The doctrinal statement of the American Humanist Association, Humanist Manifesto II (dated 1973), states: “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race.” Is God real? Does He have personality or is God simply a concept? Is He involved in the cogs of the world’s operation or are the humanists correct in their belief?
Groaning under the lash of their Egyptian task masters the descendants of Jacob (Israel) may have pondered these questions. For years the Israelites had enjoyed life in the land of Egypt. Their ancestor, Joseph, had saved the Egyptian people by planning ahead for a seven-year famine. Pharaoh promoted Joseph to the number two spot and openheartedly welcomed the other sons of Jacob, along with their families, to settle in the best part of the land. And Israel prospered.
Then a new king arose who looked on the growing number of foreigners in his country as a security issue and took drastic steps to stop their numerical expansion. This king drafted the Israelites into national service and put them to work building massive cities. By enslaving the Israelites the king could weaken their resolve, destroy their hopes, and force them to grovel in submission. Overworked and abused slaves have little energy left to stage a revolt. And free labor! What a boost for the Egyptian economy! Cities could be constructed without the expense of paying workers.
Israel sighed and cried out to their God, the same God that the humanists believe does not exist. Perhaps some of those slaves struggled with their faith and lost confidence in God. No doubt they wondered why the petitions and prayers rising from thousands of parched lips over many years had no effect. Under the lash of their taskmasters the Israelites grew despondent. Though God sent a messenger, Moses, with a promise of relief, the people refused to listen.
So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:9 NLT
Believing in God when we cannot see Him face-to-face takes faith. Believing in God when we do not understand His timing or His ways or His thoughts or His master plan takes faith. Believing in God while we tread water in adverse circumstances takes faith.
Not believing in the existence of God also takes faith of another kind.
The Bible shares the backstory, God’s actions, what God was doing even as His chosen people suffered in slavery. The account begins even before the famous shepherd with an impressive resume encountered a burning bush in the desert. That bush was God’s first revelation of the master plan (Exodus 3), but what was God doing before that?
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. Exodus 2:23-25 NLT
Pay close attention to the verbs in the text as God interacts with people. Otherwise we do not tap into a vast storage tank of encouragement. God heard every prayer. God had not changed His mind about the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the plight of the slaves. God took action.
As God began His conversation with Moses, He shared more.
Then the LORD told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached Me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead My people Israel out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10 NLT
“I have seen the oppression…heard their cries…have come down to rescue and lead them out…I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them.”
Moses was not prepared for the next part. “I am sending you…” God had a workable plan. He had people (Moses and Aaron) in place to implement the plan. God had power to ensure the plan unfolded with accuracy on every detail.
Later, as Moses delivered God’s message to Israel, more verbs reveal God’s presence and involvement.
Therefore, say to the people of Israel: “I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as My own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!” Exodus 6:6-8 NLT
Take note that God opens and closes this message with His name. The phrase “I am the LORD” is translated from a single Hebrew word that we translate into English as Jehovah, the self-existent One. God declares that He is always with His people and He is always faithful to them.
I will free you…
I will rescue you…
I will redeem you…
I will claim you as My own…
I will be your God…
I will bring you into the land…
I will give it to you…
God exists! And He is busy! He’s doing something even when we can’t fathom the intricacies of all the pieces. Even when we think the plan must be broken or at best incomplete.
My heart breaks for that person, let’s call him Joe, who has convinced himself that God does not exist. Perhaps Joe swells with pride over his accomplishments. He sees himself as scholarly, wise beyond his contemporaries, and in no need of religion. Joe might have been turned off by a God-follower whose walk never matched the talk. Observed hypocrisy among professing God-followers is likely the number one excuse used to explain not believing in God. Or did a prayer of Joe’s, for something that seemed right and good, go unanswered? Might the outcome of a circumstance about which Joe prayed have unfolded unexpectedly? Did Joe read something in God’s Bible with which he took exception or could not understand? And then there is the world with its heaping collection of injustice. Would an almighty being really allow children in a third world to starve?
These are tough issues. Hard and likely impossible to address using human reason and intelligence. The humanist who has decided God does not exist admits that he cannot offer suitable answers to every issue as stated in this quote from Humanist Manifesto II, “Nor is there any guarantee that all problems can be solved or all questions answered.”
The children of Israel dwelt in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:20). God existed before, during, and after their stay. In that long and dismal interval God heard every prayer. He felt the pain of His people. He understood completely the suffering that darkened their days. God had a plan for a brighter future for the nation. And God took action.