Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the Lord , and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord .”
Exodus 6:6-8 (ESV)
I wonder if there is another place in scripture in which God declares more authority or provides more assurance in such a short passage.
“I am the Lord”
“I will bring you out from under the burdens”
“I will deliver you from slavery”
“I will redeem you”
“I will take you to be my people”
“I will be your God”
“I am the Lord your God”
“I will bring you into the land”
“I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”
“I will give it to you”
“I am the Lord”
In order to identify what prompted this kind of declaration from God, we need to back track a few chapters.
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.
Exodus 2:23-25 (ESV)
So often I read scripture and don’t slow down enough to really let the depth of the message sink in. “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant.” The descendants of Jacob moved to Egypt in the first place because of a widespread famine. God put Joseph in a position to be second in command under Pharaoh, giving him the vision to foresee a famine, the wisdom to help Egypt prepare for it, and the power to enact a plan. In doing so, his brothers and family were able to move to Egypt and be spared from the famine. God saved the family.
Fast forward approximately 400 years and those descendants have multiplied into the millions, been imposed tax penalties so heavy that they are enslaved by Pharaoh, are distraught, desperate, and crying out to the God of their patriarchal forefathers for relief.
In reading these first few chapters of Exodus, the story is so condensed that the weight of circumstances is easy to miss. Israel is not yet a nation, but considered a people by God (2:25). We know that these people are enslaved for approximately 400 years. I imagine, although not recorded in scripture, they had been hoping and probably praying for deliverance for quite some time. If not all of them, at least a remnant, and eventually the cries become strong enough that God takes notice.
Consider that for a moment. How often do we pray for something and get discouraged? Can you imagine 400 years of prayers going unanswered? How dedicated must these people have been to not only remember a God that was silent for 400 years (or at least it appears he was silent in scripture), but also to pass a prayer down from one generation to the next for a handful of generations? Surely after 400 years, when they finally hear an answer they must have been elated.
Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
Exodus 6:9 (ESV)
“They did not listen.” What? At this point, my inclination is to be critical and judgmental of their response or lack thereof. They cried out to God, who sent a message through Moses, proclaiming his promises and his identity with definite authority. Their response should have been a giant collective sigh of relief. Instead their response was to not believe. The very thing they cried out for relief from, overwhelmed them so much they didn’t hear the response. They were broken, yet he didn’t hold their lack of faith against them and turn his back. He set out to prove who he was to Pharaoh, also proving himself to his people, and ultimately made good on his promise by delivering them out of Egypt.
Slowing down to read this and attempting to grasp the details caused me to reflect on my own relationship with God. Do I seek his help diligently? When I do seek his help do I listen for a response? Do I recognize the response when it comes?
What really inspired me to think differently was the idea that God did not hold it against them that they asked for help, then were so overwhelmed they didn’t believe when help was sent. Sometimes we may get so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we forget God can help or we become blind to the help he sends. Our own overwhelmed state of mind doesn’t stop God from making good on his promises.