Preached Feb. 28, 2021
The Three Lives of Moses
We started talking about Moses last week. We talked about how he was set afloat by his mother, Jochebed, in a homemade papyrus basket, or ark as Charles Swindoll calls it. There are some great lessons for us to learn from Moses life, but we can’t cover them all in one sermon. What I want to talk about today is The Three Lives of Moses.
Moses’ life began in a most unusual way. His mother set him afloat on one of the worlds largest rivers, the Nile. Though she had his sister, Miriam, follow along the bank to see what happened to him, had he been taken out into the middle of the river by a current there was nothing Miriam could have done. However, as we know, the story didn’t end tragically, Moses was plucked from the water by the Pharaoh’s daughter. And so, Moses grew up walking the marble halls of the palaces of the Pharaoh as a Prince of Egypt.
For the first 40 years of Moses’ life he lived in opulence. But that life ended in a moment of violence. 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. 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. (Exodus 2:11-16) (41) (NIV)
Please notice the phrase his own people. It is true that the slaves were his own people. He just didn’t realize it yet. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Again, that phrase, his own people. Why was it that Moses dealt with the Egyptian who was beating the Hebrew? Was there something inside Moses speaking to him, or was it just from common decency?
Then it tells us he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. I wonder why Moses was led to deal with the Egyptian so harshly? We may not know until we get to heaven. But it meant Moses faced an entirely different future than he might have seen before.
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. News of the murder Moses committed finally got back to the Pharaoh and he was determined to do something about it. Moses fled, maybe to the one place nearby that the Pharaoh might not follow, he went to Midian, which is on what we know as the Saudi Arabian Peninsula. Most of it is barren desert.
After wandering and wondering for a long while Moses came to a well and stayed to rest and refresh himself. Many times, those wells would be surrounded by palm and date trees that gave him shade and nourishment.
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. (Exodus 2:16-17) Wow, that’s just like the movie. Moses fended off the sheep herders and allowed the seven sisters to water their flocks first.
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?” he 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 an alien in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2:18-22) It was obvious to the daughters that Moses was Egyptian, probably by his dress, appearance, and language. Moses was raised in the halls of the Pharaoh and would have been dressed well and spoke Egyptian.
It doesn’t give us much of a time frame. I’m wondering if the father gave his daughter in marriage simply for helping the flocks get water. But, at some time Moses married Zipporah and they began having children.
For 40 years Moses had lived a sheltered, rich life in Egypt, now suddenly he was spending nights in the desert, searching for food and water everyday while the tables of Egypt were covered with fine foods. He finally found food, water, and a wife at a well in Midian, in the desert of Saudi Arabia.
It has come to me to look at some of the people who got their starts in the desert. Remember Jesus going into the desert immediately after his Baptism while he was tempted by Satan. Then there’s Paul who was led into the desert immediately after his conversion. He stayed there learning from the Holy Spirit. Now Moses spends 40 years in the desert, first looking for food and water, then tending his stepfather’s flocks with his new wife Zipporah.
So, Moses lived his first 40 years in rich surroundings in Egypt, and thought he was a Somebody. Now he spends his next 40 years in the desert, as a shepherd, the lowliest of lows on the social ladder. Now he begins to realize he is a Nobody.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3) (803) (NIV) In the New Testament, Paul tells us to be careful and not think of ourselves as anyone greater than we are. We should humble ourselves before the Lord so He can raise us up. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) (856) (NIV)
From that point of Moses’ lowest point in his life, God called him to a very special ministry. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.” (Exodus 3:1-3)
In the King James Version, it says that Moses decided to turn aside and see why the bush was aflame but was not consumed. Moses approached the bush and God informed him he was on Holy Ground. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. (Exodus 3:4-5) Have you said to the Lord, “I am here” yet?
God then identified himself, then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:6)
Imagine, an hour earlier Moses was shepherding his sheep in the desert, now, suddenly, he is in the very presence of God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Remember hearing that phrase when we studied the life of Joseph? Then look at what happens:
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10) God was calling Moses to send him to free the Hebrew slaves. God was concerned about their continued suffering and Moses was to be the answer.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) To me Moses had the proper response, Who am I, that I should go Moses understands that he is not qualified, or at least he does not put himself up to be qualified. He is not bloated on his own qualifications, he was not proud, 40 years of desert life had seen to that.
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) God’s response to Moses is the same response He would have to anyone of us He calls to His purpose, I will be with you.
Moses’ focus instantly changed from being a shepherd in the desert to becoming God’s Deliverer. I don’t know that Moses thought of himself as the Deliverer, but that is what he was. And God would see to it that Moses was successful. The Hebrew children of God would be freed.
Look at what was to happen once the Israelites were freed: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain. Every time Moses goes before the Pharaoh to demand he free the Hebrews, the same reason is given for their freedom, to Worship God in Freedom. (Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1; 8:20; 9:1; 9:13; 10:3) And finally During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. (Exodus 12:31) God had heard the cries of His children, the Hebrew slaves and He had them freed in order for them to Worship Him.
Bostwick UMC 2/28/21