After a long time the king of Egypt died. 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.
Mark Twain humorously observed, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt”. Alcoholics Anonymous and various Twelve Step groups have popularized Twain’s witticism to remind us all of the danger of not admitting and facing up to a problem. There is no hope of change or transformation without first recognizing that a problem exists. Often people are in denial about their addiction, refusing to acknowledge they are powerless and their lives unmanageable. Similarly, many people, while knowing the seven warning signs of cancer, refuse to admit they might have the disease or seek medical help.
Denial ran deep for the Children of Israel in the bondage of Egypt, until they “groaned” and “cried out”. Bondage and pain alone lead to nothing, but pain acknowledged opens the way to salvation. If pain alone were redemptive then we would all be saints. But our pain must lead to our crying out. Theologian Martin Marty pointed out, “Brokenness and wounding do not occur in order to break human dignity but to open the heart so God can act” (A Cry of Absence).
Notice in the text that it does not say the Israelites cried out to God, rather that they simply cried out. At this point in the Exodus story the Israelites are worshippers of the gods and idols of the Egyptians rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 23:19-20). Attracted by Egyptian life and mythology, they had long ago forsaken the Lord God. It was only when they cried out that the LORD God of Israel acted.
So the first step is to acknowledge our pain, our brokenness. Then God goes to work. Western writer Louis L’Amour observed, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning” (Lonely on the Mountain). Your crying out can be the beginning of your Exodus!
- What might be the “Pharaohs” in your life making you miserable? In other words, who or what are your Pharaohs?
- Do you feel that you are being broken? If so, how? Are you ready to cry out?
- Take some moments to talk to God about what you are feeling.