This week’s Crossings is by CTR parishioner Matt Barns, a recent Gordon-Conwell Graduate (MDIV, OT) and tech guru.
I sat down in the library at Gordon-Conwell one evening in October of 2016, put my head in my hands, and just wept. It was late, and as I tended to do in seminary, I had procrastinated. So here I sat, in the library when it was about to close, again, translating the Hebrew of Exodus for a class the next morning.
I had just finished chapter two, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe you haven’t read Exodus in a while, so I’ll give you a second. Go, pick up your Bible and read the first two chapters. They’re quick, but powerful. Verses 23-25 are the climax of the first two chapters, and these verses brought me to tears. They describe the actions of the true main character of Exodus, God Himself. It says that the children of Israel
“…groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. . . 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.” (ESV)
Now at this point I had already been studying the Old Testament academically for six years, and some part of me thought that I got it. Boy was I wrong. In just those two verses above it clicked for me more than it ever had before, and I worshipped.
It hit me hard because of three words: hear, remember, and know. To “hear” in the Old Testament typically means to both hear and then to respond because of what you have heard. God hears the cry of his people and is moved to compassion, so much so that He must act. How does He act?
He acts by remembering his covenant; that is, He acts by being who He is, the God of Israel who loves his children and has promised them freedom and safety. Finally, God “knows.” That is, He takes a personal interest in and real action towards his people, namely He begins his plan to save them.
I could go on and on about Exodus and the Old Testament (seriously, come find me if you want to talk about it, and read Exodus, Job, and Ezekiel, they’re amazing). Knowledge is great but it doesn’t explain why I cried that night. Here’s what hit me, and I hope what hits you too: amid a seemingly never-ending pandemic, with black Americans crying out for justice in our streets, the story of Exodus says that we are not alone, and that in fact we never have been. God hears us, He remembers who He is (the God of love and justice who became human in the person of Jesus and died so that we might be raised back to rejoin in the Divine Life), and God sees our pain and knows us deeply. It says that though things may seem bleak now, God is always working to save His creation. That right there, that’s the whole thing in a nutshell. From Genesis to Revelation, God acts to save His beloved creation and bring them back to him. So, while it may seem dark now, know that God hears your pain, He remembers who He is, and He has acted and will again act to save his people for one day death shall be no more.
– Matt Barnes