“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (Exodus 2:24)
The predicament of Moses as he fled from the wrath of Pharaoh can be easily overlooked by the rapid pace of events in the opening chapters of Exodus. Just a few short passages earlier, we were reading about Moses’ rescue from the Nile River; in just a few passages from here, our attention will be captured by God’s appearance to Moses in the Burning Bush, calling the reluctant deliverer into service. From our perspective, this journey into Midian seems little more than a momentary diversion, a brief interlude in the life of Moses until such time that God was ready to act on behalf of Israel. But consider what Moses was actually leaving behind as he escaped from Egypt:
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that it was the faith of Moses that compelled him to trust in God above the riches and pleasures of Egypt, along with the privileges and prerogatives that his station in Pharaoh’s household entitled him (Heb. 11:24-27). “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25). Yet Moses was not suffering with the people of God as he rested in the hot desert sun, weary from his flight from the armies of Pharaoh — a “warrant for his arrest” having been issued — and collecting his thoughts as he drank deeply from a foreign well in a foreign land. All of the waters of Egypt had so recently been at his disposal, and now he drank from a well of shepherds and nomads in a land that was not his own. Throughout so much of Moses’ life we see him alone, rejected by the very people whom he was sent to save. I wonder what Moses’ thoughts were as he sat exhausted upon that Midianite well? His offer to deliver the nation of Israel from their oppressors had been utterly repudiated and his gesture of protection had backfired. In the process, it cost him everything and he now dwelt in a foreign country among a people who were not his own.
One could easily imagine that, were they themselves in a similar situation, bitterness and anger could easily consume their thoughts and the desire to ever risk moving on behalf of the safety and well-being of others might indefinitely be extinguished. But not Moses. No sooner does he finish refreshing himself by the well than he is again moved with compassion by the plight of the helpless (this time it is seven daughters of a local priest, come to the well to get water for their livestock) who are oppressed by a different type of tyranny. Who could blame Moses had he decided that this matter was definitely none of his concern and remained seated as these young women were pushed aside by the very men among whom Moses would now be living? Yet he stood up and helped them (Ex. 2:17). What a picture of Moses’ character! His overwhelming desire to help the helpless and rescue the downtrodden, wherever they be found, surfaces even during this most dire occasion in his life. So many people say they are willing to stand against injustices on a grand scale; they decry the abuses and oppressions of governments and institutions, but what about the little offenses going on all around them every day? They are willing to march on Washington and write angry letters to their Congressional Representatives, yet they are unwilling to stand up for what is right and godly in their own homes, workplaces, and schools. For Moses, whether it was standing against the taskmasters of Egypt, brutalizing their Hebrew slaves; or standing against a group of chauvinistic nomadic shepherds, too impatient and intolerant to wait for a group of women to finish filling their father’s water troughs, he found that he was unable to sit idly by in either matter.
In the closing verses of this chapter, we are shown a very wonderful truth about what it is exactly that moves God to save us. Two reasons are given for God being moved to deliver the nation of Israel from their oppression: 1.) He heard their cry and groaning and, 2.) He remembered His covenant (Ex. 2:24). That’s it. It wasn’t how “good” the Hebrews were that moved God to save them, it wasn’t because of how devoted and loyal they were to Him, it wasn’t because of the promises they made to Him nor the deals they bargained with Him. God took pity upon them because they groaned and cried out against their oppression and because He had made a promise to save them. He does the same for all of us who come to Him and are delivered from our bondage to sin by our Deliverer, Jesus Christ. It’s not our “goodness” that moves Him with compassion, it’s not how “righteous” or “religious” we are, it isn’t because we promise that we will do great things for Him if He saves us. God offers us Salvation for the same reason that He offered it to the nation of Israel in Egypt: because our situation is just as hopeless and desperate as their’s was. God hears our own cries for deliverance and our acknowledgment that apart from a Savior, we cannot be saved. And like the Hebrews in Egypt, we, too, have a promise and a covenant from God: a New Covenant that if we will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved (John 3:15). God has never saved anyone on any other basis than these two principles, and He never will. None of us are worthy of being saved; God saves us because He loves us and has compassion on us.