'God heard [His people’s] groaning and he remembered his covenant’ Exodus 2:24
Brothers and sisters we continue today our study in the amazing book of Exodus. We’ve already heard that as God’s people we are to rebel against injustice, to live a life which reflects the truth, a life of committing small acts with great love. In the opening two chapters of Exodus—which form the introduction and the preparation for the main action—we have seen the stage being set; and today we see the final, and most important actor, arrive on stage, as God is mentioned for the first time. God is introduced to the book of Exodus as the ‘God who hears’. Look with me at verse 23: ‘The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant.’ The God of the Hebrews’ is a God who hears, is a God who remembers, and the implication is that He is a God who will act. We may wonder why He has not acted before, but then, it seems, His people haven’t asked. God has created a world in which He gives us free will, God does not impose Himself on us, no, He waits to be invited in. For whatever reason God’s people seem, to the most part, to have forgotten Him, they have not cried out before they have merely accepted their lot in silence. Now, though, something has changed the old king has died, and perhaps this sparks something in them helps them to realise that it doesn’t have to be this way. They cry out together for the first time and God hears them. As the Hebrew people cried out there would have been those who, like the crowd in our Gospel reading (Mark 10:46-52) surrounding Blind Bartimaeus: ‘rebuked him and told him to be quiet’. But like Bartimaeus the Hebrew people: ‘shouted all the more’. The Hebrew people now realised what Bartimaeus realised, that to remain silent was to remain oppressed; and so, like the blindman, they shouted and they were heard. God hears the cries of His people; all we need do is cry out! How often to we put up with things? Putting our situation down to our lot in life? God hears but first we must cry out. God acts but first we must act in prayer. The Hebrew people are finally asking, and God was listening.
However, we may well be wondering: where has God been? What has God been doing? It’s taken until the end of chapter 2 for God to be mentioned and all this time His people have been suffering terribly. Has God been sitting on a cloud oblivious to what is going on below Him? How often do we ask these questions when we turn on the news or when those we know are suffering? The Hebrew people are only now asking but are we to believe that God has been doing nothing? And the answer, of course is no. Like seeds planted in the ground during winter, not much may have been visible above ground, however, under the surface God’s handiwork is getting ready to bloom. God has been preparing His people’s rescue, by preparing His chosen rescuer. God has overseen Moses’ birth, and ensured his survival; made sure that he was cared for as a young boy; caused Moses to be adopted into a royal family, schooled as a leader by the superpower of the day; and, amidst all of this, God has not let Moses forget his people or his own identity as a Hebrew. We’re told in verse 11: ‘after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.’ The rescuer is being formed and made ready for just such a moment. Not surprisingly God has chosen very well. God has picked someone who in his bones is a rescuer, one who is willing to stand up for the oppressed, even if that means risking his own life. So the rough material is ready! Moses is the type of person who rescues; he has been taught the skills he needs to lead; and he has been brought up to recognise himself as a Hebrew. The basic building blocks are there but still Moses must choose for himself. Just as God does not force us to ask for help, so God never forces anyone to pick His side. Moses could choose to stick with his Egyptian identity, Moses could choose to ignore the poor people in front of him. God has given Moses what he needs, but still Moses needs to choose his own way! The same is true for us like Moses we have been given skills and talents, like Moses we have been placed in a particular time in history, like Moses we face a choice of how we will live. Moses chooses and he chooses God’s people, He chooses the side of the marginalised and the oppressed, verse 12: ‘Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.’ Moses acts and his actions, will radically affect the rest of his life, verse 15: ‘When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh’. Choices have consequences even ones made for the right reasons. Choosing God’s way, choosing the oppressed, choosing God’s people does not mean that all goes well with you—either back then in Exodus 2, or indeed today in our modern world. Godly decisions often lead to persecution. Right decisions often lead to horrible consequences for those who make them. However, sisters and brothers, better to be courageous then cowed; better to be for God who will be victorious in the long run, than popular now and embarrassed later. The truth is made known, Moses is blacklisted and has to run. Ironically this leads to an exodus of a Hebrew from Egypt, but it is only one man, it is only Moses, who for now is a leader without a following. Can we see, that God has been acting; God has been preparing the ground; He has been preparing a rescuer even before His people cry out? God has not been idle, He has not been sitting on a cloud and ignoring His struggling people rather He has been getting His rescuer ready to act. Now all of the pieces are in place, and they are in place, notice, even before the Israelites ask for help. This is made clear in Exodus 1 and 2, but it is made even clearer in our Gospel reading.
A few thousand years later, God’s people may well have been asking what is God up to? Again they were enslaved by a superpower, and again there were those—like the prophets Simoen and Anna—who were crying out for a rescuer. However, again, God wasn’t idle, behind the scenes He was preparing to rescue His people, and this time He had decided to come Himself. Look at our Gospel reading and verse 47: [Bartimaeus] began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet [Verse 51] ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.’ For many years after the amazing events of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds, the magi, Simeon and Anna, must have been wondering ‘Lord why don’t you act?’ In those years—of course—Jesus was being prepared. Like Moses before Him Jesus would have to choose for Himself. And in this story—as in the story of Moses in Exodus 2—we get small rescues taking place before the main rescue arrives. Bartimaeus is oppressed and enslaved by his disability as much as the Hebrew people of Exodus 2 were oppressed and enslaved by the Egyptians. Just as in Exodus 2 so in Mark 10, when God’s rescuer hears the cries He acts to save. And, just as in Exodus, so in Mark’s Gospel, the results of choosing the oppressed, of choosing God’s people, of choosing to act for God, leads to people pursuing God’s rescuer and seeking His death. Yes, God hears. Yes, God acts. And yes, God is working behind the scenes even when we think He is doing nothing. And so during those difficult times, during those silent times, Exodus 2 and Mark 10 asks us: will we trust the God who hears?
We come to the end of Exodus 2, we have seen God putting all His pieces in place, preparing the ground, getting the rescuer ready for the rescue that God has planned. Consequently, in the times of trial, in the times of difficulty when suffering comes, and when our fight against oppression leads to our persecution we can already be sure that God will save and so have every reason to: Trust the God who hears. Let us then cry to God for the oppressed, cry out for those who are persecuted for their faith, certain that our God—the God of the Hebrews—is the God who hears and acts. Amen.(from Fr Mike).