When it comes to God, people ask big questions such as, “If God exists and is good, why does He allow suffering?” Most of those who ask this have specific suffering in mind, perhaps a world event or something closer to home. However, even Christians struggle with this question. We want our lives to be like heaven on earth and wonder why it is not.
Today, I read this verse and felt as if God was answering the question, at least for those who trust Him and who realize that His thoughts are above our thoughts . . .
But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. (Exodus 1:12)
In the economy of God, suffering is productive. His people are oppressed and multiply? That makes no sense. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of revival? That makes no sense. God’s strength is perfected in my weakness? That makes no sense either. Yet God does work in mysterious ways, and as for suffering, He understands what will bring good and how much is too much.
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. (Exodus 2:23) God listened and sent Moses to deliver them, but first Moses had to experience God and be convinced of His plan.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed . . . And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God . . . God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:2, 6, 14-15)
As I string these verses together, I also remember that the God I call good and wise is also in charge of things. He uses oppression to build up His people. He uses a flaming bush to reveal Himself. He is the almighty, the everlasting one, the I AM.
But the next reading says something more about Him. It is a love story, but points to another reality about God; He is a lover in the most tender sense, One whose name is like the most perfect olive oil . . . Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. (Song of Solomon 1:2–3)
Immediately I go to the next reading that speaks of this amazing God, the One in the burning bush that Moses was afraid to look at, and the One who is eternal: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14, 18)
This is the God who causes His suffering people to multiply, who rescues them when the suffering goes beyond His plan, who reveals Himself in unexpected ways, as burning but not consumed, as a lover most irresistible, as a man full of grace and truth. His final appearing was so unexpected that His own people did not recognize Him when He came as a mere man. Instead they crucified Him, not realizing that this action of theirs was also part of God’s plan, a terrible injustice that became His grounds for justifying sinners and giving us eternal life!