An attentive God

It’s not every day that I get to walk down the middle of 6th Avenue in Manhattan.

But here I am, enjoying the rare freedom of a blocked-off thoroughfare. I hadn’t known about this street fair when I drove in to the city. But having checked into my hotel and set out for one of my open-eye rambles, I quickly joined the mass of people wandering past booths of clothing and ethnic food.

Cities and airports always provoke the same question in my mind: How does God keep track of all these people? And here, in New York, with its diverse population, my wonder is amplified. So many lives. So many stories. So many joys and sorrows.

I have begun to re-read the book of Exodus with a commentary in my devotional times. The pace of the narrative in the first few chapters is brisk – so fast that there’s no explanation of how the people of Israel went from living and working in Egypt to becoming slave labor.

But after quickly picking up the thread of Moses’s life and following him into exile, the narrative pauses and pulls back for the big picture view.

“… the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2:23–25)

That last line is so powerful: God saw… and God knew.

On the way home from church earlier in the day, I photographed this goat on a farm by the road. (This is my life: rural goats in the morning, 6th Avenue in the afternoon.) It’s a poignant picture. But God had more than just a snapshot of his people’s slavery.   He saw the brutal treatment. He heard their cries. And he knew – not just a distant acknowledgement but an empathetic connecting.

Though they were unaware at the time of their ardent prayers for help, God had a plan to redeem them – to pull them out of slavery (“pulling out” is a literal translation of Moses’s name) into a land he had prepared for them.

On the ground, it’s easy to lose the vertical perspective. News reports tell us of daily tragedies around the globe. The lie of God’s indifference is easy to believe at times. But God sees. God knows. And he has already enacted a plan to pull us out of our slavery to selfishness and sin through the death and resurrection of his Son.

Today, when I look up in this great city, I will be reminded of all that.

He sees. He knows. He has enacted his plan.

Lord, we can’t fathom how you can be aware of all the pain and need in this broken world. We’re overwhelmed just by the superficial skimming of the morning news. Thank you that you are not only noticing, but you are acting to break the chains of sin and slavery. Use us as a part of that plan today.

How have you been reminded of God’s attention today? Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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