A Concerned God

Exodus 3:7-8 “The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

The theologian’s term for God’s all-knowing ability is “omniscience.” No truth, no fact, no event ever escapes his notice.

The point of this talent is not that he could be the all-time winningest champion on Jeopardy, or that it qualifies him to teach the entire university curriculum. Those things may be true. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.” David writes in the 139th Psalm. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” The point is, the Lord is entirely familiar with the most intimate details of our lives. And he acquaints himself with them not because he wants to catch us, or shame us. He makes them his business because he is concerned to help us.

The Lord did not feel obligated to explain to Moses why he waited a couple of hundred years and several generations to do something about the suffering of his people. That doesn’t change the fact of his concern. Timing can be a complicated thing. Before you bake the bread, it’s wise to let the bread dough rise, even if you are hungry right now. Otherwise you might end up with an inedible brick.

Just because the Lord doesn’t explain to us why he waits to intervene in our suffering doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a perfectly good reason for waiting. In the meantime, if you want to know what he is really like, trust him when he says, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people…and I am concerned about their suffering.”

Then he reveals that he is the God who rescues us in his love. “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” So begins the story of the greatest deliverance before the coming of Christ.

Israel was a slave nation: no army, no weapons, no organized leadership. Egypt was a superpower: an empire whose wealth, and technology, and military had no superiors. There was no way the little nation of sheep farmers turned brick layers was going to escape to freedom without divine intervention. It would take a miracle– at least a dozen of them before God was done.

But God did what he promised, because that is the kind of God he is. He comes down. He gets involved. He delivers his people even when it looks like all hope is lost. It makes it easier for everyone to see that the escape was not luck, a fluke, or a sudden surge of human ingenuity. It was God, the one whose loving concern leads him to deliver his people.

You could say that the whole Bible tells this story over and over again. The names and places change. The story is always the same. God’s people are trapped in misery, usually due to some foolishness of their own. The Lord intervenes to rescue them: from bad decisions, bad behavior, bad neighbors, bad family members, bad employers, bad leaders, bad empires, bad weather, bad health, even bad religion. It all culminates in the big one, the rescue of all rescues. He let his own Son be crucified to deliver us from our sins and free us from death. This rescue tells us, like no other, what God is really like.

Mark Paustian tells about the time he arrived at church early to set up for Sunday service and found a young woman waiting there. “I hope you don’t mind my being here,” she told him. “I don’t believe in God.” “Why don’t you tell me about the God you don’t believe in,” he offered. “Maybe I don’t believe in him either.”

She went on to describe a god who sits on his hands, does nothing about the pain in the world, invents arbitrary rules, and enjoys judging and killing people. “Guess what?” Pastor Paustian said. “I don’t believe in that God either.” Then he went on to describe the God of all power, who is still holy and just, but who might best be understood this way: He is the “God with skin on,” Jesus Christ. He is the God who made the very beam of wood that got too heavy for him when he had to carry it up the hill where they executed him.

He is the One who could do everything, hanging on the cross doing nothing. Just dying. For me. He is love in flesh and blood, alive again three days later, because he is concerned about his people.

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