The life of Moses is a good example of how God works in a person's life. God had to work on Moses before He could work through Moses. God's working is evident even from Moses' birth. "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." Acts 7:20-22.*
How amazing! The child of slaves was brought up as the grandson of the Pharaoh. He received the finest education that was then available. God placed Moses in the household of Pharaoh to prepare him for service.
Then Moses made a life changing decision. "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated 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." Hebrews 11:24-26.
At age forty, Moses must have taken a long look at his life and where it was heading. He decided to leave behind the riches and pleasures of the palace, and chose to seek the riches and favor of God.
More than that, Moses had a plan to do something great for God. "When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not." Acts 7:24-26.
Moses was planning to rescue the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, just as Joseph had promised, "God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised." Genesis 50:24.
Moses left his life of pleasure, riches and power to serve God. He was setting out to do a great work for God. After such a great sacrifice for such a great cause, surely God would bless him and give him success in his plans. That is what we would expect, but look at what really happened.
"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." Exodus 2:13-15.
Moses was expecting to be acclaimed as a great deliverer. Instead, he was rejected as a presumptuous do-gooder. Moses was expecting to lead a great procession to the Promised Land. Instead, he fled for his life, a condemned murderer, all alone into the barren wilderness.
What must have been going through Moses' mind? "What is the matter with you, God? Don't you know what is going on here?" "Why did you fail me?" "How did I fail you?"
For forty years, Moses lived in Midian. The grandson of the Pharaoh, raised in luxury, lived the rough and lowly life of a shepherd. There is something noble about giving up pleasure, riches and power to do a great work for God. How quickly those noble feelings evaporate when pleasure, riches and power are given up to live in obscurity tending sheep.
Had God rejected Moses? No! God placed Moses in the wilderness to further prepare him for service.
After forty years, God called Moses into service. God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and told him, "I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." Exodus 3:10. God called Moses to do the same thing he had attempted forty years before. But Moses did not want to try again. Moses was full of doubts. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" "What if they don't believe me?" "I am slow of speech and tongue." Moses said, "Oh Lord , please send someone else to do it." Exodus 4:13. Moses must have been thinking, "I tried that once before and I failed miserably. I don't want to look like a fool again."
God answered Moses' doubts. God said, "I will be with you." "The elders of Israel will listen to you." "I will help you speak and will teach you what to do." God became angry with Moses because of his unbelief. God had chosen Moses for this task and He insisted that Moses try again. Finally, Moses obeyed.
Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refused. Instead of freeing them, Pharaoh made their bondage harsher by no longer giving them straw for their bricks. Again, the Israelites rejected Moses. They said, "May the Lord look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh." Exodus 5:21.
Again, Moses questioned God. "Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all." Exodus 5:23.
But God sent Moses back to Pharaoh to try again and again and again. Fifteen times Moses stood before Pharaoh, and it took ten plagues before Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go.
After all of that, there was still another test. After the Israelites left the
borders of Egypt, God led them back into Egypt to camp next to the Red Sea.
When Pharaoh changed his mind and his army caught up to them, the Israelites
were trapped between the Red Sea and mountains. Again, the Israelites were ready
to reject Moses. But this time, Moses did not doubt. "Moses answered the people,
'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will
bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'
'Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground." Exodus 14:13-16.
God opened the way through the Red Sea for the Israelites, but when the Egyptian army tried to follow, it was drowned. Thus God delivered the Israelites from bondage.
Now consider what we can learn about God's workings from these events in the life of Moses. Why did Moses fail in his first attempt to free the Israelites? After all, God was planning to free them and He used Moses to free them, so why did God not free them then?
First, Moses could not expect God to bless his plans just because he had made a sacrifice for God. Neither could Moses expect success because he was planning to do something for God. God appreciates what we do but He is not impressed by it. No one can do anywhere nearly as much for God as He has done for us. Sometimes we try to bargain with God. "I did this for You, now do this for me." Or, "If you do this for me, then I will do that for you." God might give us what we bargain for, but we might wish later that He had not. If our plans are not in line with the will of God, even our best efforts will not accomplish good.
Second, even though freeing the Israelites was in line with God's will, Moses was not yet ready for the task. Having grown up in luxury with servants at his command, it would be difficult for him to be a servant-leader. He needed the years of leading a small flock of sheep in the desert to prepare him to lead a large flock of people through the desert. It is difficult to wait patiently for God's timing. But we are asking for trouble when we impatiently push ahead on our own before we are fully prepared.
Third, Moses failed because he was depending on his own strength. Moses might have freed the Israelites by killing the Egyptians one by one, but then, he would have taken the credit for it. When the Israelites were delivered, there was no doubt that the will of God was accomplished by the hand of God. When Moses depended on his own strength, he failed. When he depended on God, God succeeded.
Later in his life, Moses forgot this lesson. At the waters of Meribah, God said, "Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water." Numbers 20:8. But Moses said to the people, "'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.' Number 20:10-12. In a fit of anger, Moses took the credit for bringing water from the rock. Because he did not honor God in this, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Why did Moses succeed in his second attempt to free Israel? First, he was going at the direct call of God, and he was working under the direct guidance of God. Second, he kept trying again. Even though he was going at God's direct command and guidance, he encountered many difficulties. At first, it looked like he had failed again. But he kept going back to Pharaoh, fifteen times. At first, Moses questioned God, but by the time he reached the Red Sea, Moses had learned to trust God.
God was at work in the life of Moses. God worked directly through Moses with messages and miracles. But before He could work through Moses, God had to work on Moses. God placed Moses in the household of Pharaoh and in the wilderness to prepare him for service.
God places all of us in different situations to teach us, rebuke us, purge us and strengthen us. Some situations are pleasant. Some are painful. It seems that we learn more in the painful times. Sometimes we enter wilderness experiences as a direct result of our own sins. Then God purges us. "God disciplines us for our own good, that we may share in his holiness." Hebrews 12:10. Sometimes we enter wilderness experiences when we are in the center of God's will. Then He strengthens us. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4.
In every situation, we can thank God, for we know that He is in control and He is working for our good.
* All Bible quotations are from the New International Version.
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© 1981-2021 Rodney A. Smith
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