Was God a God from afar here? The answer is "yes" and "no" because His overall plan was undoubtedly in mind, and He was recording this for the sake of future generations. Realize that from the time the book of Exodus opens until the Israelites finally leave Egypt eighty years pass. Moses was not born at the time that Scripture says they were crying out to God because of the bondage. Moses was born and preserved right through the persecution. He was cast in a little ark onto the Nile River, rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, grew up to be a man, fled into the wilderness at age forty, and spent forty years tending sheep, learning to be humble. Finally, God had him ready, so He sent him back to Egypt.
God's overall plan was in mind for a long time, yet all through these events, He was very near to Moses, preparing him. God was far off in the sense that He was using these people to prepare an account that His servant Moses would write for our sakes, so that we would understand these things.
God undoubtedly appeared to be far away from the Israelites who were crying out to Him for deliverance, but He was really right on the spot. He was near to them; He is a God at hand. We have to keep both of these views in mind. They both have an impact on the transference of the Spirit of God into our minds. God is always working two things at once: His overall purpose and His specific purpose for us as individuals and for the church.
Out of this comes a principle. God is Yahweh Jireh, which means "the Eternal who sees" or "the Eternal who provides." It is shortened into this statement: He is there. He was there when Abraham stood on Mount Moriah about to sacrifice his son, Isaac—and God provided a ram. He was at hand through all the plagues of Egypt—and He divided the Israelites away from them. He watched so closely when they left Egypt that not even a dog barked, which is what the Night to Be Much Observed is all about (Exodus 12:42). God was the One observing, watching. He was aware at the Red Sea—and He parted the waters.
He is there. He may seem far off, but He is not.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)
Reflect on the New Covenant, under which God leads and guides us by His Holy Spirit, enabling us to perceive, to see, and to hear His Word. The Israelite people were 38 or 40 years in the wilderness in the presence of God, yet they did not get it! It never sank in because God did not perform what would have given them the ability to perceive what was happening in their lives spiritually.
This is confirmed in Deuteronomy 5:29, near the end of the chapter that contains the second recording of the Ten Commandments. Moses writes:
Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
a precious few of those Israelites, nobody received God's Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit