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Strength for today, hope for tomorrow – Part 1

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Prophet Sunday O. Nwabeke

Sometimes it feels like life is falling apart. Sometimes it comes crashing down in a moment of tragedy. Sometimes it slips slowly through your fingers, like when your health deteriorates or your marriage stagnates.

Most people often misinterpret the hardships of life as evidence that God is against them. What hope, what help, what grace does God offer that can hold us together when it feels like life is falling apart? I have found that God himself holds me together as I cling to what his word reveals about who he is and how he works to redeem fallen people in a broken world. One of the places I find this grace is the exodus story.

God Sees Our Suffering
In Egypt, the Israelites were ruthlessly afflicted with backbreaking slave labor. Circumstances beyond their control made their lives bitter (Exodus 1:11–14). In their agony, they cried out to God for relief. In response, “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel — and God knew” (Exodus 2:24–25).

God heard. God remembered. God saw. God knew. Then out of the burning bush, God told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:7–8).

God saw. God heard. God knew. And God came down to deliver.

When it feels like life is falling apart, it’s tempting to believe that God is distant and disinterested in my plight. But knowing the character of God is a deep comfort. Not only is God omniscient, but he is good, and he is willing and able to deliver. We Often Misinterpret Our Pain

However, the first time Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh with God’s command — “Let my people go!” — the result looked nothing like deliverance (Exodus 5:1). Rather than freeing God’s people, Pharaoh made their work harder and their lives even more bitter (Exodus 5:9).

When their suffering intensified, the Israelites misinterpreted their circumstances as evidence of God’s absence (Exodus 5:20–21). Even Moses was perplexed and “turned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all’” (Exodus 5:22–23).

“God heard. God remembered. God saw. God knew.”

Fast-forward several chapters. When God finally brought his people out of Egypt, he specifically directed Moses to turn back and encamp by the sea (Exodus 14:2). Why would God lead his people into a corner? Exodus 14:4 says, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” It was God’s intention to display his glory to his people by bringing Pharaoh against them and delivering them at the last moment.

But Israel didn’t break out in anticipatory praise and eager expectation of this display of God’s glory. When they saw over six hundred chariots from the strongest army on earth bearing down on them, fear gripped their hearts. And once again they interpreted their situation as evidence that God meant to do them harm:

The people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:10–12)

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