The Confounding Compassion of God

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Then the LORD told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering.”

Exodus 3:7

At first glance, Exodus 3:7-8 contains great news. The Lord has seen the mistreatment of his people. He has heard their cries and knows their suffering. For this reason, he has chosen to rescue them from Egypt and bring them into a new land, a land of milk and honey (v. 8). The fact that God heard the cries of his people and decided to rescue them reflects the same grace that God has shown to us in our own lives. God hears us when we cry out to him. God rescues, not only from sin and death, but also from all sorts of trouble we get ourselves into. God’s compassion is wonderful beyond words.

And also confounding. It’s marvelous that God heard the cries of the Israelites and felt compassion for them. And it’s great that he chose to redeem them from their bondage in Egypt. But what was God doing in the previous centuries? The Israelites suffered in Egypt for several hundred years. Did God hear their cries then? Was he feeling compassion? Why did he wait so long to deliver them?

We can try to answer these questions, but, in the end, we simply do not know why God waited so long to deliver his people. This is part of the mystery of his wisdom that exceeds our comprehension. Similarly, we usually don’t know why God waits so long to answer our prayers for mercy. Scripture teaches us that God cares for us, that his love is always with us through Christ. But when we’re suffering and God seems so distant, it’s hard to make sense of his confounding compassion. Someday, I expect all of this will make sense to us. But, in the meanwhile, we find ourselves rejoicing in God’s goodness and, often at the same time, wondering why his goodness is sometimes so far away. Of course, then there are times when God’s goodness is so overwhelming that we are confounded in the opposite direction. We wonder why God is so good to us when we don’t deserve it.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever been confounded by God’s slowness in responding to your prayers? Have you ever been astounded by God’s goodness to you?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must confess that I have such diverse responses to this passage. On the one hand, I rejoice that you heard the cries of your people and determined to rescue them. Yet, on the other hand, I wonder why it took you so long. I can’t figure out why you let generations of your people suffer. In faith, I know that your ways are always best. I trust your wisdom and count on your love. But sometimes your compassion is confounding, both in its absence and in its excess.

Lord, I don’t ask you to explain yourself to me, though I wouldn’t mind having more wisdom about these matters. I do ask that you give me the ability to trust you even when I don’t understand you. And I ask for the gift of your peace when I am confounded.

Today I pray for those who are crying out to you and who aren’t yet being rescued. Reach out to them with your mercy, Lord. Comfort them with your presence. Reassure them with your love. I long for the day, Lord, when you will wipe away every tear! Amen.