At Resurrection, confirmation students complete sermon notes. I enjoy reading the questions they write after the sermon is done. Normally they offer just one, but this past Wednesday one student was truly inspired. I had preached on Moses and his encounter with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3. I started the sermon with the verses that come immediately prior:
The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them. Exodus 2:23ff
The cry of the Israelites created all kinds of questions for the student:
While God’s people were slaves, many died. Why did He not save them? Why did he wait? Were they the “bait”/sacrificed for us to grow closer to God? How do you know if God is listening? (you don’t feel he is there.) Why did God “then” hear their “cries?”
Though the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for generations (Exodus 1:8), this is the first record of their calling out to God for help. They may have called out before, but we have no record of it. God knew their struggle and was preparing a way out of Egypt through his preparation of Moses for leadership. The cry of the people and God’s call for Moses to lead the people are linked here in Exodus. God waited both for the people’s desire to leave and for the right leader to be ready.
As to the question of whether we know God is listening, the point is the Israelites did not know at first. They cried out to God and God chose Moses, even though Moses has no desire to be God’s leader. Moses was God’s answer to the Israelites cry for help, but they did not know it at first. In fact, when Moses first arrives they reject him, Exodus 5:21!
The story demonstrates that God’s answers prayers, but not always in the time and way we choose. We are called to trust God even as we wait. It also demonstrates that we might become the answer to someone else’s prayers.
When was a time that you had to wait for God’s answer to your cries for help?