SERIES: Exodus: Moses, God’s Man for the Hour
The Development of a Deliverer
SPEAKER: Brad Harper
Introduction: Please turn in your Bibles to the second chapter of the Book of Exodus and listen carefully to the Word of the Lord:
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 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.”
11 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. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 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?”
14 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.”
15 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. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.
18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”
19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”
20 “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”
21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”
23 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. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I read the story of Moses, I can’t help but think about Charleton Heston, Yvonne De Carlo, and Yul Brenner. One of my favorite scenes concerns the burning bushincident which Pastor Mike will cover next week, so I really shouldn’t say anything about it. But Mike’s not here, so I won’t worry about it. You remember how Heston goes up to the mountain to investigate the burning bush. He leaves looking about 25 years old and returns a few minutes later with white hair and a white beard.
Now though the miraculous aging process supplied by Cecile B. de Mille is a Hollywood fable, thefact is Moses was indeed no spring chicken when he descended from the mountain with a mission from God to go back to Egypt and rescue his people. In fact, he was probably about 80 years old. About 95% of the biblical narrative concerning Moses focuses on the last 40 plus years of his life after age 80. But to really appreciate this great man of God, we must have an understanding of these first 80 years, during which time God developed him into the deliverer of His people. It is this passage which gives us that understanding.
I have identified four basic phases in Moses’ life which were key to his development as a deliverer.
Phase one: preservation
A mother’s love. It is appropriate on this Mother’s Day that this phase of Moses’ life primarilyinvolves the character and faith of a godly mother. Imagine, if you can, the horror of a pregnantwoman who has just heard the decree that all male children born to Hebrew women are to be drowned in the Nile. Imagine you’re seven months pregnant and for many weeks have felt the livelykicks of this little person inside you, the result of a loving marriage relationship. “What will this baby be? Oh God, let it be a girl! What if it is a boy? How will I protect him? I cannot just give him up to be murdered. I would give my own life first.”
Moses came into the world to a mother whose love for him was beyond words. It was the kind of miraculous love that instantly floods the hearts of parents when they see their own newborn babies.But that same love now looks more like a curse, for it would crush her spirit to see this boy takenfrom her. For three months she tried to hide the child, but soon realized that the cries of a newborn baby cannot go unnoticed forever. So she devised a plan.
A mother’s plan. It must have been her own plan, for we see her carrying out all the details. It was a desperate plan which, for all appearances had one chance in a million of working. But it was the only plan she had. Hebrews chapter 11 allows us to see that she knew it was not the ingenuity of her plan which would save her child. Only God could save him.
A mother’s faith. We are told that it was by faith that Moses’ parents protected him, believing that somehow, if God had a future for this child, he would bring it to pass by his power.
A mother’s reward. What greater reward could God have given this mother for her love and faith than to allow her not only to see her child spared, not only to have him returned to her home to be nurtured by her, but even to be paid for it! Here we see how God’s sovereign preservation of his plans for his people works in spite of any and all human endeavors to the contrary. Yet how often we question God’s ability to preserve his plans and his people in the midst of disaster! When the beautiful plans we have laid out for our lives are shaken, and there appears to be little hope for recovery, how easy it is for us to fall into depression and defeat or to lash out at God in frustration and anger.
How often we forget that we were chosen in him, as Ephesians 2 tells us, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we might be for the praise of his glory. Friends, the only one who can separate you from God’s plan for your life to bring him glory is you, by sin. And even sin can be used by God to cause us to ultimately bring him glory. At the foundation of the Christian faith is a belief that the sovereignty of God will preserve his loving plan for our lives no matter what disastrous situations may come our way.
The preservation of Moses’ life and return to his mother was indeed a miracle. Nevertheless, his gratified mother knew that she had only a relatively short period of time to be with him—most scholars suggest a maximum of 5 years. It was surely during this time that she began the second phase of the development of this deliverer.
Phase two: education
From his family: a godly foundation. We can be sure that Moses’ mother was not concerned about teaching him technical things, but about the grace and promises of the God of the universe, who would one day bring his people out of bondage. Surely she told him again and again about his miraculous deliverance from death and possibly instilled in him that he was uniquely spared by God for a special purpose. Virtually all the biographers of Moses agree that these early years would make an impact on him and provide a godly foundation which would never be forgotten.
Many of us who were raised in Christian families can recall how our lives were shaped very early by believing parents. I will carry cemented in my mind forever the image of my mother when, as a little boy, I would sometimes walk unexpected into her room and find her on her knees praying, and I knew she was praying for me. It was the faithful example and teaching of a godly mother that got me through the traumas our family faced and gave me a foundation to face the world on my own.
Friends, it’s not the world that will anchor our children in the truth of God, no matter how good and moral we can make it. Nor should we look to the church to give our children the foundation they need. God’s way is for parents to teach and live God’s truth before their children. But one day all parents must let go of their children. Imagine Moses’ mother releasing her little 5-year-old to the care of a pagan princess, possibly never to see him again. How will he survive in a world that is so hostile to his faith, his God, and his people?
But it is not just the mothers and fathers of 5-year-olds who agonize over such questions. It is the parents of an 18-year-old going off to college, the parents of a 23-year-old getting married and moving to another city. Yet it is exactly this sending of our children into a hostile world for which God calls us to train them. They are to be salt and light in a crooked and perverse generation. They can’t do that unless we let them go.
From a hostile world: skills and applications. It was into this hostile world that Moses went for the second part of his education. It was in this world that Moses would learn many skills that would train him to be the deliverer of God’s people. Imagine the irony of the fact that the very man who wanted to destroy the Hebrews, Pharaoh, was training the Hebrew boy who would come back and defeat his nation. He provided Moses with skills such as law, military strategy, diplomacy, navigation, and negotiation. Moses would use all of these things to carry out his mission as God’s deliverer.
But there was another, possibly even greater education that Moses received from this hostile world. When I was in high school I decided to go to Biola College, a Christian college in Southern California. I was going there because I wanted to go into Christian ministry. My brother didn’t understand why I would be interested in such a profession; nevertheless, he decided to give me a piece of advice. He was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, not what you would call a bastion of conservatism in the sixties and seventies. He said, “Brad, you need to go to Berkeley. If you’re going to fight sin you need to experience sin.”
My brother was being facetious; but there’s a sense in which he was right. It was when Moses was taken away from a loving and godly family that he was able to see in a unique way the vast difference between the way of God and the way of man. It was in that palace that he had to see the depth of depravity and corruption which comes from total power, total wealth, and total idolatry. It was in being fully immersed in a world without God that Moses came to see that he had to make a decision to put his faith into action, which brings us to the third phase of his development
Phase three: dedication
Verse 11 tells us that Moses “went out to where his people were and watched them at their hard labor.” The Hebrew expression indicates that Moses watched them with a sense of distress. He was grieved by their condition. It is at this point that Moses makes a sacrificial decision of monumental proportions. Turn with me to the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 24-26, for it is here that we see the nature of Moses’ decision:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 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.
A sacrificial decision. First we get a picture of what Moses turned his back on. In turning his back on his adopted heritage, he gave up a sure appointment to an office of nobility, possibly a position of power, not unlike that of Joseph, the Hebrew prime minister of Egypt several centuries before. Notice as well that he decided not to “enjoy” the pleasures of sin. There is no doubt that Moses saw a life before him in Pharaoh’s household that offered virtually anything his heart desired. He could indulge himself to the limit of his lusts.
But not only did Moses turn down such an enticing future, he also embraced a future with great disadvantages. When Moses chose to identify with his people, he chose to embrace slavery rather than power, disgrace rather than respect, pain and sorrow rather than luxury and ease. “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.” This is the key moment in Moses’ life. It is a decision of dedication and commitment from which he cannot turn back. And I submit to you that it is the very same kind of decision that we must make when we decide to follow Christ.
I spend quite a bit of time regularly with believers who are suffering. Often it is because of circumstances in life which have brought frustration and pain. And let me say right off that I believe Christians should be allowed to feel sorrow and grief over hurtful and destructive situations in life, for Christ himself felt those things. But I must confess that sometimes I get the feeling from some of these hurting believers that this isn’t what they signed up for when they cast their lot with Christ. Sometimes I have those feelings myself. But friends, that is exactly what we signed up for. Jesus stressed to his disciples again and again that to follow him means to embrace pain and suffering. He told them, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
We tend to look at our faith in Christ as something that will relieve us of burdens and make life right. And indeed, in many ways it will. He lifts the guilt of sin and brings the joy of a relationship with himself. But he also asks us to embrace the cross, an instrument of suffering and torture. And we are to carry it with us every day. This I believe is the foundational decision of true Christianity—not some light hearted decision to be friends with Jesus. We need to turn our backs on our own selfish pleasures as top priority and to embrace Christ in his suffering and pain because he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can ultimately find peace, love, or God without him. It was in this decision that Moses dedicated his life once and for all to God.
A disastrous implementation. Unfortunately, we often move from a great decision to follow God to an immature and disastrous implementation of that decision. When Moses made the decision to embrace God and his people, it was a decision that was so strong he would kill for it, and indeed, he did. Acts, chapter 7, tells us that Moses’ decision to kill the Egyptian slavemaster was made from good motives. But it was a bad decision. Moses wanted to do something for God, but he wanted to do it his own way rather than God’s way. For in this murder we see Moses displaying his own power rather than looking for the power of God. He commits an act of brutality rather than an act of righteousness.
Not only was Moses’ act one of brutality, but it was also an act that failed in its intent. Moses was stepping out in his own mind to be a leader and a deliverer of his people. But his act of deliverance only served to engender disdain and fear in the very people he was reaching out to serve. Not only that, but it got him kicked out of Egypt altogether and sent to a place where he would be able to do nothing for his people. Imagine the depression and frustration for a guy who has made the most difficult and sacrificial decision of his life, burned all his bridges in order to follow God and help his people, and immediately God removes him from the situation completely.
I imagine Moses asking, “God, how could you do this. I don’t understand. I could have done more good by staying in the government and helping your people by the power of my influence. Now I can do nothing.” Which is exactly what Moses needed to learn—that in his own power and in his own way he could not accomplish what God had for him to do. He had to learn to trust God fully and to do things his way. Moses was headed in the right direction, but now he needed to grow up spitirually. Which brings us to the final phase of the development of this deliverer.
Phase four: maturation
Lessons learned about deliverance. Moses had some important lessons to learn. I believe the first one is a lesson about God’s way of deliverance. Early on in his desert experience Moses is once again faced with the opportunity to be a deliverer. He happens upon some female shepherds who are being abused by a group of male shepherds. Again we see Moses stepping irresistibly into the situation, but this time we see no evidence of violence. The image here is of Moses the servant, who rescues the women by feeding their flocks himself. No macho display of human power, but rather humble service which allows God’s power and love to be displayed. The result, rather than disdain and fear, is appreciation and respect. Moses is just beginning to learn that true deliverance is by the power of God, not his own, a lesson he will surely need to remember when he returns to Egypt.
Beyond this lesson we see that Moses’ desert exile was just the right place for him to mature in other ways.
Lessons learned from exile. Moses the prince became Moses the desert worker, learning probably for the first time the discipline that can only come from hard work. Moses the ruler of men became Moses the ruler of sheep. As a shepherd he would learn how to care for foolish animals who constantly get themselves into trouble and perish quickly without strong and sacrificial leadership. It was a group of people not unlike these sheep that Moses would lead out of Egypt into the desert.
It was Moses who was uniquely at home with all the people of Egypt who would now find himself an alien, separated from his people and living with those whose ways he did not know. I believe this sense of separation would teach Moses valuable lessons about depending upon God and clinging to him. After I graduated from college I fulfilled a lifelong dream to travel around Europe. Ever since I was in 6th grade I had wanted to go there to see its art and experience its rich history and culture. So I saved up some money, strapped on a backpack, and headed out by myself for three months into a world I knew little about.
This trip was one of the greatest experiences in my life, but it included much loneliness, as night after night was spent by myself or with people I did not know. But in the midst of that alienation I found a new depth to my relationship with Christ. Each night I would open the Scriptures and find new richness in passages I had read many times before. I found myself talking to God all through the day. As there was often no one to share these great sights with me, I would share my feelings with God and would sense his presence and his joy. So, too, I believe Moses must have learned to develop a deep consciousness of the presence of God.
Finally, Moses had the opportunity to learn one of the greatest lessons of life—patience. His teacher was a simple but effective one—time. Notice that Exodus tells us that Moes was an alien in the desert for “a long time.” Indeed, it was for 40 years! Moses was about 80 years old when God would call him to return to Egypt. To human eyes Moses’ exile was a waste of the prime years of his life. But God would do greater things with an old man who was spiritually mature, who was ready to be used by God, than he could have with a younger man who did not yet adequately understand the ways of God. Now Moses was ready to hear God’s voice, to walk in God’s direction, and to walk God’s way.
Conclusion: So what can we take away from all this? I’d like to make a suggestion, but first walk with me again through the stages of God’s development of Moses. How could the infant Moses be preserved from certain death? Could his godly parents protect him? Was there any plan which could assure his safety? No. But the sovereignty of a gracious God enacted by the faith of a godly mother snatched Moses from death. Could a few years of godly principles barely remembered deliver a young man from the clutches of a world that enticed him with all its glamour? Not by itself. But the grace of a sovereign God caused Moses to remember and follow these principles rather than the ways of the world.
Could Moses himself heal the wounds of a disastrous mistake? No. But the power of a sovereign God could cause him to recover. Could a desert of exile and despair bring Moses to a place of spiritual maturity? Only if it was accepted as the will of a sovereign God who often chooses suffering to cause us to embrace him more fully and who has a plan for us for a future and a hope.
What fearful or unconquerable circumstances do you face today? What desert of frustration and despair do you find yourself in? There may be no human answers for what you face. If you lose your job, you may not be able to change that. If your spouse is distant, you may not be able to change that. If your kids are on drugs, you may not be able to stop them. But you see, none of that is the main point, although it may really seem like it is.
The main point is that there is a sovereign God of grace who calls you to trust him in times of crisis and despair. He may sovereignly change your situation tomorrow; or he may leave you in the desert for 40 years. What he wants you to do is to decide to walk his way wherever you are and to trust him for the rest. Only in so doing can God develop you into the beautiful piece of workmanship he has created you to be in his way and in his time. Any other way leads only to failure and despair.
DATE: May 12, 1991