“Why do I bother to keep forgiving him?” shrugs the woman, after her husband has abused her yet again.
“Why do I bother being honest?” complains the employee, who has been hauled over the coals once again for refusing his bosses’ orders to fiddle the books.
“Why do we bother to keep bailing him out of trouble?” mutter mum and dad, after their wayward son let’s them down yet again.
Do you known that feeling? ‘The harder I try, the worse things seem to become.’
I think Moses knew that feeling.
Rescued from a watery grave by an Egyptian princess, Moses has been raised under the protection of the royal court. He has received the best upbringing and education money can buy. But he has never forgotten who he is. So, when he sees one of his fellow-countrymen being struck down by an Egyptian, he intervenes, and strikes down the Egyptian.
The next day, he sees two Hebrew men fighting, and goes to intervene again. “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you going to kill me, just as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?”
Acts 7:25 “Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.”
He has no option but to flee. From the privilege of a prince, to the obscurity of an outcast. Neither his own nation, nor his adopted nation, will have anything to do with him.
Why do I bother! No wonder Moses turned out to be such a reluctant leader! ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’
Anyway, arriving in Midian, he sits down by a well. A group of young women have come to water their flock. Some rough nomad shepherds chase the women away. Moses comes to the women’s rescue, and completes his act of chivalry by watering their flock.
This time, Moses’ heroics work better, and he finds himself respected and accepted by this Midianite family.
But what is God up to?
1. He is preparing his leader
Common theme: a fierce sense of justice. But untamed.
This account is bristling with ‘undeclared providences’ (Motyer). Humanly speaking, Moses has messed things up, big-time. But he finds safety, home, and family awaiting him, made ready by a God who doesn’t even get a mention until the last 3 verses of the chapter.
And, all unknown to him, he is being prepared for his future role. God is in no hurry.
Have you ever tried to do what you thought was the right thing, only to see it blow up in your face? You are not alone.
Are you in Midian? Jesus into the wilderness, Paul into Egypt. God may be preparing you too.
God is not in a hurry. Are you are in the last third of your life’s race? You may be just at the beginning of the work God wants you to do.
2. He is unfolding his plan
Exodus looks back (to Genesis). 1:1 – “And”.
Gen 15:13ff “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and illtreated four hundred years…In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
Gen 46:1-4 “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down into Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.”
The Israelites were fruitful and multiplied and filled the land, Ex 1:7, 20/Gen 1:28; 9:1.
Moses’ mother saw that he was a ‘fine child’ – lit. ‘she saw that he was good’, Ex 2:2/Gen 1:31.
The baby Moses is placed in an ‘ark’ (lit.) – Ex 2:3/Gen 6-9.
Exodus looks forward (to Christ). Startling similarities.
- Both were rescued from an evil ruler at birth (cf. Mt 2:16).
- Both sojourned in Egypt (cf. Mt 2:15).
- Both experienced ‘silent years’ before their public ministry.
- Both spent time in the wilderness (Moses and the Israelites, 40 years; Jesus 40 days).
- Both gave authoritative teaching from a mountain (cf. Mt 5-7).
- Both were destined to be deliverers of God’s people.
- Both were rejected by their own (cf. Acts 7:39, 51-53).
Acts 7:37 “This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’” (Cf the question to John the Baptist in Jn 1:21 – “Are you the Prophet?”)
3. He is fulfilling his promise
Meanwhile, back in Egypt…
Ex 2:23-25 – He heard ‘their groaning’, he remembered ‘his covenant’, he looked ‘on the Israelites’ and he was concerned ‘about them’ (lit. ‘he knew them’).
What God remembers (‘his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob’) and forgets (your sins).
Moses’ behaviour was questionable. He must have felt a failure, the NT (Heb 11:23-27) only remembers his faith.
The story of Moses makes us face the days, weeks, and years of darkness that may be part of our experience. But, at the same time, it lifts the corner of the curtain to enable us to see that there is another story going on. A story of patient preparation, unfolding plan, and faithful promise.
A story that tells us that we are never trapped by our circumstances. We are, rather, always held fast by our God. A story of a God who, while he often works in the background, behind the curtain, has given us his word: Heb 13:5 (Deut 31:6) “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” A story that finds its culmination in a Saviour, who has assured us: Jn 10:28f. “I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”