The Bible never pulls any punches. It tells the good with the bad. In the late 20th century, we have come to expect heroes with feet of clay. The media attempts to knock every hero off the pedestal and that’s easy! For every man, women and child is flawed with a sin nature. But the Good News is that God uses flawed, imperfect people.
The Book of Exodus begins with two midwives who fear God more than Pharaoh, yet lie. Then in Exodus 2:10-25, we meet a great hero of the OT, Moses, a lumpy vessel of clay, with all his flaws.
When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
Apparently, Moses is reared by his mother until weaning age, probably age two or three. When the boy is returned to the princess, she adopts him and names him MOSES because she DREW HIM OUT OF THE WATER. This name is regarded as Egyptian, being found in the names of the Pharaohs Ptahmose, Thutmose, Ahmose and Ramose. The princess declares her right to name the child because she had pulled him out of the water. Ironically, MOSES will DRAW OUT God’s people from Egypt.
Exodus passes over the upbringing of Moses as does the Gospels with Jesus, whom Moses foreshadows. Acts 7:20-22 throws some light on this silent period—
At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
It is fair to assume that Moses was reared in the Royal Harem along with other princes. There he likely would have been trained in the use of weapons, chariotry, astronomy, chemistry, reading and writing. The Egyptians had a tremendous library. And Moses, we are told, was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. His training in writing would make him well suited to the task of recording God’s Law and writing the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. The one great lack in Moses’ education was that he was not taught how to serve God.
Thirty-seven or thirty-eight years lapse between verses 10 and 11. Moses is forty years old in Exodus 2:11-13—
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
Though Moses was an Egyptian by virtue of his upbringing, he knows that he is a Hebrew. Moses goes out to see the Hebrews hard oppression. Upon seeing an Egyptian taskmaster beating (possibly to death) a Hebrew, Moses intervenes. Moses displays a strong sense of seeing justice done. His thoughtless killing was wrong, not his sense of justice, nor his defense of the downtrodden.
Moses the Prince of Egypt, however, could have ordered the taskmaster to stop the beating the Hebrew and he would have stopped immediately. Instead, thinking the coast is clear, Moses strikes the Egyptian and kills him.
The text says, GLANCING THIS WAY AND THAT AND SEEING NO ONE, HE KILLED THE EGYPTIAN. That’s premeditated murder. He arrived at killing after due thought. His action was aforethought, considered and deliberate.
MOSES HID HIM IN THE SAND. Ironies abound in the Book of Exodus. In spite of Moses’ attempts to avoid detection after killing the Egyptian, his actions were soon widely known.
The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.
Apparently, the Israelite whom Moses had protected had told what he did. In a sudden twist, the accuser becomes the accused as the aggressive Hebrew asks, “WHO MADE YOU RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? ARE YOU THINKING OF KILLING ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN? Unwittingly his questions anticipate Israel’s rejection of Moses as the leader and judge over the nation. The Israelites would not listen to him. They would rather serve the Egyptians!
Ironically, the Jews of Christ’s day made a similar choice. The Jews refused to accept Jesus the Ruler and Judge—their Lord. Since the nation would not listen to Him, they remained in bondage to Satan.
The Holy Spirit reveals sixteen centuries later Moses’ motive for killing the Egyptian. It is recorded Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:23-25—
When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being ill-treated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.
This is a sad account of impatience. Not all of his training in Egypt prepared Moses to deliver the Israelites. He looked in every direction, but up!
Moses was impatient and acted in the energy of the flesh. God had placed Moses in a position of power, prestige and position. As the King of Egypt, it would have been easy for Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage at the right time. The first century historian Josephus tells us that Pharaoh had no other children, and that his daughter had no children of her own. Therefore, Moses probably would have succeeded to the throne. What he refused then by this action was wealth, honors, power, and most likely, a throne. The writer of Hebrews credits his refusal to faith in 11:24-26—
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Indeed, it was faith! Yet clearly, Moses was running 40 years ahead of God’s timetable. Implanted in his heart was God’s call to be Israel’s deliverer. He thought God was using Him. Yet, Moses missed one important ingredient. He did not wait upon the LORD. It was his plan and his timing! And he utterly failed—even though he was the right man in the right place for the right job. And God let His man fail. Why?
Because Moses’ FAITH TAKES A WRONG TURN. He was not at all in accord with the methods God proposed to employ. Strange as it may seem, however, Moses wrong actions were motivated BY FAITH, even though they were heading down the wrong road.
Although Moses actions reveal a concern for the weak and oppressed, Moses does not yet qualify for the role of national deliverer. Unlike the midwives, Moses now fears Pharaoh more than he fears God. Because of murder, he has forfeited his position of power, which God gave him.
Moses runs away—a coward. He fled eastwards from Egypt to Midian, the Arabian Peninsula along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqabah. There he walks into another scene of injustice. Exodus 2:16-18—
Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the
troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.
The seven daughters of Reuel were being harassed and chased from watering their flocks at the water troughs by unscrupulous shepherds, but Moses saw to that. This is the third of three closely connected incidents. First, Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. Next, he intervened in a fight between two Hebrews and reprimanded the one in the wrong. Finally, he came to rescue of the daughters of Reuel. In each of these incidents Moses is portrayed as the defender of the weaker party. He will become the Champion of the underdog and downtrodden.
Three kinds of injustice are experienced and perpetrated by and against persons from three different classes in these three incidents.
The range of concern is striking—no matter the victim, the oppressor, or the type of injustice, it must be taken up and strong effort made to end it. Moses actions speak louder than words. His sense of justice transcends boundaries of nationality, gender and kinship. He is not indifferent to evil by whomever it is perpetrated or whomever the victim might be. He demonstrates a concern for life, especially the life of the weaker members of the society, and intolerance for abuse exercised by the strong.
By his actions, Moses pictures the Creator work of giving life and blessing. To say there is little in this Chapter of the HERO OF FAITH who decides for God is to miss this point.
When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so
early today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “And where is he?” he asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.”
There is an ironic relationship between this account and the preceding one. Moses is not welcomed in the Israelite community, but here Moses is shown considerable hospitality by strangers, even being given a daughter for his wife. Keep in mind that Moses foreshadows Christ. What happen when the nation of Israel rejected Christ? He was given a bride from among strangers to God—the Gentiles. Christ’s bride is the Church!
In addition, Moses marriage to Zipporah integrates an OUTSIDER into the community. Israel is not a generically pure community; its leaders extend the family to include others. Joshua will bring in the Gentile Rahab and Boaz will bring in Gentile Ruth, both ancestors in the line of Christ.
Moses looked Egyptian! Acted Egyptian! Forty years Moses the Prince of Egypt will tend sheep in this foreign land. The naming of his son betrays his loneliness. Like Adam and Eve, Moses had lost his place! He had become an alien in a foreign land. Little did this lonely alien realize at this point that his QUEST FOR PLACE would not end in MIDIAN or back in EGYPT!
There was PROMISED LAND and he was to take God’s people to it. But not yet! Moses trained in the best school of Egypt, had to be trained in God’s school on the backside of the desert—learning how to tend and care for sheep. There he exchanges a sword for a shepherd’s staff. Schools in! Moses the Shepherd is learning what it takes to lead God’s flock through the valley of the shadow of death to PLACE, the Land where the cup overflows with milk and honey.
Some are inclined to regard Moses’ sojourn in Midian as a wasted portion of his life. But a close look at Exodus 2:16-4:17 reveals quite the opposite. First, he meets Reuel, the priest of Midian, and marries one of his seven daughters, Zipporah. The Midianites, like Moses himself, were descendants of Abraham by his wife Keturah. There is some justification in thinking that REUEL might have been a priest of the true and living God. His name means FRIEND or SHEPHERD OF GOD. It is possible, but by no means certain that Moses may have learned something of God from his father-in-law, whom is also called JETHRO, which may be a title meaning HIS EXCELLENCY.
Moses tends Jethro’s flock in Sinai area. In so doing, Moses gains valuable experience in the very terrain where later he will lead even a larger flock! Because he was faithful to do the humble job of shepherding, God used him to accomplish greater tasks as liberator, lawgiver and leader.
Moses’ faith had taken him down the wrong road—he had made a wrong turn. Yet, God is the Potter and we are clay. He can take our failures and flaws and work them out to make us a vessel fit for His purposes. God is a God who overrules our mistakes and shows that He is still in control.
It turns out that Moses embodies Israel in his own life experience. In order for Moses to be able truly to know the Israelites sojourning experience, he must move away from Egypt. Moses gains this identity as a sojourning Israelite in Midian. His son’s name GERSHON, meaning ALIEN or STRANGER suggests that Moses knew his real place is with his people back in Egypt. Life in the wilderness enables him to see more clearly, who he is, so it shall be for Israel.
It turns out that Moses actions foreshadow God’s actions also. Moses SEES the Egyptian beating the Hebrew. He is no disinterested observer. He strikes with premeditation, killing the Egyptian to deliver the Hebrew. Likewise, God will strike with premeditation the first-born Egyptians in the Passover Plague in order to deliver His people from Egyptians who are killing them. As Moses confronted injustices, so will God. As Moses’ faith was tested, for a long period of forty years, in the wilderness, so God will test Israel’s faith.
Are you amazed? I am! Faith took a wrong turn, yet God made it the right road! That’s why Paul was able to write in Romans 8:28—
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Exodus 2:23-25 are thematically linked to the three previous incidents. God, like Moses, cares for the oppressed. Although there have been brief allusions to God’s concern for His people, only now does the narrative reveal in detail His awareness of the Israelites’ suffering—
During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
King Thutmose III is dead and Amenhotep II has become Pharaoh. While all is well in Midian, the oppression in Egypt only grows worse even though the king from whom Moses fled has died. There is great urgency in the situation—finally, the Hebrews are crying out for help!
Misery has found a voice, and so the pain of Israel’s bodily senses preceded her recognition of the poverty of her spiritual condition. No longer does Egypt symbolize delightful foods, wealth, and fatness. Instead, it now means slave-masters, forced labor, and bondage. Consequently, Israel cries out to God, which is a foreshadowing of the Tribulation Period (the Time of Jacob’s Trouble). At the end of This Present Age, all Israel will look upon the One they have rejected and they be saved.
If life is to be possible again, God will have to become involved. Thus, for the first time the narrator brings God into the heart of the story.
God HEARS, REMEMBERS, SEES AND KNOWS. At the heart of His recognition is the Abrahamic Covenant—the promises of LAND, SEED and BLESSING that He first made with Abraham and then renewed with Isaac and Jacob. Additionally, Abraham had received an even more specific promise in Genesis 15:13-14—
Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.
On Pastor Appreciation Day, you gave me a clock that reads, “God’s Timing is PERFECT.” God is sympathetic to the plight of His people and His timing is perfect! He always takes the right action at the right moment—never too soon—never too late!
THE KING OF EGYPT DIED. Theologically, changes in the world affect the way in which God is active in that world. Pharaoh’s death provides possibilities or opportunities for God that were not available heretofore. There is a FULLNESS OF TIME at this moment; it will allow God to be active in a new way in the world and for Israel. God has been waiting for the right configuration of human and natural events to put a new level of activity together with respect to this situation.
Four brief descriptions of God’s attention to Israel’s cry are given in Exodus 2:24-25.
First, GOD HEARD THEIR GROANING. This is not a reference to newly sensitive divine ears, as if God had not heard their cries before. The sense of HEARD is TO TAKE HEED OF, TO HEAR AND RESPOND, such as in 2 Chronicles 7:14—
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
The second brief description is HE REMEMBERED. This does not refer to a jogging of divine memory, as if God had forgotten the promises He made. That God REMEMBERS indicates that He is about to take a significant step toward fulfilling His promises. We first see God this way in Genesis 8:1—
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
God had forgotten about Noah over the last 150 days. To this point of His remembering the flood narrative had centered on judgment, now it was to be one of redemption. God’s remembering marks a change in his dealing with man.
The last time we see God this way in the Bible, He is pouring out His wrath on the world empire at the end of the Tribulation Period in Revelation 18:5—
For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.
Sandwich between Genesis 8:1 and Revelation 18:5 is what Jesus calls THIS PRESENT AGE—the age of Redemption. THIS PRESENT AGE began with God’s wrath and will end with His wrath. Only those who have a covenant relationship with Yahweh escape His wrath.
GOD REMEMBERED sets the stage for God’s dual purpose of redemption and judgment in the Ten Plagues prior to the Exodus as well as the Plagues of the Tribulation Period.
The third brief description is GOD LOOKED ON THE ISRAELITES. This does not refer to eye contact. It is God beginning to move toward Israel with kindness and compassion.
The fourth brief description is GOD WAS CONCERNED (literally KNEW) ABOUT THEM. Again, this is not simply a matter of HEAD KNOWLEDGE as if God gained some new information or insight into what is happening. It is God experiencing what Israel is experiencing as if it were His own experience.
These four brief descriptions show that God has a NEW POINT OF VIEW with respect to the situation. The time had now come for Him to act. The deliverance of Abraham’s descendants from bondage and oppression in Egypt is at hand. It is time for God to choose the DELIVERER.
The Israelites do not deserved to be rescued! They serve idols rather than God, which is revealed when they worship a golden calf after being delivered. They are a sorry bunch of people—helpless, hopeless, desperate, slaves. Yet, God is about to redeem them.
Why do you think God saved you? God saved us for the same reason He saved Israel. He found nothing in us that called for His salvation. God saw us in blackness and darkness of sin and ignorance. He saw that we were hopelessly lost and not able to save ourselves.
Many people believe that God saw something in them worthy of salvation. They believe God saved them as sinners, but it was because He saw what lovely people they would become. May I say that this idea is entirely erroneous! We will never become lovely. Each of us has the old nature in which no good dwells. Paul writes in Romans 7:18—
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
God saw no good in Israel. But he heard Israel’s cry in bondage and redeemed them. He saw our desperate condition and saved us. If you are a Christian, God has saved you for His good purpose. God has a plan for your life. Therefore, Paul writes in Philippians 2:13—
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Colossians 3:23-24 drives this truth home—
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
I like what Proverbs 16:3 says on this matter—
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Moses left the LORD out of His plans and he failed. God knew how to correct that flaw in his character—Forty years of caring and chasing after wandering sheep in the school of humility. He would become the meekest man on earth.
Moses was forty years old when he made his great decision to leave the palace and become the deliverer of Israel. We admire him for his love for his people and for his courage, but we must confess that he ran ahead of the LORD in the way he acted.
Moses was walking by sight, not faith, for HE LOOKED THIS WAY AND THAT before He killed the Egyptian. Like Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, Moses depended on the sword in his hand and the energy of his hand. Both were wrong. For we read in Exodus 6:1—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
Not by your hand, Moses, but MY MIGHTY HAND, declares the LORD. Not by a sword, Moses. What then? Exodus 4:2—
Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied.
The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but spiritual. We need to depend upon God’s mighty hand, not ours for success in life. Many Christians are like Moses, striking out on their own instead of depending upon God.
Are you striking out like Moses? Are you trying to achieve success with your own plans—looking this way and that, but never looking up! Do you consult the LORD and then commit your plans to Him?
What God wants of us is a humble and submissive mind; a mind that is willing to sacrifice and serve.
Every Christian has a calling from God, not just the Pastor, Missionary, Sunday School Teacher or Lay Leader. A Christian calling may be fulfilled in the role of a mother, a school teacher, a sewer, a secretary, a farmer, a manager, whatever your situation and occupation in life, therein is your calling. Unless, of course, you are living in rebellion of God’s known will.
Where you are now—God wants to use you! To take a stand for Him—possibly in some area of confrontation that calls for righteousness and justice in your home, work place, school, or community.
To share with someone who is hurting, the real answer to life—JESUS CHRIST. To comfort someone with the comfort you have received from the Lord. To encourage a child, husband, wife, friend in their walk of faith by showing the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
It may be that your faith took a wrong turn in the past. You sinned or ran ahead of God and you failed. Take heart! Moses took a wrong turn, yet God made his road right. God overrules those wrong turns for those who love Him. He started with Moses at the age 80. It is never too late! You can still be used of God.