Learning From Moses
Write your description here…The Triune God of the Universe tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is. 55:8-9). This is certainly true in the life of Moses. Only a Sovereign God could orchestrate making a leader of the Israelites who, in human terms, should have been killed from Pharaoh’s scourge. After Joseph had died, we are told that a new Pharaoh came into power in Egypt “which knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8), and he became fearful at the increase in the population of the children of Israel in Egypt. The new Pharaoh ruthlessly forced the Hebrew children into slavery, tortured them, and made them do hard labor. Despite this, we are told that the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the children of Israel grew in number. Pharaoh, in a chilling decree, instructed the Egyptian midwives to kill any newborn son born from a Hebrew family. In a series of truly supernatural events involving two Hebrew midwives who feared God more than man, and Pharaoh’s own daughter, God not only preserved Moses’ life, but eventually used him powerfully for His glory and His chosen nation’s freedom. In this article, I would like to glean from the life of Moses, specifically in what we as believers can learn from some of his strengths and weaknesses as he ultimately points us to the Great Deliverer, Jesus Christ.
Loyalty to God and His People- “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:24-27). Moses, being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in Egypt, lived with great privilege and luxury. He very well could have been next in line to become the next Pharaoh over Egypt. He likely could have lived quite comfortably the remainder of his life. Yet, he was willing to give up the prestigious human status in order to identify with the lowly, oppressed nation of Israel, his people.
In his loyalty to God and His people, we see a man (while obviously imperfect) who led the people of Israel with courage and obedience to God’s commands. In Exodus and Leviticus, he was given strict instructions on how the people are to worship God and how the tabernacle was to be built and disassembled as they continued in their wilderness journeying. Moses was careful to obey every detail of the Lord’s commands, and he demanded that the children of Israel to do so as well.
Finally, at the end of his life (he lived to be 120 years old), we see his unadulterated confidence in the Lord as he exhorted his successor Joshua in finishing the journey to the Promised Land. “And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed." (Duet. 31:7-8).
Meekness- “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3). In the context of this verse, Moses, as leaders often must endure, had already experienced the murmuring and disobedience of the children of Israel. Now he was being criticized by Miriam and Aaron, his own sister and brother. This complaining spirit must have been a heavy burden for Moses, yet the Holy Spirit (who has breathed out the entirety of Scripture) tells us, in response to Miriam and Aaron’s complaint against him, that there is no meeker man on earth (besides the God man of course) than their brother Moses. To be meek is to be humble, to not think so highly of oneself, and to not think of oneself so much. I believe Moses’ meekness can be shown throughout the Pentateuch, but particularly in this account in Numbers 12. The Lord was so angry with Miriam for speaking against her brother that He struck her with leprosy (a symbol of sin throughout Scripture). I know in my carnal nature I would be tempted to enjoy seeing someone suffer who had bad-mouthed or slandered me, yet notice how Moses reacted. Instead of gloating and telling his sister, “How dare you talk about me this way; this leprosy serves you right!” he intercedes to the Lord on Miriam’s behalf. “And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, heal her now, O God, I beseech thee" (Num. 12:13). As God’s ordained leader of many thousands of people, Moses could have been lifted up in pride, yet he was a meek servant leader.
Timidity- While we know Moses displayed great courage and trust in the Lord during his time as leader of Israel, these characteristics had to be developed. In Exodus 3 you will remember the sacred account of God’s appearing to Moses at Mount Horeb in a burning, but unconsumed bush. It is here that the eternal God commissioned Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian bondage. Moses, it seems, tried to think of every excuse possible to get out of the job the Lord had called him to do. Whether it was his worrying that the children of Israel would not listen to him, or the fact that his poor speech would hinder him as a leader, God showed him that He is the solution for all of Moses' excuses. Yet, Moses still was seeking a way out of this position to the point that the “anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses” (Ex. 4:14). God reminded Moses of who ultimately is in control when he declares, “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord?" (Ex. 4:11). While timidity could be masked as humility or meekness, in this case Moses was failing to trust in the Great I AM. Moses had to be reminded that God is Sovereign and that we can and must trust His plans (by having a steady diet of His Word), no matter how fearful we may feel.
Failure to Obey- Earlier, we have rightly stated that Moses was a humble and obedient leader, but this does not mean he did not struggle and fall in these areas at times. In Numbers 20 during their wilderness wanderings, the children of Israel (yet again!) murmured to Moses and Aaron about the lack of water in the desert of Zin. At first, Moses did the right thing. He immediately sought the Lord as to how to react to these angry and thirsty Israelites. The Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to gather all the people, take the rod, and speak unto a rock that was in the desert. The Lord would provide water for the people and their livestock. Frustrated, Moses took matters into his own hands and stated, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice…" (Num. 20:10-11a). While the Lord graciously still provided water abundantly, God was not happy with Moses’s disobedience in speaking to the people instead of the rock, and then striking the rock. Because of his disobedience the Lord did not allow Moses to bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land. For you and me today, we may be tempted, in our anger and frustration at the circumstances of life (a disobedient child, the state of our world, etc.) to react in a way that is contrary to God’s Word. May we be quick to repent when we fail in this area and beg God to help us trust and obey no matter how we may feel.
How Moses Points Us to Christ
We know that Moses is a picture of Christ, while Egypt and Pharaoh are a picture of the bondage of sin and Satan. Praise God! Just as the Lord sovereignly used an imperfect vessel like Moses to lead His chosen nation to freedom, a perfect man, the God-man Jesus, led His children to freedom from sin’s slavish hold through His atoning death on the cross. Just as Moses was willing to suffer reproach with his people rather than enjoy sin’s temporary pleasures, Christ Jesus was willing to suffer the plight of humanity (yet without sin) to secure the believer’s redemption. “…Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again…" (1 Pet. 2:21-23a). Jesus, who is the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14) is God from all eternity, and enjoyed perfect blissful fellowship in the Godhead. Yet, for the sake of sinners He was willing to come to earth and suffer reproach. He who was rich willingly became poor, so that poor, lowly sinners might be rich (see 2 Cor. 8:9). The hymn writer is correct, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
Moses was meek, in fact the meekest to walk the earth. Yet, there was One who was meeker. Jesus describes Himself in Matthew’s Gospel as “meek and lowly in heart…” Because of Christ’s meekness, you can come to Him with your burdens, fears, and guilt. He is the only place in which you will find true rest. Psalm 34:18 would tell us that He is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in their spirit. Whether crushed because of your own sin, or the results of a sin cursed earth, come to Christ and He will give you rest.
Just as Moses interceded to God on behalf of the children of Israel (even for his own sister who had spoken against him), Jesus intercedes for transgressors (Is. 53:12). John 17 is the glorious account of Jesus beseeching the Father on the behalf of His children. Believer, Jesus prays for you! And the Father always answers the perfect prayers of His beloved Son. Therefore, as you consider Moses and learn from his strengths and weaknesses, I would implore you to ultimately look to the Better Moses, Jesus Christ, and rest in Him.
Nathan Guess serves as an elder at Grace Chapel Primitive Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee.