The Painful Prayer; The Listening God
And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
For four hundred years Israel had been dwelling in Egypt. For a considerable portion of that time they were slaves. The Pharaohs took advantage of the ethnic origin of the people dwelling in the land of Goshen by turning them into a cheap labour force. They not only saw the opportunities afforded by these Hebrews but they were afraid of their growing strength. Therefore servitude was a technique employed in weakening their numbers.
The last 100 years were the cruelest of all. As the building projects became bigger the work for the slaves grew harder still. When the slaves continued to grow in strength despite their hardship, one Pharaoh even commanded that all the baby boys be thrown into the river. Destroying the potential of the power of future manhood was hardly a way to treat a prize labour force! But sin fuelled by hatred and fear has no logic!
Behind all of this pain and sorrow – the taskmasters’ whip and the backbreaking work was the dark work of Satan. He was determined to destroy these people, to prevent the coming Messiah who would arise from their loins. This was a crucial moment. The family had become a nation. But the nation was without its independence and had no kingdom to rule. Across the wilderness in Canaan was the land that was promised to them. Here they were destined to take root, here the line of David would be established and here the Christ would be born of Mary. Satan in these desperate years was working frantically to hinder the work of God. Therefore God’s people, at the centre of the struggle were groaning by reason of their bondage.
As the skies grew darker, as the pain intensified, as the situation grew increasingly hopeless the slave nation took to praying. They had prayed before. But there is a moment that arrives in the life of a man or woman, in the life of a congregation or the soul of a nation where prayer becomes more real, more important, more vital than at any other time. This is prayer born out of urgent need as the realisation dawns – only God can help.
Have we reached that place today in our lives?
Crises and trials have a knack of finding us out – of discovering our carelessness or strengthening our weakness; exposing our shallowness and hypocrisy or burning up the dross and drawing us closer to the Saviour.
When we are cut away from regular worship do we still read God’s Word and expose ourselves to a biblical ministry? Do we continue to honour the Sabbath? No longer do we worship because we would not want to be seen to be absent. This is now about what we are before God – His fear is our only motivation. But in reality this should have always been our only motivation at all times. Are we in prayer? Are we walking with Him? Is this crisis driving us to God? – our only hope in days of trouble.
Thousands of lives across our nation, this island and the world have been taken in this pandemic. How many of these souls were saved? How many are lost? How many more souls? Many today on account of the threat of Covid-19 are in imminent danger of eternal Hell.
Is there not a need to pray, to pray urgently as we have never prayed before, not just for an end to the pandemic but for precious souls, out of Christ without a Saviour.
Our nation is not in a good place with God. Gone are the days when the Government and the Crown called the nation to prayer. We observe the madness and folly of sin – God is still defied as His laws continue to be set aside by rebellious and foolish hearts.
People around us will not pray but we can pray. Let us not complain. Let us pray. This is the need of the hour!
As these Hebrew slaves cried together, groaning under the sharp cutting whip of their earthly masters – God heard, God remembered, God looked upon them and God had respect unto them.
What a encouragement this is for our troubled and weary hearts!
We are confined to our homes, we are shut out of our churches BUT God is not confined and we are not shut out of His presence.
These Hebrews were slaves but they were the most powerful nation on earth because their God was greater than the power of Pharaoh. So it is today. Our God is in the heavens, He does as He pleases. As our God is all powerful His Church, rather than being weak and dispirited, is the most vibrant body on earth:
“All things are possible to him
That can in Jesus name believe;
Lord I no more Thy name blaspheme,
Thy truth I lovingly receive;
I can, I do believe in Thee;
All things are possible to me.”
He continues to be the God who hears our groaning. He hears the cry of the nurse or the doctor struggling to cope with massive pressures on the healthcare system. He hears the cry of His child gasping for breath as the virus takes grip upon the lungs. He hears the sob of one who has lost a loved one, being deprived of the opportunity to say that final crucial farewell, he hears the cry of a family worrying about their financial future, he hears the cry of the church longing for a renewed spiritual consciousness in these desperate times.
He remembers, not merely the covenant with Abraham but that which He made with Christ. Therefore as we pray we always say, ‘For Christ’s sake’ – because God never turns away His Son.
As He looked upon the children of Israel with pity and concern, so He is looking upon us today.
But He also had respect unto Israel. This word ‘respect’ implies knowledge by way of intimate experience. God felt for Israel, His heart experienced their suffering, therefore He was filled with the most intense compassion.
This was the God of Israel; this is our unchanging God.
Let us bow our heads and cry to Him today.