When We Groan God Hears (2:23)
Israel had reason to doubt the effectiveness of God’s ears. They had been suffering for some time. Their suffering began before Moses was a baby. By the time we get to verse 23 Moses has grown up in Pharaoh’s house, become aware of the injustice, killed a man in rage, ran to the desert, learned to be a shepherd, married, had children, and grown comfortable with his life. That is a long time to suffer and pray.
Exodus 2 answers the questions on the heart of Israel, “Does God really care? Does God express His care by listening? If He does listen, is He capable of freeing us from this powerful oppression in a land full of other gods?” As we will see in our study of Exodus, they hoped “yes” but feared/believed “no.”
Preparing to Study Exodus: As you prepare for this study, read it as much from the vantage point of Israel (the delivered) as Moses (the deliverer). This will help alleviate the self-righteousness we so easily fall into as we read their doubting, fear, and fickleness. Reflect on the life they have lived for many generations and that the current generation had experienced for several decades. Then reflect on the besetting struggles of your life (both sin and suffering). As you study Exodus, walk with Israel on their journey from slavery to freedom.
Who Am I?
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When presented with the greatest challenge of his life, Moses asked a very natural question, “Who am I (Exodus 3:11)?” God could have answered Moses directly, “Moses, you are the only Jew who has access to the throne room of Pharaoh by virtue of being his adopted son and the only Jew who has learned to navigate the desert by being shepherd since the rest have been brick-building slaves. That is who you are and why I have chosen you.”
Instead, God simply said, “I will be with you (Exodus 3:12).” In effect, God is saying, “Although I have sufficiently equipped you to carry out the task set before you, the task is not primarily about you. You will not be the one who delivers the people, you will simply be my ambassador to Pharaoh.” God sought to deliver Moses from his insecurities by changing Moses’ focal point. Like us, Moses was not immediately cooperative with this change.
Use the following questions to help you make application of this dialogue between God and Moses.
- What challenges are you currently facing for which you feel inadequate (Exodus 3:10)?
- How has God proven himself faithful with comparable issues (Genesis 12-50)?
- What life experiences do you have that have prepared you for this moment (Exodus 1-2)?
- Who else has been praying for this life challenge (Exodus 2:23)?
- How are you currently framing this challenge that highlights your inadequacies (Exodus 3:11)?
- What promises from God are you doubting through your fear (Exodus 3:12)?
In light of these personal reflections, return to the words of God to Moses and take comfort, “I will be with you.” Notice that in light of Moses’ fear and doubt that God comforts by reaffirming His presence. These are not only words to change Moses’ focal point but to calm his fearful heart.
Do you find it odd (as I do) that God created people, related to them personally, and directed them through centuries of history before He told them His name (Yahweh – LORD)? That is a long time to relate on the basis of an informal title (Elohim – God).
Assuming God’s timing is perfect, we must ask, “Why wait?” I do not believe the answer has anything to do with God being insecure or coy. The answer is more likely to be found in man’s ability to understand and receive the significance of God’s name. Until God’s people had lived for centuries, in both good and bad times, had a collective identity, and lived in various locations they would not understand the full meaning of this name.
Reflection: Begin with Abraham and reflect on the history of God’s people up until Exodus 3. Then also consider what they will experience in the coming weeks and months. How would this moment be ideal for them to more fully grasp the significance of God as the “Great I AM” (Yahweh) – transcending time, space, power, and authority while still being personal enough to have a name and being willing to share it? That same God invites you to know Him by name in the midst of your challenges as well.