I’ve read the narrative of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush countless times over the past 21 years. It was the bread and butter of elementary Sunday school classes when I was growing up and I’ve just about memorized every song from The Prince of Egypt, which–aside from its numerous Biblical inaccuracies–is one of the best animated musical films of all time with one of the best film scores produced in the last 25 years (chills. every. time.). But this afternoon, I was struck by God’s description of His response to the suffering of His people in a new, timely way.
From the perspective of the Israelites–who were in the midst of unimaginable suffering–God was distant and inactive. But Scripture records a compassionate, action-oriented response from God:
Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from the land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.Exodus 3:7-8a
And even earlier in Exodus–in a rapid succession of clauses connected by the conjunction “and“–we see God’s awareness of His people.
And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the Israelites; and God knew.Exodus 2:24
Even though the Israelites could not see how He was working, God was aware of their situation and He purposed to deliver them. He had ordained their suffering so that His glory might be revealed and His purposes could prevail, but He was acting on their behalf. He would work their slavery for good.
What a comfort to know that we serve and are loved by an active, initiating God!
Here, in 2020, we are not suffering oppression or groaning under the weight of a brutal taskmaster like the Israelites. But our lives are in complete upheaval as state governments and the CDC seek to “flatten the curve” and contain COVID-19. Restaurants are closing, schools are moving instruction online until the end of the year, and news outlets are cranking out story after story about how this extremely contagious disease is altering life for people around the globe.
And many of us may be crying out to God with questions and fears and frustrations as we adapt to a very uncomfortable new normal.
I don’t know where you’re at during this COVID-19 craziness. Perhaps you’re afraid. Perhaps you’re angry. Maybe you have family members who are at risk of the virus doing serious damage if they were to contract it, or maybe you’re separated from friends who feel like home. And if you’re anything like me, you’re trying not to freak out under the crushing pressure of uncertainty (because I’m a BIG planner and the inability to look much further than tomorrow stresses. me. out.).
But what I do know is that this pandemic has not caught our God by surprise. He sees. He knows. He has heard our cries, our doubts, our fears, and our frustrations.
And He will use this situation for His glory and for our good–even though we may not see or understand how that might be possible right now.
There is a world of lost, scared, hopeless people who will be more open than ever to hear the good news of the Gospel. Be a voice of hope to your neighbors, friends, and family. Dig into the Word. Wash your hands and sanitize surfaces, keeping in mind that even if you are not at risk from COVID-19, you may come into contact with those who are. Pray fervently for revival. As you take precautions to protect you and your family, look for ways to share the love of Christ. And discipline yourself daily to trust in our good, sovereign, merciful God. He was faithful to the Israelites long ago and He is faithful to us right here, right now–because our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.2 Cor. 4:16-18