Now it came about in those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of [their] bondage rose up to God.
In the course of Exodus 2, we are given the birth of Moses, then speed through life to Moses as an adult — at which point he commits murder and flees for his life into Midian, then hit fast forward all over again and come to the point where he is a husband and a father living in Midian. Somewhere in the course of these events, the king of Egypt died. And it would seem that things under his successor were much worse for the Israelites, because it is after the death of the king of Egypt that the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out.
People can endure quite a bit before we voice our discomfort. We also have some really fascinating mental machinery that blocks out unpleasantness that falls below some threshold in our mind. I do not think that it is the same for all of us, but I do think that we tend to stay quiet while the group with which we identify remains quiet. Once the group at large begins to speak, then we do, too.
There is so much happening in America right now that seems to parallel this. Groups in society that say they have been pushed to the margins. Not being a part of those groups, I cannot speak to the truth or falsehood of the claims made. More, much of being pushed to the side or oppressed has to do with perception. Up to a point, the Israelites did not seem to register their situation as oppression. The course of Moses’ life from birth to burning bush is about 80 years. That is a long time to be oppressed without taking note of it.
So, what do I do about this? Well, the Israelites cried out; and their cry for help … rose up to God. The first thing I can do is to pray. It may not sound like much to some, but prayer accomplishes two major things. One, it adds another voice to those asking God to set right a wrong. To an atheist or agnostic, this is trivial. To the believer, this is seeking the aid of the omnipotent. Two, it adjusts my heart and my perspective. It is difficult to be compassionate and empathetic when I do not witness the wrongs firsthand and have never, to my knowledge, suffered under them myself. A person suffering does not necessarily need my words, but my compassion can go a long way. Job’s friends were great for helping him feel better when they sat with him in silence, but their words caused more grief than good.
The second thing I can do is listen. Not merely to the words that are said, but to the heart behind the words, which is infinitely more important. The same words might come out, but one heart is raging while another is breaking. I do not have answers. The more I think about this and how it can be applied to my own life, the more overwhelming it seems. God never has called His children to the easy way.
Father, first a prayer that You would hear the hearts of those suffering. I know that You do and I know that You want to comfort them, so I add my voice to those asking for You to comfort those suffering. Second, I ask that You would give me compassion. I find it difficult to maintain a compassionate heart in the midst of current events. Third, and finally, I ask that You would give me discernment. I want to know which voices come from hearts that need compassion and need to be heard and which come from hearts so full of hate and rage that no being heard and no compassion will move them. Thank You for loving us all, irrespective of anything we are or have done. Thank You for Your compassion toward us and Your mercies and Your grace.