“I have surely seen the affliction of my people… and have heard their cry.” Those were God’s words to Moses in Exodus 3 as He prepared to take action on their behalf to lead them out of captivity in the land of Egypt. The scene describes a remarkable meeting of God with His appointed leader to put into motion His redemptive plan.
After a little cajoling and some gracious accommodation by God, Moses leaves the land of Midian to return to Egypt, with God’s call in hand. In Exodus 4 Moses met up with his older brother, Aaron, to let him in on God’s plan. Together they met with the leaders of the oppressed people of Israel, filling them in on God’s plans for them and showing them wondrous signs to confirm that God Himself was at work.
Then we are told this: “And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Ex. 4:31) The people were pumped. They thanked God in advance and gave glory to His name, filled with expectation of God’s intervention on their behalf.
It is thrilling to know that the Lord God Almighty has heard our prayer. We believe that He attends to our cries as His children. He will act. Our hopes are stirred. Anticipation builds as see things put in motion. God is at work, as He promised. He has heard our pleas. Things are underway.
But things do not always unfold in such linear fashion, do they? We pray for a job, weighed down under financial burden. A prospective employer contacts us—out of the blue. By chance. But we know better. This is the hand of our Father God responding to our cries. Praise and thanks stir in our hearts. Our eyes grow wide with hope.
The job seems perfect. We make it through the initial screening. Then the first interview. Then the second. It’s down to us and one other. But God is on our side. Our cell phone rings. The caller ID displays the name of our new boss. We answer to hear that it was close, but we didn’t get the job. What!
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Prov. 13:12) That’s just how we feel. Sick—and confused!
Not only did we not get the job, our car breaks down. $1,200 we don’t have. On top of that, our son has won his high school business class competition. Nationals are in Nevada. The cost?—$900. We don’t have it. But we don’t want to deprive our son of this opportunity. What is going on? It’s almost like God is flaunting our problem in our face, rubbing salt in an open wound.
The Israelites were elated when they first heard Moses and Aaron. God had turned His face toward them. He had heard their cries. All would be well. But things only got worse from there. Bricks without straw. Beatings. The bonds of slavery tightened around them rather than being loosed. The people became dispirited. Theirs hopes had crashed in flames. Even Moses observed that things had gone south (Ex. 5:22).
But God had a plan. It’s not what the Israelites expected. Their worsening plight did not indicate God was having a rough time turning things around. Their plight was part of the plan. God would bring about a showdown, not only to deliver them from the house of bondage in Egypt but to show whose god was real—theirs or the Egyptians (Ex. 12:12).
In their predicament we see glimpses of Paul’s experience. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:7-9).
God did answer prayer, in His time, in His way, for His purposes, in display of His glory. That’s still how God answers our prayer. We are called to pray… and trust. Pray… and wait. Pray… and expect. Pray… and pray.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.