After a couple of posts that have been somewhat off topic, I wanted to pick back up with the primary task of looking at how God uses some of the most messed up people to accomplish the most amazing things. This week will be the first of several posts about Moses. Moses is one of the most widely known heroes of the Jewish and Christian faiths; he literally wrote most of the first five books of the Bible. His story however is one of the best examples of God’s grace and glory.
To fully understand Moses’ story, let’s take a look at some background. When we left off last time, the famine that had fallen over the land had reunited Joseph and his brothers This reunion had revealed Judah’s true heart and had resulted in the entire family relocating to a region in Egypt. They lived as Pharaoh’s guests and under Joseph’s protection. Taking the family out of Canaan kept them from any further inter marrying with the Canaanite women and allowed them a place to thrive during the famine. Jacob’s (or Israel's) family was known in Egypt as Hebrews or Israelites.
After many years passed Joseph and all his brothers and their immediate family all died. Likewise the Pharaoh who allowed the Hebrews to stay as guests died and a new leader rose up who had no loyalty to Joseph or what he had done for Egypt. During this time the Hebrew people were very fruitful. They had grown from a small tribe of 70 people to a large nation within a nation of several thousand. The new Pharaoh was afraid of the Hebrews. He was afraid they would take over the country or that they would side with one of Egypt’s enemies. He became so concerned that he began to have them oppressed. They were treated as slave laborers and were subjected to very harsh treatment.
The Egyptians used the Hebrews to build their cities and they did so at the threat of a spear or a whip. Despite the harsh treatment the Hebrews continued to be fruitful and continued to grow stronger as a people. This fact frustrated the Pharaoh who eventually got to the point of ordering that all Hebrew boys who were born were to be drowned in the Nile River; while only the females were allowed to live.
It is here we pick up Moses’ story. His mother had cared for him as a new born but could no longer hide him. She took her baby to the river and placed him in a wicker basket and sent him for a ride. Some scholars think she was hoping a nice Egyptian woman would find him and care for him; others believe she planned out exactly what would happen next. Moses’ older sister apparently kept watch of her baby brother as he floated along in his basket. Timing here is critical because he was actually discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. When Pharaoh's daughter discovered the cute little baby in the basket she immediately recognized that he was a Hebrew baby and that she would need help taking care of him. Moses’ sister immediately volunteered to go find a Hebrew woman to tend to the baby and of course brought back the baby’s own mother.
If she planned the entire thing; she was very prescient. She had not only saved her son’s life; she had set him up for a solid future living in Pharaoh’s palace, and she got to take care of him. We don’t know a lot about Moses’ childhood; we do know he was formally adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and was raised just short of being royalty. We also know that he was raised knowing he was a Hebrew. He must have been torn seeing the family he lived with treating his blood relatives so poorly.
As he got older Moses would go around exploring the kingdom, most likely preparing for his eventual role as a ruler. It was while he was on one of these journey’s when and event happened that changed his life. Moses bore witness to an Egyptian brutally beating one of the Hebrews and he rushed in to save the day. In trying to save the Israelite, he killed the Egyptian and then buried him in the sand.
It’s easy to understand Moses’ anger. He is trying to stand up for someone who he sees is clearly being wronged; unfortunately, good intentions don’t excuse bad actions. Moses killing the Egyptian did not endear him to the Hebrew people in fact it caused them to resent him more. His actions could have led Pharaoh to believe the Israelites could be riled up and rebel. This could have caused conditions to get even worse as he tightened his grip. Another effect of killing the Egyptian is it put Moses on Pharaoh’s radar as an enemy. He had to flee from Egypt to stay alive.
Born an Israelite and raised an Egyptian, Moses now found himself a stranger in a strange land as he settled in nearby Midian. He got along well with the Midianite priest, Jethro. Moses married Jethro’s daughter and went to work for him as a shepherd. It seems as if Moses eventually put the past in Egypt behind him and settled into a nice comfortable life.
Moses stayed in Midian for many years. He had children and put together a nice comfortable life. Meanwhile in Egypt, Pharaoh and all the people who would have wanted him dead has passed away. The conditions had gotten back for the Israelites and they began to cry out for God to save them from their servitude.
It must have been just like any other day for Moses, he was out in the fields tending Jethro’s flock, minding his own business when he saw a bush on fire in the distance. This probably wasn’t that unusual as they lived in the dessert and the climate would have been very dry; a lightning strike could easily have lit a bush on fire at any time. What must have captured Moses’ attention though is that this fire wasn’t consuming the bush. This made him curious enough that he had to go take a look.
3 Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”
4 God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
He replied, “Yes? I’m right here!”
5 God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”
6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:3-6- The Message
So, he ran to go check out this cool fire that wasn’t consuming the bush and then it started talking to him. I think I would do more than hide my face; I tend to think I would have run away, or at least needed a new tunic. Moses hid his face out of awe from encountering God; but I also think he hid his face knowing he was unworthy. God wasn’t concerned about Moses’ sinful past or about how comfortable his life was; instead it was time to give him a huge job.
7-8 God said, “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey, the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
9-10 “The Israelite cry for help has come to me, and I’ve seen for myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for you to go back: I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the People of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10- The Message
Whoa! That’s pretty heavy! God is wanting to uproot Moses from his comfortable life and send him back to the one place he doesn’t want to go. I can imagine Moses’ mind must have been racing. Does God know that he doesn’t really fit in Egypt not with the Egyptians or the Hebrews? Does he know about the guy Moses has killed? Surely God must be confused. Surely there was someone more qualified?
Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11- The Message
It was really a good question. Moses understood how unqualified he was, and he didn’t see any reason why Pharaoh would listen to him or why his Israelite people would follow him. He didn’t see himself as a leader. He was content to just work as a shepherd for his father-in-law. God was patient and reassuring and gave Moses an excellent reason why he would be successful..
“I’ll be with you,” God said. “And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent you: When you have brought my people out of Egypt, you will worship God right here at this very mountain.” Exodus 3:12- The Message
Moses continued to struggle with God’s calling. He didn’t want to believe he was worthy. He was overwhelmed by the challenge that awaited him, he wasn’t sure anyone would believe him or follow him. DO any of these concerns sound like doubts and struggles we deal with today? Moses confronted with God’s presence continued to resist his calling, he continued to try to find reasons God couldn’t use him.
But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” Exodus 4:1- New Living Translation
With each protest God would give Moses comfort, He would reassure him. He would give him a sign. No matter how many times God told Moses He had him covered, Moses still looked for a way out. Moses even went far enough to suggest to God that his own limitations were too much for God to overcome. As if he questioned God's ability.
10"Please, Lord, I am not a talented speaker. I have never been good with words. I wasn’t when I was younger and I haven’t gotten any better since You revealed Yourself to me. I stutter and stammer. My words get all twisted." Exodus 4:10- The Voice
God again reassured him.
11-12 God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.” Exodus 4: 11-12 The Message
Over and over Moses has tried to talk God out of this calling. He has pointed out every weakness he has, he has tried to hide behind his fear. He has tried to reason with God. “Surely you can find someone else that would be better equipped, right God? I mean C’mon you are God, you remember I killed that guy, and I stutter. C’mon God, surely someone better than me is available?”
Moses Finally reached the point where he was begging.
He said, “Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!” Exodus 4:13 The Message.
God didn’t send someone else. God had a specific calling in mind for Moses; just like he does for each of us. We can try to negotiate with him, we can try to bargain and even beg. We can look at all of our weaknesses and think we aren’t a suitable vessel. God has put a calling on us and wants to use us. He wants us to know we are not capable of doing the mighty things he is calling us to without him He wants us to know, he is with us the entire time.
Moses is lionized as a great hero of our faith; but he resisted God’s calling just like we do,
“Master, please have someone else serve as a greeter”
“Master, Please have someone else go on this mission trip”
“Lord, Please let someone help feed the hungry”
“Lord, I won’t know what to say, Please have someone else pray for that hurting person”
He is with us! He will be glorified through us. We can’t hide in our comfort or in our fears; He can redeem our past and gain glory from our failures. He will give us strength to overcome our weaknesses.