are going through difficulties, hardships, oppression or persecution, he is fully aware of that. And this awareness usually results in him doing something. God sees and cares, and he acts.
I write this because I am again reading through the book of Exodus. The opening chapters make this perfectly clear concerning God’s love and care for his people. You know the story: The book of Genesis ends with the people of Israel moving to Egypt to be divinely cared for by God as a famine sweeps the lands. The Pharaoh then had been kindly disposed towards Joseph and his family.
But as we read in Exodus 1:8, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” The Egyptians feared the Israelites and made their lives miserable – enslaving them and mistreating them. The king even tried to put to death all newborn male Israelites, but God intervened via Hebrew midwives who feared God instead of the king (Ex. 1:15-22).
One such miraculous birth is that of the future deliverer Moses. But while he is growing up, the oppression continues. As we read in Ex. 2 23-25: “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. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”
As I reread that just minutes ago the four verbs jumped out at me: God heard, God remembered, God saw, God knew. Wow. And we find this repeated in chapter 3. As God appears to Moses at the burning bush, he says to him in verses 7-9:
I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.
We find more of this in verses 16-17 when God tells Moses what to say to the Israelites: “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
God was fully aware of the plight of his people. He was not asleep or indifferent but fully cognisant of what they were going through. And his knowledge of their situation led to action. He is not aloof, and he is not apathetic. He cares deeply about his people and he knows what they are experiencing. And this care results in deliverance.
Since God does not change, that is good news for his people today. He is quite aware of our situation. He knows of any hardships or trials or enmity we are experiencing. He knows all about it. And in his sovereign way, he will deal with those situations.
Sure, we may not experience instant deliverance, or see our prayers answered just as we want them to be, but God is aware, he is alert, he is concerned, and he is at work on our behalf. That should be very good news indeed for all of us especially if you are now suffering or undergoing great troubles, or are being targeted by enemies, etc.
Let me draw upon some commentators here to further tease all this out. One point worth stressing is how Moses is a type of Christ, who cares and acts on the behalf of others. He identifies with the people and their suffering – just as God does. Philip Graham Ryken comments:
What is surprising about Moses’ deep sympathy for those who suffered oppression is that he had been raised to show utter contempt for slaves. One of the primary goals of Pharaoh’s educational system was to reinforce the pride of those in power….
Moses had everything the world had to offer. He had grown up as one of Pharaoh’s grandsons, enjoying all the riches of Egypt. . . . He had everything to lose and nothing to gain, but the moment he was moved to compassion by the sufferings of God’s people, he made his choice. From then on he would be a despised Hebrew rather than a privileged Egyptian.
But the emphasis here is on God and his compassion. We could spend a lot of time looking at the four verbs used. Let me just briefly discuss the idea of God remembering. The Bible is all about promise and fulfillment. What God promises, he delivers on. And he had promised things to the Patriarchs that he did not forget centuries later.
The Hebrew verb ‘to remember,’ says T. Desmond Alexander, “denotes more than merely recalling something from the past. By remembering his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God is committed to bringing to fulfilment what he guaranteed first to Abraham and then to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob.”
Or as Victor Hamilton writes:
“Remember” sounds like such a human-related verb that using it of God may seem strange. If by “remember” v. 24 is stating that the crying of the people jogs God’s memory about a covenant he has made earlier, then it is indeed strange! That is hardly what it means, however. For God to remember is not to recollect accidentally, but to take action deliberately on what is recalled. Or as Childs has put it, “God’s remembering lies in his acting toward someone because of a previous commitment.”
God is not indifferent and aloof while his people suffer. Alexander quotes Terence Fretheim who says:
God does not remain safe and secure in some heavenly abode, untouched by the sorrows of the world. God is not portrayed here as a typical monarch dealing with the issues through subordinates or at some distance. God does not look at the suffering from the outside as through a window; God knows it from the inside … Yet, while God suffers with the people, God is not powerless in the face of it.
The relevance of all this for believers today should be obvious. One final comment – from Ryken again:
God knew his people. He knew all about them. The word suggests intimate, personal acquaintance with all the particulars of their suffering. The God of the covenant, the God who sees, hears, and remembers, is the God who knows our situation in all its desperate need. He is a God who is worth praying to. He already knows all about our situation because he sees everything that happens. He hears all our prayers—even when they are little more than groanings. He remembers that we belong to him by the covenant of grace in Jesus Christ. Then he answers our prayers—not always in the way that we hope or even in the way that we expect, but always in a way that brings him glory.
Yes, that is good news indeed.