Friday, February 29, 2008
In these three verses, Israel “groans” under the heavy burden of slavery in Egypt and cries out to God. Having read Exodus before and knowing the story beforehand in some ways has blinded me to some of the force of some passages (like this one) in this very familiar section in a very familiar book. God hears the groans of the enslaved and oppressed Israelites and decides to act. However, his action is not motivated by his impression of their extraordinary piety or intense suffering while enslaved there, though he is compassionate to them. He acts because he “remembers his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” One of the most unbelievable parts of the story of redemption is that God has condescended to bind himself to a people in covenant. On what grounds did Israel approach God with their grievances about their situation? On the grounds of a possibly little-remembered (except by God) covenant that God had made with their distant ancestors about whom they heard wonderful stories. Ultimately, this covenant is the way that we too approach God. God still listens to the groans of his sinful, helpless people because of his covenant-faithfulness to the True Israel, the One who deserves God’s faithfulness, and in whom we gain access to the blessings of the covenant by which Israel (now and then) is redeemed from her slavery.