Moses. Next to Abraham, Moses is perhaps the most important person among the people of Israel. His personal character, his unique relationship with Jehovah, his work in delivering Israel from Egypt and leading through the wilderness, and the five inspired books that he penned are all things that set Moses apart from every other Old Testament saint.
His character. There are a few things that especially mark the man called Moses. He is called the meekest man that ever lived (Numbers 12:3). He displays a tremendous humility of character, and this was sustained through his whole life with one minor exception. Moses was a man characterized by faithfulness; “Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house” (Heb. 3:2). He carried out that which God had committed to him without complaining and without swerving from God’s purpose. Many times we read this phrase, “the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, etc.”, and that he made the people do “according as Moses said unto them”. We see Moses’ care for the people of God demonstrated in his great patience with them over the forty years in the wilderness. Often we find Moses interceding for the people, concerned for their welfare rather than his own.
His life. In Deut. 34:1-7 we find that Moses lived for one hundred and twenty years. At the end of Moses life, and learn that his strength was preserved unto the day of his death. His life is divided into three equal divisions of forty years, as laid out in Stephen’s address in Acts 7. In the first 40 years we have Moses being raised in his parents’ house and in Pharaoh’s daughter’s house. In the next 40 years we have Moses dwelling in Midian and tending the flock of Jethro. In the last 40 years we have Moses leading the people of God through the wilderness to Canaan. Moses served God faithfully through his entire life, and would have been the one to lead Israel into Canaan except for his failure to appropriately represent the character of God to the people at the waters of Meribah (Num. 20). Because of that failure, Moses was not allowed to enter the land, but died on Mount Pisgah (Num 27:14). However, before he died, God graciously showed him the whole land, and then afterward tenderly buried Moses’ body. Over three thousand years later, Moses appeared with Elijah on the mountain of transfiguration with the Lord Jesus. He finally did enter the promised land, but when he is seen there in the land, his all-absorbing object is not the land, but the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the work He was about to accomplish!
Lessons from the Life of Moses. We learn many practical lessons from Moses life that we can apply to our own.
- A personal knowledge of Christ is the key to continued strength. Moses really stands apart as an excellent example of the life of faith: a life that was sustained through many long and difficult years. Through all those years, Moses rarely acted out of character, and maintained the meekness that he was famous for. What was his secret? In Deut. 34:10 it says “there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face”. Moses had a personal knowledge of God, so far as He could reveal Himself in the Old Testament, and Moses grew in that knowledge. So Peter, in his second epistle, shows us that the provisions God has given for life and godliness come to us “through the knowledge of him who has called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
- It is good to marry in your tribe. Moses father was a son of Levi, and when he chose a wife, he chose a daughter of Levi (Exodus 2:1). Who you marry is the second most important choice in your life. A spouse can and should complement and strengthen you. But at times we see the opposite; young people rendered ineffective. If we are to marry (1 Cor. 7;7), we must marry in the Lord (1 Cor 7:39); and this is more than just finding a believer. Is there evidence of a living relationship with Christ, fruit in the life? Do they submit to the Lordship of Christ in their life? And to the Word of God? Do you have a fundamental alignment of beliefs and convictions? How do the older ones in their assembly feel about them? Are both sets of parents happy with the match? Are they known for being kind?
- Raise your children for the Lord. It took incredible faith for Moses parents to have a family in in the days of slavery, and especially to have children after the Pharaoh’s decree to drown the boys in the river. But they were not afraid of the kings commandment (Exodus 2:2-9; Heb. 11:23; Acts 7:20). They saw the child was beautiful to God; they saw the newborn as God does – precious! Not like the world which murders the unborn. They hid the child for three months; they did not throw him to the world. Christian parents can seem strict at times, but really they are trying to preserve your life. Parents must prepare their children for eventual introduction to the world. But they kept a close watch. They had raised their children in a way that they could trust his older sister to watch. Moses was nursed by his mother (Exodus), and nourished up in his father’s house (Acts). It takes both parents to give the love, feeding, discipline, and instruction, in word and also by example.
- Realize who you are. Moses given to Pharaoh’s daughter, “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds” (Act 7:22). Something changed at forty years, “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 pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:24-25). Moses eventually realized that he want not an Egyptian truly. He was a child of Israel. Do we realize who we are? the children of God (1 John 3:1-4). There were two results in Moses life: he developed a care for his brethren, and he began to separate from the world (Heb. 11:24-25). We will have the same two results. Its not that we should try to be someone we’re not, but realize who we are!
- Benefit from Failure and Restoration. Moses tried to deliver Israel in his own strength and failed. It “came into his heart”, but that is not the same as God calling him to do it (Ex. 2:11-14; Acts 7:23-29). It wasn’t God’s time, and perhaps there was still something of self in his efforts. He fled to the backside of the desert. Very few details are given of those forty years. God’s discipline and restoration is a private thing between us and the Lord. It was a time of growing, emptying, and learning.
- Learn to have a shepherd’s heart. The first thing we see Moses doing is protecting the sheep of Jethro’s daughters and watering them (Ex. 2:15-3:1). In the desert, Moses learned the work of a shepherd. This would prepare him to lead God’s people, who often are compared to sheep, through their own wilderness journey for forty years. Not all of us have the gift of a pastor, but we all need to learn something of the heart of a shepherd. You won’t be a help to the Lord’s people unless they know you care. This is something that can be taught. Peter is a good example: the Lord told him, “Feed my lambs… feed my sheep… shepherd my sheep”. A shepherds job is to nourish and protect the sheep. It requires a shepherd heart; self-sacrificing love. It also takes patience. It is important to spend time, listen, build relationships… then warn as needed, but always feed them with Christ.
- Learn to know and fear God. The way God appears to send Moses is unique (Ex. 3:2-6; 13-14). He declares His name of Jehovah or Yahew, “I-AM”, the self-existing One. One of the most important things we must do as believers is to set the Person of the Lord before us. Consider WHO He is. The Eternal One, the Absolute One. Consider the “I am” statements of John’s gospel that magnify the greatness of the Person of Christ. The fear of the Lord and the personal knowledge of the Lord are both important. God’s holiness did not stop Moses from pursuing a closer relationship with God, and later we find that Moses really did come to know Jehovah as a gracious and merciful God. Moses’ intercession is the most beautiful examples of this (Ex. 33).
- Learn true humility. One of the greatest characteristics of Moses is humility (Num. 12:3 – said when Miriam and Aaron murmured against him). More important than low thoughts of self is no thoughts of self. When told by God to go back and deliver Israel from Pharaoh, Moses said “Who am I?” (Ex. 3:10-14). God responded, “I AM hath sent you”. Its not about who we are, but who God is. We need to get over ourselves, and then we can move on to profitable service.
- Learn dependence and confidence. Moses was worried that the people would not believe him. God gave him three signs that would prove his Divine commission (Ex. 4:1-9). The Lord will give power for whatever He asks us to do. We can trust Him (dependence) and therefore have boldness in service (confidence).
- Learn obedience without excuses. Moses persisted with excuses. He made excuses on the ground of his own inadequacy (Ex. 4:10-17). Its not that we need to boost our self-esteem, but rather that we need to simply obey and let God take care of our inadequacy. Paul’s speech was contemptible to the eloquent Corinthians. Compare Acts 4:13. The Lord is able to meet the need, all His power as Creator is at His disposal. He gives the words and the hearing ear. Besides this, His power is made perfect in weakness. In other words, it glorifies Him when we obey although we are inadequate. It is a flat out refusal in Ex. 4:13, and the Lord was angry. It would mean a loss for Moses later. Though Aaron would speak to the people, the revelation would still be through Moses. “You will be a god to Aaron” isn’t deifying Moses. Aaron would get no special revelation. Later, when Aaron acted independent of Moses, it resulted in the golden calf. Moses refusal to obey put everyone in a worse situation. It wasn’t good for Moses and it wasn’t good for Aaron. Years later Moses would put the priestly garments on Aaron – a role he could have had for himself – and then at the end of Aaron’s life he would take the garments off of Aaron where he died before the Lord on Mt. Nebo.
- Learn to practice self-judgment. Read Ex. 4:24-26 where the Lord sought to kill Moses. Moses was the responsible head of his household, and he had failed to circumcise his son. We need to remember Who we serve, and judge the flesh before it spoils our service. God was going to deliver Israel from Egypt through judgment. How could he use Moses to do this work if Moses would not implement that which speaks of judgment; in type, putting the flesh in the place of death (Col. 2:11; Phil. 3:3).
- Learn to intercede for others. In the battle with Amalek, the job of fighting with physical weapons was given to Joshua, who led the people in battle. Moses’ role was different. The work of interceding for the people with his hands stretched out on the hillside was just as important as the work that Joshua was doing in the valley. We need to learn the value of interceding for the people of God; to wield the weapon of prayer.1 We also need to learn the value of being sustained by our brethren, like Aaron and Hur, who held up Moses’ arms (Ex. 17).
- Learn zeal for the holiness of God. When Moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments, he found Israel in a terrible state, worshiping the golden calf. Without a command from God to do so, Moses acted instinctively. He broke the tables of God’s law, rather than bring them into the camp. In that one action, he showed his zeal for God’s holiness, and his love for the people by not bringing God’s inflexible law down into the camp of His erring people (Ex. 24). Time spent on the mountain with God had given Moses an instinct for what was suitable to the presence of God (Ex. 33:7).
- Learn to really know God’s heart and commune with Him. Moses was interceding with Jehovah for the people when He wanted to destroy the people and make a nation from Moses. We see that by this time Moses had really come to know God’s heart. It sounds like Moses changed God’s mind, but really it was His sovereign will all along, but God was showing that He delights to surrender to the prayers of those who know His own heart and walk in fellowship with Him.
- Pursue the enjoyment of God’s glory. After interceding for the people, Moses makes a personal request that he might see Jehovah’s glory. This was not possible, because no one could see God’s face and live, but He would pass before Moses Moses could see Him from behind. As Christians, we are privileged to see all the glory of God reflected in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). But Moses’ desire to enjoy God’s glory is a tremendous example (Ex. 33-34).
- Learn to not insist on your rights. The wicked rebellion of Korah and his company was enough to make most people fly into a rage of self-defense. Moses showed tremendous self restraint in how he dealt with that situation. He was very angry, but he took it to the Lord. In his response, he said that the Lord would make the truth known (Num. 16). When we are wronged it is good to stay humble and let the Lord defend us.
- Learn to faithfully represent God’s heart to others. The one failure in Moses life for which he was severely chastened was his failure in Numbers 20. Moses, normally, very meek, lost his patience with the people, and associated the Lord with his own bad attitude; “Hear now ye rebels, must we fetch you water out of this rock?” He failed to appropriately represent the heart of God towards His people. Instead, he represented God as a grudging giver instead of a gracious giver. Because of this, Moses was not allowed to enter the land (Num. 27:14). The rock which represents Christ only had to be smitten once (Exodus 17). For water to flow after that, it only had to be spoken to. The rod that Moses was to take was Aaron’s rod, the one that had budded. Aaron’s rod is grace, Moses’ rod was judgment. Learn that when failure comes in, the only resource is the grace of God, and our recourse is to speak to the Rock. Moses took the rod of judgment and smote the rock again, and this time twice.
- Learn the secret of endurance: faith. When we look at Moses’ entire life and all his labors for the Lord, we see tremendous endurance. Moses endured “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). We have to learn to cultivate our spiritual senses. If we can only ever “see” with our physical eyesight, we will have little endurance. But if we can develop keen spiritual eyesight, we can live in view of the One true God, and He will be real to us. This will give us energy to persevere.