Exodus 6:5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.
Here the question is, how can God remember?
Does God forget? Did God not think of his covenant for 400 years? That is not possible.
Does he have too many things to do? I used to think that when I was a kid. That God had a bunch of things to do, obviously, and so there were things he didn’t concentrate on. Of course, nothing was ever neglected, but many things were deliberately put aside while other projects were undertaken. I used to think, in other words, that God had a series of really accurate internal alarm clocks.
But that is untrained and ill-conceived theology. Many of God’s attributes are violated by that notion of God’s being and activity. So that is not the way to understand it.
When it says that God remembers, it does not mean that God forgot. It is impossible for God to forget the slightest thing—that we know! Theology guiding us, then, we have to say that Moses is talking to us in language of accommodation. We have to understand that language the way Calvin understands the expression El Shaddai—not as literal but metaphorical. He is saying things that do not mean quite as we might naturally take it, because he is talking about something that goes beyond our experience.
It has to do with God’s eternity. God is not limited by time like we are. God’s eternity certainly means that he is everlasting, but it also means that he has no past and no future. We are limited to a slice of time called present, with the past irrecoverably gone and the future constantly out of reach. God is not so limited; his eternity is an eternal, unlimited present. God does not remember because he has no past from which to fetch his memories.
When God, then, tells us he remembered, it is something to do with us. It means that it looks to us like he remembered. It is language of accommodation. It is speaking of God’s eternal purpose to save his people. It is speaking of God’s eternal activity of deliverance – in its totality—manifested partially and progressively in time. In other words, it means it didn’t look to us like God was doing anything before, and now it looks to us like he is – we are aware of his saving activity from our limited perspective. That is what it means that God remembers.
There is a lot of theology in that. And it is there because God expects us to interpret, to think, to meditate, to study and understand these things: this is how God reveals himself, not just in obvious statements, but in more difficult expressions that require reflection and the coordination of what we know to evaluate our interpretive possibilities. What do we learn?