Trust in the God Who Knows

Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings (Ex 3:7 ESV, emphasis added)

Coty Pinckney:

God Knows

The final clause is the most important – and also the hardest to translate. English translators have struggled with this phrase, and have rendered it many different ways.

The NIV has “was concerned about them”, the NAU “took notice of them,” the KJV “had respect unto them.”  But all of these translations include considerable interpretation. The Hebrew is quite simple: it says “God knew.” The ESV chooses this simplest – yet ambiguous – translation.

In this context, what is it that God knows? What does the author of Exodus mean by this phrase? The NIV, NAU, and KJV translators evidently think the primary idea is that God knows the problems of the Israelites and is concerned about them. Surely this is part of the meaning, as is brought out a few verses later in 3:7. This verse is in many ways parallel to 2:24-25, using three of the four Hebrew verbs we consider today:

Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings (Ex 3:7 ESV, emphasis added)

“I know their sufferings.” God knows their pain, their sorrow, their loss. And He cares.

But in this context the expression “God knew” means much more. Think: What else does God know that is relevant to the Israelites’ situation? What else does God know that is relevant to your own situation? Let me bring out 4 items in addition to their suffering that God knows:

1) God knows their present weakness. He knows that they can do nothing to help themselves. He knows that unless He acts, they are lost. As the Psalmist says,

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (103:14)

Or as Jesus said to his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

2) God knows their future failures and sins. Remember how rebellious these very Israelites become. God will begin to put His plan into effect – and they will attack his servants for making matters worse (5:21). God rescues them with a series of great miracles – and yet as soon as they see the Egyptian army approaching, they wish they were back in slavery (14:11-12). After God rescues them once more through the Red Sea, they begin to thirst and hunger, so they grumble against God (16:1-7, 17:1-3). God takes them to Sinai and speaks the Ten Commandments to them, and the people respond, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (24:3). But just a few days later the people make an idol, a golden calf, and worship it. God Himself calls them a stiff-necked people, and is prepared to destroy them (32:1-10).

And those are only their failures that are recorded in the book of Exodus. We could continue to relate the history of the Israelites through the succeeding centuries and record event after event where they disregarded and disobeyed the God who loved them and brought them out of Egypt by His grace.

Did God make a mistake in choosing them? Did God think they would be better than they were? By no means! Our God “declares the end from the beginning” (Is 46:10), and He knows our hearts. He knows our future acts and decisions, including all our sins – yet He still calls us by name to Himself.

So God knew all the future failures of the Israelites, but nevertheless chose them to be His people. So do not be disheartened by your own weakness and remaining sinfulness. If you are truly God’s child, you will overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 12:11), the very same blood that cleanses you from all sin, and you will be transformed into His likeness.

3) God knows the power of the enemy. Whether that power is a physical disease or an oppressive state, whether it is a human enemy or Satan himself, God knows its strength. He knows all of Satan’s plans and ploys, and all the tricks and deceitfulness of every human enemy. He knows what they will do tomorrow – how the disease will advance, whom the army will attack, how the thieves plan to rob, whom Satan will try to throw down. As the author of Hebrews puts it:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (4:13)

God sees and knows not only their actions but also their hearts. He knows their power – and He limits it.

4) Finally, God knows His plans for the Israelites. Think of the situation of these people: God already had rescued Moses from death in the Nile; He already had placed Moses in the household of Pharaoh so that he would learn all that was necessary to play his future role; He already had placed in Moses’ heart a desire to save his people from the Egyptians. Soon, He would appear to Moses in the burning bush, display His power over all the Egyptian gods through the plagues, and rescue His people from slavery. God knew all these plans.

Just so in your own life. As the Lord says through Jeremiah,

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (29:11)

And God always brings about His plans. He declares, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Is 46:10)

Recall also the end of Psalm 1: “The LORD knows the way of the righteous.” Surely this means, in part, that the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, as the NIV translates it. He guards our ways, protects us from the evil one, guides us in His paths. But this verse also relates to God’s plans for us: He knows the way He will lead us, how He will take us from our present situation all the way until we stand perfect before His glorious throne. He knows His plans for His people; just as with the Israelites in Egypt, He has already put into place those elements necessary to bring us to Himself, and He will see to it that we are brought safely to His heavenly kingdom, through whatever persecutions, failures, and Red Seas we have to cross.


So what are your sorrows? What are your pains? Why are you crying out to God? Whatever your sorrows, whatever your pains, whatever your cries, know this:

Your God Hears! Every word you cry out, even your unspoken thoughts, God hears.

Your God Remembers! All the promises of God are Yes in Christ Jesus. And He is faithful to all those promises – including the promise to work all things, all things, together for the good of those who love Him.

Your God Sees! He sees what is behind and what is ahead, all the threats, all the dangers.

Your God Knows! He knows you: Your sins, your failures, your weaknesses; He knows your enemies, and the trials they will put in your path; most of all, He knows His plans for you; He knows the path by which He will lead you, and how He will work all these trials together for your good and His glory.

So persevere! Hold on! Trust in the God Who Knows