And God Knew
This September I joined a local Bible Study; the study began in the pages of Exodus. We were introduced to Moses, who had been spared from the cruel edict for his life. His extraordinary circumstances placed him in a position where he straddled two worlds, two identities. But when the two came to an impasse, he forsook one. This would culminate in him opposing his hometown and spearheading a mass exodus (over 2 million people) out from the tyrannical rule of Egypt.
It’s a story I’m familiar with, whether from story time at Sunday school or watching the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments televised each Good Friday or Easter. Unfortunately, familiarity has its pitfalls. It’s easy to overlook, be less attentive to new discoveries and subtle nuances when you know the storyline. So I was pleasantly surprised, and even grateful when I paused at Exodus 2:25.
“…[A]nd God knew.”
Preceding this short phrase, the Israelites are in anguish over their oppression; it compels them to groan and cry out for relief (verse 23). They plead not in vain because God intercepts. He engages. He hears their groaning; He remembers his promise for a fruitful life, one that is vastly different than their current circumstances; He takes notice not as a bystander, but as one who is moved by their plight (verse 24). And it concludes with the statement, “and God knew.”
What did God know?
It may be obvious and may require no further explanation. But I found myself raising an eyebrow. I felt like I was left hanging. It felt abrupt, unfinished, incomplete.
My second question had less to do with content and more to do with the nature of knowing. Was God’s knowing primarily factual? Or, does it move beyond this realm, into experience, a felt sense, or what our modern expression would say, “I feel you”?
One commentator explains, “God took personal knowledge of [the Israelites], noticed and regarded them.”* Another suggests that to know is “to take note of with a view to caring.”* The same Hebrew word yâdaʻ is used elsewhere, like in Genesis 4:1 to describe the sexual intimacy between husband and wife. That’s certainly not what’s being implied in Exodus 2; yet, such usage expands our definition to stretch beyond the realm of information to include vulnerability, intimacy, being open to knowing and to being known.
God did not become aware of the Israelite’s suffering because he read a memo. He heard, remembered and saw first hand. Their pain was no longer theirs alone but it became his. He too, was impacted. He was moved to act, to respond. He took necessary next steps that would result in a demarcation between those defended by the blood of a substitutionary sacrifice. The night of the tenth and final plague, God would be watching not only for the deliverance of judgment but also for the protection of those seeking asylum.
There is more. God knew that this act would usher in the ultimate passing over.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus too, would groan and cry out in deep anguish. If there was another way, only there wasn’t.
And God knew.
His knowing would encompass death and life, judgment and redemption. It would embody the story of Moses and Jesus.
Death was waiting. Wailing, morning, fear, hiding, despair, shame would follow. But Jesus’ death would open a new era; the once and for all ransom and exchange would crescendo at the cross. We would be invited to the Lord’s Supper to partake in his body and blood, in remembrance of him.
What does this kind of knowing mean for us? How does it affect how we live today?
In the hurried, trying to be at two places at once, now culture, knowing and being known are elusive. According to Psalm 46:10, stillness precedes knowing. When we are still, we can know. The kind of knowing we’re invited to is beyond textbook; it’s experiential. And experience leads us to wonder-filled celebration and confession.
That I am God.
And being in relationship with one who knows allows us to be known.
The reality that someone desires to know me intimately, is touched by my experience, and enters to join me in my world changes everything. It means I can rest from my constant striving to be enough, embrace trust without peering over my shoulder, and open my heart to hope and delight.
How good it is to stumble and find “and God knew.”
Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 314). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.