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“And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” (Exodus 2:23-25)
When someone says to me, “I will remember you,” I take that to mean that the person loves me and is concerned for me. I often receive letters from people around the world, who tell me, “I remember you in prayer every day.” Whenever I do, I am humbled and filled with gratitude. What a great blessing! I take those words to mean, that I am loved and prayed for by someone who knows that I need God’s constant grace, protection, direction, and care. Frequently, particularly when I am preparing to leave for preaching engagements, members of our church family remind me that they remember me before the throne of grace. Words cannot express what that fact means to me. It tells me that the people I serve love me, are concerned for me, that they have a real interest in the work God has trusted to our hands, and that they know something of both my weakness and inability, and God’s greatness and infinite ability.
To be remembered by God’s saints in prayer before the throne of God is, to me, a wonderful blessing of God’s goodness. It is of indescribable value. Yet, there is a blessing of God’s goodness that surpasses that infinitely. Great as it is to be remembered before God, this is better: — We are remembered by our God. Our heavenly Father remembers us. God our Savior remembers us. We are engraved upon his heart. He never forgets us. He purposefully remembers us, always, in all our circumstances. All that he does, he does because he remembers us in infinite grace, in tender mercy, and in faithful, loving kindness. What could be more wonderfully glorious? That is what we read in Exodus 2:23-25.
“It came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died.” — God raises up kings and destroys them as he will. While they live, he rules them absolutely. When he is done with them, he puts them down. And the mightest of kings, just like the most insignificant worms of the human race, die at the time appointed by God from eternity. In the process of time Pharaoh died; and so shall we.
“And the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage.” — Another king was on the throne; but God’s people were still in bondage and bitter affliction. Political changes never change human nature. Cain hates Abel, Ishmael despises Isaac, and the serpent’s seed afflicts the woman’s seed in all nations, at all times, relentlessly. That fact will not be altered until the offense of the cross ceases to enrage the hearts of men.
“And they cried, and their cry came up unto God.” — They sighed and groaned by reason of their bondage and affliction. It is a great blessing of grace for the God of Glory to hear the cries of our hearts when we call upon his name in prayer (Psalm 18:6). That is truly a blessing indescribable. But the children of Israel did not cry to him. They only sighed and groaned by reason of their bondage and affliction. There is no indication of any repentance. They had learned the ways of the Egyptians, and cried to the gods of the Egyptians (Joshua 24:14). They cried to the river gods, frog gods, and calf gods of their captors. Yet, their God, the only Lord God, heard their cry, not because of them, but in spite of them. “And their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.” He heard them, because they needed him, though they looked to other gods. That is called “free, unconditional grace, immutable, indestructible!”
“And God heard their groaning.” — Yes, he hears the very groans of our hearts! — “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Genesis 15:14; 46:4; Exodus 6:5; Psalm 105:8, 42). — “And God looked upon the children of Israel.” He looked upon them with pity and compassion, and beheld their bondage and affliction. — “And God had respect unto them.” — He favored them as the objects of his tender mercy, love, and grace.
Throughout the Word of God we are told that God is “no respecter of persons.” How often have you heard some ignorant Arminian throw those words at you, as if that statement is a denial of God’s free, sovereign, electing love and discriminating grace? Yet, here we read that God had respect to the children of Israel. We see that frequently in the Book of God. There are some people who are distinctly respected, favored, loved, and accepted by God (Genesis 4:4-5; Romans 9:11-13).
True, God respects no man’s person. That is to say, God does not show partiality to anyone because of anything in man. Those things that cause us to be prejudicial and show partiality (race, wealth, education, morality, etc), God almighty sees through. He sees all men exactly the same. He sees every man as he really is, nothing but filth and sin. Therefore, he is no respecter of persons. Race, place, and face mean nothing to God (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:9-11; Ephesians 6:8-9; Colossians 3:25; James 2:1-2; 1 Peter 1:17). And they should mean nothing to us. Social, economic, racial matters ought never have any place in our esteem of others (Colossians 3:11).
While it is certainly true that God respects no man’s person, never imagine that God does not show partiality, favoring some and not others, being gracious to some and not others, loving some and not others. The Scriptures universally declare that there are some to whom God shows infinite, eternal, distinguishing favor and respect (Exodus 2:23-25; Leviticus 26:9; 2 Kings 13:23; Psalm 74:19-20). If you will read these references, you will see that in each of them God’s respect of men is based not upon their persons, but upon his covenant. God shows favor to some and passes by others because of, and only because of his covenant. It is on the basis of God’s covenant of redemption and grace made with Christ before the world began that he deals with and receives sinners favorably in time. It is this covenant of which David sang on his deathbed. It is by this covenant that all things are brought to pass in God’s providence. And it is by this covenant that all the blessings of grace flow to chosen, redeemed sinners in Christ (2 Samuel 23:5; Romans 8:28-31; Ephesians 1:3-6). Thank God for the covenant!
And thank God, he remembers his covenant! That is the delightful thing revealed in Exodus 2:23-25. — “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob!” That covenant God made with Abraham and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob was but a typical picture of the covenant of grace made with Christ before the world was, ratified and fulfilled by our Surety’s blood, and confirmed to us by the gift of faith in Christ.
Without question, David had this passage of Scripture in mind when he was inspired of God to write the 136th Psalm. This Psalm is distinct from others because of the chorus repeated in each verse, “for his mercy endureth for ever.” It is a song of praise for God’s enduring mercy. The chorus, “for his mercy endureth for ever,” we are told was a favorite among the Old Testament saints. They often sang it when giving praise for the display of God’s great goodness in the performance of his wondrous works.
This Psalm was probably written by David when he brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. In 1st Chronicles 16:34 David said, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” Solomon repeated those words when he dedicated the temple. When the glory of the Lord filled the temple and the people fell with their faces upon the pavement, Solomon led them in a chorus of praise, “The Lord is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Then, again in 2nd Chronicles 20:21, when Jehoshaphat led Judah out against the overwhelming armies of Ammon and Moab, who had come up from the valley of Tekoa, he appointed singers to sing praise to God, saying, “Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.” In this great Psalm David calls for all who have experienced his grace to give thanks to God because of his greatness, his great goodness, and his great works of goodness for his people. Then, in verses 23 and 24 he refers to that which Moses wrote in Exodus 2:23-25. — “Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
What thanks! What praise! What wonder! What comfort fills our hearts when we meditate upon the boundless mercy of our God! That he pities us in our misery and is determined to do us good, that his mercy endures forever, without abatement, that his mercy is from eternity to eternity, constant, immutable, and sure, oh, what a cause this is for wonder and praise! Psalm 136 is a psalm of praise to God for his unfailing mercy, “who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever: And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Do you sense something of the wonder of those words?
Moses wrote “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” The Holy Spirit translates that to mean, that he “remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever.” What a contrast there is between our God and us! We forget. He remembers! We are able to retain in our memory the most trivial, most useless, and even the most abominable things with ease. Try as we may, we just cannot forget worthless things. But that which is good, useful, profitable, spiritual, and meaningful, we forget very quickly, though try as we may to remember. I can remember jokes I heard as a child; but I quickly forget a passage of Holy Scripture I read this morning!
More tragically far, how often, how quickly, how easily we forget God our Savior and his countless mercies! In order to help us remember him, knowing our infirmity, our Lord Jesus gave us the blessed ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, and told us to keep the ordinance often in remembrance of him. But, blessed be his name, our God never forgets us. He is, as Arthur Pink put it, “The Faithful Rememberer.”
I found it very interesting and instructive to discover that the first five times the word “remember” is used in Holy Scripture, we see God remembering his chosen (Genesis 8:1; 9:15-16; 19:29; 30:22). The first time the word “remember” is used with reference to man is in Genesis 40:23. There we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.”
Israel in Egypt
David tells us that God “remembered us in our low estate:” Israel was a nation of slaves, groaning under the lash of merciless task-masters, oppressed by a cruel, heartless king. But when there was no other eye to pity them, the Lord God looked upon them, heard their cries of distress, and “remembered” them in their low estate. — “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto it.”
This blessed word of grace is not to be limited to the physical seed of Abraham. It is God’s word to us, to the whole “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). We unite with God’s saints of old, and sing, “Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth forever!” How “low” our “estate” was by nature! Fallen, sinful, and corrupt, we were in bondage and misery, wretched, ruined, and lost, unable to deliver, or even to help ourselves. But, in wondrous grace, God took pity on us. His strong arm reached down and rescued us. He came to where we were, saw us, and had compassion on us, and ran to us (Luke 15:20). Therefore we sing, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (Psalm 40:2).
Why did He “remember” us? The word “remember” does not imply that God had forgotten us. That is never the case with God. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). He declares, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16). Jeremiah the prophet assures us of God’s constant knowledge of his elect. — “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The word “remembered” tells us of God’s previous thoughts of love and mercy toward us. As it was typically with the children of Israel in Egypt, so it was with us in our low estate. He “remembered” his covenant, that covenant into which he had entered with Christ our Surety from old eternity. In that covenant eternal life was promised to us in Christ, all the blessings of grace were bestowed upon us, and we were “accepted in the Beloved” (respected, favored), because the Lord God trusted our Surety, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Titus 1:2; Ephesians 3:3-6; Romans 8:28-31; Ephesians 1:12; Revelation 13:8; 17:8). God “remembered” that he had “chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly, redeeming us with his precious blood, and, at the appointed time of love, sent his Spirit to redeem us from the bondage of our spiritual death by the power of his grace (Psalm 136:23-24; Galatians 4:4-6), bringing us from death unto life by his omnipotent grace.
Israel in the Wilderness
As David sings about this word recorded by Moses, he takes God’s remembrance of our souls beyond our initial experience of his free, saving grace in Christ, and applies it to the wilderness wanderings of his people as they made their way from Egypt to Canaan. As you know, Israel’s experiences in the desert were typical of our pilgrimage through this hostile world of woe. The Lord’s remembrance of them was manifested in the daily supply of their every need. When the waters at Marah were bitter, he sweetened them. To feed his people, the Lord God poured manna from heaven for forty years. The Rock that followed them gushed with water to refresh them. Protected by God’s presence, and so richly supplied by his hand, that their clothes and shoes never wore out. Israel walked through the waste and howling wilderness for forty years and lacked nothing!
But all those historic facts pale into insignificance, when we realize that they were things performed by our God only to typify, represent, and foreshadow the rich provisions of his boundless grace for us while we journey to our Home on High. True, our present estate is but a lowly one. Yet, the Lord our God is ever mindful of us, and richly provides for us, ever remembering his covenant, so that having Christ we have all and lack nothing (Romans 8:28-32).
We do not always dwell upon the mountain top. We are often in deep valleys. Bright and sunny days give place to dark and cloudy ones. Summer is followed by winter. Disappointments, losses, afflictions, bereavements come our way; and we are brought low. Frequently, just when we most need the comfort of friends, they fail us. Those we count on to help, often forget us. But, even then, our great God and Savior remembers us, and shows himself to be “the same yesterday and today and forever.” “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
Yet, how often we forget him! How often our hearts turn cold and hard; and we forget our first love! How low our estate is then! Yet, he remembers his covenant, and comes to us in grace, awaking our hearts, and causing us to seek him anew with all our hearts (Song of Solomon 5:1-7). Then, we sing with David, “He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
In the hour of death we may be in a very low estate. When this heart and flesh shall fail, when the cold sweat of death is on our brow, our “estate” may be low. But then the Lord God shall still remember his covenant and remember us, for “his mercy endureth for ever.” It has often been said, “Man’s extremity is but God’s opportunity.” His strength is made perfect in our weakness. In that hour our God will remember his covenant, though we may forget, and remember us, though we may forget him. He will make good his promises (Isaiah 41:10; 43:1-7; 25:9).
“God remembered his covenant.” —How we shall praise him in heaven’s glory for his covenant faithfulness, his matchless grace, and his loving kindness for having “remembered us in our low estate!” Then we shall know, even as we are known. Our memories will be renewed, perfected, and we shall remember all the way the Lord our God has led us (Deuteronomy 8:2), recalling with gratitude and joy his faithful remembrance of our souls, acknowledging with adoration that, “His mercy endureth for ever.” He remembers his covenant, and remembers us, because “his mercy endureth forever!” “O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 136:26).