Last week we considered that “God Hears and Remembers”: He hears the cry of His people and He remembers or acts toward us for our good and His glory on the basis of His gracious covenant with us. This truth is clear from the account of the Exodus (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7, 9).
The truth that God hears and responds to the cry of His people is remarkable; read again God’s response to His people’s cry and apply it to His response to your cries:
So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:24).
But there is a problem. Often, when we are in a situation in which we are desperate for God to act, we start formulating in our minds what His acting will look like and what the result will be. And sometimes, when God does act we can be disillusioned by what the effect is. Israel was in slavery in Egypt. They cry out to the LORD and what happens? God sends Moses and Aaron to say “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1). What was Pharaoh’s response? He was not amused.
But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!” 5 Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!” 6 So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, 7 “You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 “But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ (Exodus 5:4-5).
Do you see what happened? The people of God did what they were supposed to do: Cry out to the God who remembers, but the result was not exactly what you would expect if God was remembering His people. Moses in effect says this to the LORD:
Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23 “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all” (Exodus 5:22-23).
They cry out to God because things are bad and what happens? Things get worse. The dynamics of this are very important to consider because as God’s people we often find ourselves in situations that have the same ingredients. There are several truths that will help us respond rightly in such circumstances:
First, we must not evaluate the faithfulness of God to His covenant with us based on circumstances in front of us. Moses raises this issue of things getting worse after their cry to Him and the Lord comes back with an assurance that He remains faithful despite the worsening circumstances. He assures Moses that Pharaoh is no match for His power (Exodus 6:1), that He still has not forgotten His covenant with Israel (Exodus 6:2-4), that He truly has in fact heard the cry of His people (Exodus 6:5a), and that He has remembered His covenant with them (Exodus 6:5b).
Second, God always responds to our cries with the purpose of revealing more of Himself to us through His answer (Exodus 6:6-8). This is hugely important to grasp. If we are not passionate about what God is passionate about for us, then we will simply not understand His response to our cries for help. What is God passionate about for us in His response to our difficulties? That we know Him in a deeper, more transforming, and more joy producing way. He is out to sanctify us. If we do not long to be more like Christ then we will not understand the path to deliverance that God often leads us down in response to our cries. In fact, it is clear that the people of Israel were not grasping what was going on and they were missing what God was accomplishing in them:
So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage (Exodus 6:9).
In the words of James 1:4, they were not letting “endurance have its perfect result.”
Third, God always responds to our cries with the purpose of glorifying Himself. Five times in the Exodus account there is this phrase “That you may know” (8:10, 8:22, 9:14, 9:29, 10:2). God allows Pharaoh to harden his heart (Exodus 8:15) and the LORD Himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9:12). After 10 plagues Pharaoh finally lets the people of Israel go and what happens? The LORD hardens Pharaoh’s heart again and he comes after Israel as they are trapped between them and the Red Sea. Why did the LORD do this after He had already delivered His people from the grasp of Egypt?
“Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” And they did so (Exodus 14:4).
As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 “Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:17-18).
Do you see the point? The LORD would and was delivering His people, but in so doing He was out to magnify His own unique excellence. Just as God’s response to our cries will not make sense if we are not on board with His plan to sanctify us, so His response to our cries will be frustratingly mysterious if we are not longing for the magnification of His own glory.
Fourth, given these realities, as we continue to cry out to God in various circumstances we must walk by faith. The Christian life simply does not make sense unless we are walking by faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Israel cried out to God, Moses obeyed God, and things got much worse. The temptation in such situations is to start scheming on our own to rectify the problem at hand. We reason this way: “I know what the Bible says about this situation, but my personal situation is unique. The only way for things to work out the right way in this is if I go ahead and do such and such (even though ‘such and such’ is not in harmony with Scripture).” Trouble is always around the corner for those who try to rectify troubles apart from obedience to God. Dealing with troubles God’s way even though it may lead into more troubles is always the right way and ultimately will be vindicated. When it is all said and done we should want to be in trouble brought about by obedience to God’s Word rather than trouble brought about by our disobedience to His Word.
Are you in a desperate circumstance? Cry out to God. He hears and remembers.
Have you cried out to God? Are things getting worse? Remember these things.
- We must not evaluate the faithfulness of God to His covenant with us based on circumstances in front of us.
- God always responds to our cries with the purpose of revealing more of Himself to us through His answer.
- God always responds to our cries with the purpose of glorifying Himself.
Therefore, walk by faith believing these truths! God hears and remembers for your true good and for His ultimate glory.