This week’s parasha, entitled ‘shemot,’ follows Exodus chapter 1 through to the beginning of chapter 6. This portion of scripture tells us about the Israelites’ oppression in Egypt, where they were bound in slavery by Pharaoh. We hear about the rescuing of baby Moses, a son of two Levites, and his later escape to Midian when Pharaoh sought to kill him. While he is there, Moses receives the call to be used as a deliverer for God’s people. Despite his initial fear and doubts about his personal abilities – “who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) – Moses agrees to be used by God and stands before Pharaoh, trusting that God will be faithful to accomplish what He said He would do.
We can be encouraged from these scriptures to know that God hears the cry of the afflicted. The Israelites, who had experienced generations of hardship and slavery, were reaching a cracking point and were crying out for deliverance: “during those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God” (Exodus 1:23). These verses are immediately followed by this: “and 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 1:25). God heard, God remembered, God saw and God knew. For a people who may have been completely overwhelmed by how distant God felt to them, it’s incredible to read that He knew and was moved by their groaning and by His promise made to their forefathers. We can be certain of God’s nearness in the midst of our trials – that He sees us, knows us and is always compelled to do something about it.
God’s promise is this – that “with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land” (Exodus 6.1). Later on in this week’s Torah portion we read Isaiah 27:6-28:13 and 29:22-23). Here, we can discover more of God’s power to deliver and His promise to restore. “See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong. Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind, like a driving rain and a flooding downpour” (Isaiah 28:2). Isaiah 28 also talks about God being a “glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people” and a “spirit of justice” – we can be confident of our deliverance and restoration when we serve a powerful God like this!
There are countless situations around the world today that need deliverance. Whilst we may not always understand, we can be assured that God is good, that He “hears the cry of the afflicted” and is in the business of deliverance. There is a call going out to pray and a call going out to act. You carry a message of hope inside you, a message that transforms whatever it touches: God saves! Like Moses we are called to break the chains of oppression we see around us. Even in the midst of crises we can hold firmly onto the declaration of Peter in 1 Peter 5:10 that “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Today, as we consider what is going on in the world, let us not be overwhelmed by the many shakings that take place. Let’s consider what God did for His own people, in delivering an entire nation out of the hands of their oppressors, and into a journey that would ultimately lead them to the promised land, their beautiful inheritance from a promise-keeping God. God sees it all and is ready with His master plan to bring about breakthroughs in our lives and in the lives of those around us – moments that will cause us to remember His goodness, love and power.
The European Coalition for Israel is a unique grassroots movement, which is seeking to promote better relations between Europe and Israel through advocacy and education. More information: www.ec4i.org