by J. Alan Davidson, N. Ireland
“Moses My servant” Josh.1.2.
We are greatly mistaken if we begin to make search among the great worthies of Hebrews chapter 11 in an attempt to find their strength of character. Did they have some attribute of personality, or any unique individual virtue of soul or body that marked them out as special among their contemporaries, that merited God’s call to service? Moses undoubtedly had very great ability of mind and virility of body. He was well-educated, wealthy and proficient in all the learning of the advanced society of his time. In fact, he renounced all these things that he might ascertain the will of God in his life. He had determination and zeal in abundance, yet he was allowed to make his first efforts to deliver God’s people in the energy of his own flesh and to fail miserably. As a result of his inexperienced rashness, he had to flee to Midian, abandoning all
hope of such service. When he was eventually called by God at the burning bush, he was in a state of helpless nothingness, and he did not want to go.
The expression “By faith” introduces each of the men and women of God individually described in Hebrews chapter 11. This expression occurs four times in that chapter in the account of the life of Moses, vv.23,24,27,29. It is not that Moses was a great man, but that he had marvellous faith in the great God. His secret was to put himself aside that God might work through him and that God might have all the glory.
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” Heb.11.23. This first mention of Moses in Hebrews chapter 11 makes reference to the faith of his parents, and it introduces that which marked Moses throughout his life: “Moses … was hid”. We need to see that Moses was the hidden man. He was hidden:
- by his parents for three months in the home;
- in the ark of bulrushes by the brink of the river;
- in the wilderness for forty years;
- on Mount Sinai for forty days;
- on the Mount a second time, alone with God;
- in the cleft of the rock by the hand of God;
- upon Mount Nebo where God buried him.
We are only allowed brief glimpses of the most noble of God’s servants when they appear in public service. The greater portion of their lives is not revealed to us, as it was spent in private communion with God. The great example is the Lord Himself. In His life on earth, the ratio of time spent in private to that spent in public is approximately ten to one. There is great profit in studying His public life, His private life and His prayer life. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” Mk.1.35. When the Lord taught the disciples to pray, He referred to “thy Father which seeth in secret” three times, Matt.6.4,6,18. Moses communed with God, face to face, Ex.33.11. God spoke to him, mouth to mouth, Num.12.8. The constant refrain in his writings was; “as the Lord commanded Moses”.
“The king’s commandment”, to murder all the male children did not apply to Aaron, who was three years older than his brother, Moses. This wicked decree was successfully outwitted by the shrewdness of the women in attendance and does not seem to have been prolonged. Stephen’s statement, “In which time Moses was born” Acts 7.20, indicates that Moses was born at the very time that the bitter bondage in Egypt was at its peak. In the fulness of Divine purposes God caused the future deliverer of His people to be born in a humble peasant home. Moses was born under sentence of death at the king’s command, which draws a comparison with his blessed Lord, of Whom we read that another king “sought the young child’s life” Matt.2.13,20. Moses’ parents saw that he was “a goodly child” and they seemed to recognise the mark of God’s favour. As with Joseph and Mary, Amram and Jochebed may have received Divine communication, or it may be that, simply by faith, they refused the royal edict.
“She hid him three months” Ex.2.2. Moses was “nourished up in his father’s house three months” Acts 7.20. He was “hid three months of his parents” Heb.11.23. They raised him together, united in their concern, a Godly couple guided and preserved by God to raise a great family. Aaron, their elder boy, became the high priest; Miriam, their daughter, led the praise of all the women in the song unto the Lord at the Red Sea; and Moses was raised up to lead the people of God out of Egypt. Some reader of these pages may be a father who was never called to specific public service or a mother who has served God in her own sphere of Godly silence and subjection. What an honour, in present conditions, to have the joy and privilege of rearing a family to honour God in society where marriage and family life are under such Satanic attack!
In Moses’ formative years God used five women: Jochebed, Miriam, Shiphrah, Puah and Pharaoh’s daughter. God worked in the domestic sphere, the homelife. The first to influence, the first to encourage, the beginning of great things for God, may be in a house of prayer and Godly example, where it is the done thing for the whole family from earliest days to go to the meetings, and, in Sunday School, to be taught the Scriptures, which are able to make wise unto salvation, 2Tim.3.15. Indeed, often the early training of a servant of God begins when he himself teaches a little Sunday School class and is encouraged to see God’s hand in salvation.
An ark of bulrushes and the tears of a babe were vital links in God’s plan to raise up a man to lead His people out of Egypt. When God’s purpose was to call Moses to this great work, He placed Moses in the palace and allowed Pharaoh to feed him. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” Rom.8.28.
“She could not longer hide him” Ex.2.3. Moses’ mother parted with him three times. She nursed him in the home, embraced him in her arms as long as she could. There came the day of her last kiss and she tenderly laid him in the ark of papyrus rushes and bitumen, closed the lid, and laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. She did not trust him to the buoyancy of the Nile but, by faith, with sensible precautions, she placed him in the care of God, for “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” Heb.11.23. The place of death was the place where he lived, illustrating the principle of death and life in the believer’s experience, expressed in baptism and being raised up from the dead, “so we also should walk in newness of life” Rom.6.4.
“Behold, the babe wept” Ex.2.6. To deliver His people, God used the cry of a babe to move the power of the nation. The lesson is that we must trust God, right up to the line. This was also the lesson that Moses repeated at the impassable waters of the Red Sea, Ex.14.13. Peter slept, chained between two soldiers, as Herod planned his execution for the next day, Acts 12.6. Gallows fifty cubits high had been constructed by Haman to hang Mordecai in the morning, Esther 5.14. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” Ps.34.19.
One of the residences of the Pharaohs was at the estuary, near the sea, where there was less danger of crocodiles. Moses’ mother placed the little ark among the reeds, not midstream, so it would not float away. This area was commonly frequented by members of the royal court. Pharaoh’s daughter would have been suspicious of a Hebrew woman but the presence of a child was an act of wisdom and overruled by Divine design so that he was returned to his mother, who “took the child, and nursed it. And the child grew” Ex.2.9,10. She had him when he was growing while under royal protection and she was receiving wages. We read, “… when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren” Ex.2.11. Who taught Moses that those people serving in bitterness with vigour and hard bondage, working in mortar and brick, were his brethren? His mother taught him that this nation of slaves was God’s people. The lesson is, never criticise God’s people before your family. Moses’ mother had him growing up in a God-fearing home in those early formative years. This was no accident or happy coincidence but the overruling hand of God, that Moses would be taught those vital convictions, essential for the future deliverer of Israel. Dear mother, rear that boy for the Lord. Do not, for material gain, give him out to someone else to rear for you. In school days guide him from the Scriptures. In college years order and supervise his company before he leaves the shelter of the home. God gave the precious opportunity to Moses in those irretrievable first years to be under the Godly influence of prayer and faith.
“She brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son” Ex.2.10. It was another distressing occasion when Moses’ mother, with her last words, final advice and parting kiss, delivered him up to enter the palace.
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” Heb.11.24. Historians suggest that this lady was Thermutis, who was married but childless. “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” Acts 7.22. Moses obtained the best education, as a prince in the most advanced nation on earth at that time. He would have learned arithmetic: the Egyptians left detailed land markings of the annual inundations of the Nile; astronomy: the pyramids of Egypt were built in accurate alignment to stars, and they used years of 365 days; art, the excellence of which is still preserved; architecture, of massive proportions; anatomy; medicine; dentistry, which can be seen in the preserved teeth of the mummies; amusements; “pleasures of sin” associated with Egyptian idolatry; athletics; sports; and music of ancient Egyptian culture. The extreme dryness of the Egyptian atmosphere has preserved, in almost perfect condition, the inscriptions of the early civilisation.
“Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” Heb.11.25. To obey the call of God is costly. A choice must be made before God. Moses never forgot that his parents were slaves; his brethren were groaning. Like Ruth, he would say, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” Ruth 1.16. He belonged to an alien race who were treated with suspicion and hatred in Egypt. His brethren were an oppressed people, under a cruel lash. They were living in savage slavery, building cities for Pharaoh. “He went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens” Ex.2.11.
“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” Heb.11.26. Some believers speak about providential guidance in their service and read the will of God into the circumstances in which they find themselves. Moses was in circumstances in Pharaoh’s palace where he could have helped the people of God. Perhaps he could have tried to influence Egyptian politics or send money or food to ease their burden. He had the opportunity to ride in chariots of grandeur or float on the Nile in a golden barge listening to nice Egyptian music. “Accounting the reproach of Christ” R.V., was a decisive act, once for all. Moses wrote about Christ as the coming Messiah fifteen hundred years before He came: “Until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” Gen.49.10. In the wilderness they “were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” 1Cor.10.2-4. This New Testament passage, taken from the Old Testament background, asserts that Moses was focused upon the Person of Christ as the recompense of the reward of faith yet future.
Hebrews chapter 11 speaks of Moses’ parents not fearing the king’s commandment, v.23, and Moses himself “not fearing the wrath of the king” v.27. Moses led the people by faith out of Egypt, not fearing the waters of the Red Sea, or the pursuing chariots of Pharaoh, Heb.11.29. The key to the choice that Moses made was that “he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible [‘the unseen One’]” Heb.11.27. Faith steps out when it has nothing visible to tread on. Faith is prepared to give up what it cannot keep, to gain what it cannot lose.
Moses’ choice (human responsibility) was made before he got a definitive call (Divine sovereignty) from God. A choice is not made by one who has nothing to give up. Service is worth nothing if it costs nothing. Paul said, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” Phil.3.8. A man should be at no material advantage by going out ‘full time’ in the work of the Lord. This was the first decisive step of Moses on to the ladder of faith leading to Horeb, Sinai, Pisgah, the Mount of Transfiguration and heaven. Moses knew God face to face.
There were three reasons for the bondage in Egypt:
It was foretold in Gen.15.13: “And He said unto Abram, ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years’”. God’s promise to Abraham was “I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth” Gen.13.16. From a family of seventy, Jacob’s seed increased to about one and a half million in two hundred years. It grew from a tribe to being “the congregation of Israel” Ex.12.6.
His brethren sold Joseph and he was carried down into Egypt. Their descendants became slaves in the same land. The slavery of the nation in Moses’ time was traceable back to the wrong actions of their ancestors many years before.
The governments of earth are under God’s control. The slavery in Egypt is one example of many in Scripture where God’s purpose is worked out in the relationship between the nation of Israel and the Gentile nations. Israel delivered Christ into Gentile hands, Matt.20.19. Presently, we live in “the times of the Gentiles” Lk.21.24, and Israel will yet suffer “the time of Jacob’s trouble” Jer.30.7.
“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” Ex.1.8. A new dynasty came to the throne of Egypt, which was resentful of the amazing growth of the children of Israel, dwelling in the choice land of Goshen. The more Pharaoh afflicted them with hard bondage and bitter sorrows, the more they multiplied and grew. This new king was resentful of the previous Pharaoh and certainly would have had historical knowledge of his prime minister, Joseph, but he did not acknowledge him, or what he had done. Joseph was raised up of God to preserve the children of Israel. Now God was raising up Moses to deliver His people.
There are practical lessons to be learned from the bondage:
Hard times do not erase God’s promises.
Peter writes about persecution and dark, misty days, but also speaks about the light of God’s prophetic promises: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” 2Pet.1.19.
Harsh treatment does not escape God’s notice.
“I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them” Ex.3.7,8. To persecuted saints of Smyrna, the Lord said, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty … Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer” Rev.2.9,10.
Heavy tests do not eclipse God’s concern.
“The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” 1Pet.1.7. Beloved, does pressure press you down or does it press you nearer to the Lord?
“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand” Ex.2.11,12. Moses “was full forty years old” Acts 7.23, when he slew the assailant of the Hebrew slave. “He defended him and avenged him that was oppressed … for he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not” Acts 7.24,25. Moses needed to learn, like Abraham, that premature efforts of the flesh, while well-intended, end in failure. We need to learn to wait upon God. Spiritual ends are never achieved by carnal means. We can do right things but which are not at God’s time. Leadership of God’s people is not self-assured. No one will be a leader without being a servant first. Moses acted rashly and hastily. He wanted to be a deliverer and to ‘jump start’ a rebellion.
Looking “this way and that way” indicates that he was not acting before God. An exercise is not a call from God. Passion is not principle; impulse is not purpose. We must not just act upon a pious appeal or missionary enthusiasm. If we learn these weighty lessons about God’s call, an exercised young brother will be preserved from the embarrassment of going out for God and being called back home by, for example, his wife and family. We need to learn, like Moses, that the wilderness comes before God’s call, the sanctuary before the street, the private before the public, worship before work. May God preserve us from preachers who just talk. The warmth of God’s presence and the weight of God’s truth will deliver us from mere empty words. A young brother seeking commendation declared that he would be original or nothing. He said that he soon found out that he was both. A zealous man declared that God had called him to worldwide evangelism. He said, believe it or not, that he had not as yet taught a Sunday School class.
Moses attempted to bury the Egyptian in the sand. When God buried the Egyptians, He buried Pharaoh, with his chariots and horsemen, all the host, in the bottom of the Red Sea, so there remained not so much as one of them. Moses needed to wait upon God to judge Pharaoh. He was not looking “this way and that way” but he was looking in the right direction when “he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” Heb.11.27. He also had the added burden of seeing his brethren going back to the brick yards and enduring the taskmasters’ rods for another forty years. They said, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?” Like his blessed Lord, his own did not receive him. The people of Israel served the gods of Egypt, Josh.24.14. They were unfaithful and rebellious. God said, “In the day that I lifted up Mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt … they rebelled against Me, and would not hearken unto Me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt” Ezek.20.6,8. Israel sighed, cried and groaned under their burdens. They were not ready to leave until they were sick of Egypt and repented and cried unto God for deliverance.
Moses learned to be a servant while in the desert at the well. In the school of God he defended the oppressed women. He stood up to help them when the shepherds drove them away from the troughs which they had filled with water for their father’s flock, Ex.2.16,17. These selfish, violent thieves were robbing the women by taking the fruits of their labour. Moses would have thoughts of the oppressed in Egypt and the failure of his own rashness.
The risen Lord commanded His disciples “that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father” Acts 1.4. The order of service, in the power of the Holy Spirit, was to be “witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” Acts 1.8. The order will usually be to witness first before relatives, school chums or work mates. Prove God in a little Sunday School class and the local assembly. Let your voice be heard giving public thanks to God for His Son, before attempting to preach to others about Him.
“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert; and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb” Ex.3.1. There were four great mountains in the life of Moses, indicating the progress of his intimacy with God:
- At Horeb he saw light from the bush;
- At Sinai he received the law from God;
- On Pisgah he saw the land of promise;
- On the Mount of Transfiguration he appeared with the Lord of glory.
“Moses, Moses” Ex.2.4. This is the glory of God’s call to Moses. Ex.3.4 to 4.17 forms one of the longest dialogues a man ever had directly with God. Moses was commissioned at eighty years of age, when two-thirds of his life was past. There is no substitute for experience. He was not an old man in decline. At one hundred and twenty years, “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” Deut.34.7. John writes to little children, young men and fathers, giving advice about relationship, development and maturity: every stage of life and experience is included.
God is the God of recovery to those who have memories of failure and disappointment. Jacob was a cheat, Jonah was a drop out, Peter denied the Lord, Paul said we are all earthen vessels. God does not give up on us if we turn to Him in humility and confession.
“‘I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’ And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush” Ex.3.3,4. The flame of fire flashing from the thorn bush was of concern to the diligent shepherd caring for his sheep. In the parched prairie, fire spreads rapidly, endangering his flocks, yet Moses observed that the verdure was preserved and the branches of the bush remained unconsumed. When God desired to reveal Himself to Moses, He did not appear in a mighty oak tree in its strength, or a cedar tree in its elegance, or in a fir tree in its height, but in a humble, common bush.
“And He said, ‘Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground’” Ex.3.5. Moses was given a vision of the emblems of Deity: the undiminished glory, the unabated energy and the unrelenting purpose of the great “I AM”. This was the call, the great crisis in the life of Moses. He stood on holy ground, exposed, in the open, having dealings with God. “Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold” Acts 7.32. In the presence of God, the seraphim, high ranking executors of the decrees of the throne, cry “Holy, holy, holy” Isa.6.3. Moses was soon to be given the pattern of the sanctuary and
later wrote about the glory above the mercy seat. The Tabernacle, the house that Moses built, was divided into the holy place and the most
holy. The high priest wore a plate of pure gold engraved with “Holiness to the Lord”. “Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever” Ps.93.5.
The purpose of our salvation is “that we should be holy” Eph.1.4. The key to our approach to God is the reverential fear of God. Holiness is moral likeness to God. The white robe of righteousness is ours by grace alone through faith in Christ. We cannot reach sinless perfection and at our best in service we are conscious of weakness, infirmity and failure. Yet we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are to be guided by the Holy Scriptures and the standard of the service to which we are called is to be holy. If we miss this standard our service is worthless. “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [‘behaviour’]; because it is written, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy’” 1Pet.1.15,16.
This is the glory of God’s “call”: His setting apart, this separation unto Himself, is God’s character reproduced in His servant. This will be seen in separation from all that grieves God, unto a closer walk with God. We will never be as holy as He is, but we should be holy because He is holy. It is our privilege to appeal to God for His help, in parental awe as unto our gracious Father, that we may win His approval.
“Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” Ex.3.6. The servant of God must be called and commissioned by God to a specific work for God. “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham” Acts 7.2. Jacob said, “God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz” Gen.48.3. How did Moses endure the murmuring and unbelief of Israel for forty years in the wilderness? “He endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” Heb.11.27. A man may have a degree in the school of men but not know the alphabet in the school of God.
Moses, at the end of his life in his dying benediction upon the tribes, had not forgotten “the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and … the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush” Deut.33.16.
Moses learned three things at Horeb:
“The Lord” Ex.3.7. In the margin to this verse, Newberry has the following: “Jehovah or Yehovah, a compound of three Hebrew words: YEH-yeh, ‘He will be’; hOVe, ‘Being’; and hahyAH, ‘He was’.” He repeatedly uses the expressions “I am” and “I will” in the dialogue, giving a sure guarantee to His servant: “I will send thee” 3.10; “Certainly I will be with thee … When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” 3.12.
“‘What is that in thine hand?’ And he said, ‘A rod’” Ex.4.2. The rod cut off from its roots, dry, sapless, with no strength of its own, became a serpent, the symbol of Egyptian royalty, until controlled in Moses’ hand. God’s power controlled a rod in the hand of Moses; a sling in the hand of David; a nail, an ox goad and a jawbone in the Book of Judges; five barley loaves and two small fishes to feed the multitude. The sign of the hand leprous as snow that was healed showed God’s power over the loathsome infection of sin in Egypt. Later, when Moses was told to lift up his rod and stretch out his hand over the sea, he needed God’s power, not his own energy, which he had employed in his first, well-meant but ill-timed endeavours.
“I will stretch out My hand, and smite Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go” Ex.3.20. God’s plagues would make the Nile loathsome; smite the beasts of the field; torment the skin on their body; by frogs, flies, murrain, hail and locusts make the Egyptians abhor the vile objects of their idolatry; bring their sun god into darkness which could be felt; slay their firstborn and raise lamentations until Israel would be abhorrent to their oppressors and they would drive them out in haste. Exodus means ‘the way out’; the word “out” is the key word here, occurring multiple times in Exodus chapters 12 and 13, for example, “And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies” 12.51; “By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage” 13.14.
Moses was learning that in all his service it must be by God’s presence and power, and that God will have all the glory. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” Num.12.3. In meekness, prayerfulness and humility, Moses suffered their murmurings in the wilderness for forty years. When the people corrupted themselves in their worship of the golden calf “the Lord said unto Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation’” Ex.32.9,10. In this, Moses was prepared to deny himself, knowing that if he accepted such an offer of exaltation, it would be in denial of the glory and purposes of God, Who had called him to be His servant.
Moses had four excuses for refusing God’s call at the burning bush:
Firstly, personal inadequacy: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should being forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Ex.3.11. God said, “Certainly I will be with thee” Ex.3.12.
Secondly, no authority: Moses said that the people will ask who sent him. God said that he should tell them, “I AM hath sent me unto you” Ex.3.14. God offered no legal formula or system of religion. The presence of the Almighty “I AM”; the Lord God of the Hebrews, the living God, will answer the tyranny of Pharaoh, the trickery of the magicians and the treachery of Egyptian idolatry with its many gods.
Thirdly, no confirmation of his call: “They will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice” Ex.4.1. God graciously met this reasoning of Moses by showing him the miracles and plagues which He would perform in Egypt with the shepherd’s rod in his hand. A simple rod with God’s power is mightier than the subtle venomous serpent like Pharaoh or the leprous corruption of the flesh pots of Egypt. God does not always need a king with a royal sceptre but a humble servant with his rod, to stretch out over the Red Sea, to smite the flinty rock or to win victory over the host of Amalek.
Fourthly, complete incompetency: Moses returns to speaking of his own inadequacy: “not eloquent … slow of speech … of a slow tongue” Ex.4.10. God says, “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” Ex.4.12.
Finally, Moses asks the Lord to send someone else, Ex.4.13. Moses, one of God’s choicest servants, did not want to go. Isaiah said, “Woe is me! for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips” Isa.6.5. Jeremiah said, “Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” Jer.1.6. Paul also learned the lesson of human insufficiency: “whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” Eph.3.7,8.
We often make the same mistakes as Moses. We run before we are sent, we retreat before we are beaten and we resist when we are called. God will patiently teach us. A call from God does not involve one mighty leap in our own strength onto the throne of great ambition. It does not involve outer constraint or inner impulse. Pride, arrogance and self-exaltation are a weariness before the people of God. In the school of God we will be taught that we cannot run away like Jonah or Mark. Moses ran away at the first difficulty. Now, “the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses” Ex.4.14. God did not abandon him but graciously provided Aaron, his elder brother, to be his spokesman.
Moses could not successfully excuse himself. He must obey God; it was an irrepressible must: it was clearly the will of God. The Divine pattern is established in the supreme obedience seen in Gethsemane, when the Lord Jesus said, “Nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt” Mk.14.36.
This must be kept before us in all aspects of the service of God, whether on the mission field, in the locality, in the local assembly or in day-to-day testimony. God must have all the glory. We should never prepare a message just because our diary says we have arranged to preach on a specific date. We should preach because God has given us a message and it would not be right to withhold it. Moses set out, with a vision of the glory of God given to him at the burning bush, with nothing but a rod in his hand.
“Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them” Heb.11.28. It is not the focus of this chapter to detail the plagues in Egypt which fell only upon the Egyptians. The above quotation shows that this last plague, Ex.12.13, also involved the congregation of Israel in their houses, as they sheltered behind the blood-sprinkled lintel. It was an early confirmation to Moses and to Israel that God had raised him up to be the deliverer of His people and the leader of the people of God out of Egypt.
God sent Moses saying, “Thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel [this was not another solo mission by Moses], unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness’” Ex.3.18. Three reasons were stated for this journey, and they have lessons for us:
- “That they may serve Me” Ex.7.16 – Service. We cannot serve God in the world (which is pictured by Egypt) by mingling, dressing down and becoming like worldlings.
- “Hold a feast” Ex.5.1 – Fellowship. We cannot serve if we are not near to God. Communion with God requires a clean walk of separation.
- “Do sacrifice” Ex.5.17– Worship. There is no fragrance amid the stench of the world. The people of God in Egypt were too busy helping to build cities for Pharaoh.
Pharaoh told them to serve God but stay in Egypt, Ex.8.25. This is like many in the world today who would tell us, ‘Stay and help’. However, a social gospel that appeals to the worlding is not consistent with the reproach of Christ and the cross.
Pharaoh said to go and do sacrifice but not to go very far away, Ex.8.28. However, God commanded them to “go three days’ journey” Ex.7.27. The three days remind us of the message of the gospel, which declares, “Christ died … was buried … rose again the third day” 1Cor.15.3,4. Our association with Him in His death, burial and resurrection separates us from this world, as also witnessed in baptism.
Pharaoh said to go and serve the Lord, but that only the men should go; the little ones were to be left, Ex.10.7,11. Some have gone out for God and gone back because of their wife and family. Moses’ first test had already been in the domestic sphere, Ex.4.24-26.
Pharaoh said, “Let your flocks and your herds be stayed” Ex.10.24. We cannot serve God with one foot in the assembly and the other in the world, professing the truth on Lord’s Day and then trading like the unrighteous, Monday to Saturday. “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 2Cor.6.14.
In fact, the Egyptians hated the flocks of Israel; they were envious of the increase of the people and they feared their might. After the plagues and death of the firstborn, Pharaoh and all his servants and all the Egyptians rose up in the night with a great cry saying; “Get you forth … go, serve the Lord … take your flocks and your herds … and be gone” Ex.12.31,32. “The Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians”, so they granted (‘responded to their request’, not ‘lent’ as in the A.V.) “unto them such things as they required” Ex.12.36. Egypt was ready to assist their departure and did not expect to see them again. The descendants of Jacob went down to Egypt as a family, grew into a “congregation” and left Egypt after 430 years, not as slaves but as conquerors called “the hosts of the Lord” Ex.12.41. God had all the glory. “Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed” Ex.15.13. For Israel, this beginning of months, the first month of the year, began with the feast of the Passover, the blood-sprinkled lintel and the slain lamb.
The Passover was:
A Proclamation of Deliverance
It proclaimed deliverance from Egyptian bondage, bitterness and blackness. It would have been easier for Moses if the mixed multitude, Ex.12.38, and the murmurers, Ex.17.3, had learned this truth.
A Presentation of a Memorial
“For a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt” Ex.13.9. It was to be observed yearly. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed weekly. He said, “This do in remembrance of Me” 1Cor.11.24. Are we prone to forget, as did Israel?
A Preparation for Departure
“Thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s passover” Ex.12.11. Our dress and deportment should clearly indicate that we are a people who are leaving, and are not conformed to this world.
A Putting Away of Leaven
Leaven symbolises the swelling and spreading power of evil, that which was looked upon with favour in Egypt.
A Privilege of the Congregation
“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel … they shall take … a lamb for an house” Ex.12.3. Many thousands of lambs were slain. The expression “Your lamb shall be without blemish” Ex.12.5, reminds us that we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.19.
A Provision for the Pathway
This was the pivotal day of deliverance, the beginning of months, as God promised Moses. They were no longer dwellers in Egypt, but pilgrims on the way to “a good land and a large” Ex.3.8. They were no longer slaves in the brick kilns but soldiers on the advance to Canaan. “And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies” Ex.12.51.
They were also singers: having finished with Egypt and having crossed the Red Sea, they sang the first recorded song in the Bible. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation’” Ex.15.1,2.
The last recorded song in the Bible is in heaven, by the sea of glass: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints’” Rev.15.3.
This continues the harmonious accord of the song of redemption in heaven, celebrating victory over a stronger foe than Pharaoh, through the blood of the Lamb. It is the song of victory over the beast and over his image, and over the number of his name. This is the consummation of the ordered events during the seven last plagues leading up to the second coming of Christ, in glory. He is the Lamb that was slain, worthy to receive the worship and praise of all peoples, as they continue to sing “the song of Moses the servant of God” Rev.15.3.