"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path". Ps 119:105
MEN OF FAITH: MOSES
Human life is subject to change and it has been like this from the beginning. Just as the calm and placid sea gives way sooner or later to the raging storm, the mighty waves and the wind, so it is with mortal man. From the hilltops of joy, happiness and contentment, sooner or later we are plunged into the valley of despair and distress, looking for someone or something to which we can cling in order to give us hope and consolation.
With this in mind, we must look beyond man's insecurity to the one and only eternal Creator of the universe and to His holy, inspired and infallible Word, the Bible, which God has magnified above His great and holy Name. God's Word can give us the hope of life, if we place our faith and trust in those precious promises of God which are found therein and which will be realised in God's own appointed time.
What is Faith?
The Apostle Paul tells us that `faith is the substance of things hoped for.' [Hebrews 11.1] Further, God tells us that `without faith it is impossible to please him.' [Hebrews 11.6] and therefore to have faith we must believe in the all-wise Creator who is the Almighty God. Now faith is the impelling force that produces works of righteousness. Real faith can only be shown with its companion, works. The Apostle James wrote `faith without works is dead.' [James 2.20] In times past, God's faithful servants have demonstrated their faith in God by living their lives in accordance with His commandments.
The great men of the past who did have faith in God and served Him faithfully, are called `Heroes of Faith' and their lives, like ours, were subject to change. God used these men of faith to help forward His purpose. Among those great men and surely one of the greatest was Moses.
The Need for a Moses
The children of Israel were in slavery in Egypt and many of them were born into it, grew up in and died in that condition and to them there was little change in the pattern of their lives until God raised up Moses. [the name means `drawing out'] Moses was drawn out or rescued from the waters of the river Nile by Pharaoh's daughter, saved from death through divine providence and was brought up as an Egyptian in the palace of Pharaoh, experiencing a life of luxury in the king's court. In addition, as we read in the book of Acts he was trained `in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and in deeds.' [Acts 7.22] But he was also trained by his nurse Jochebed, who was his natural mother, in the ways of God. Moses wanted for nothing - he had all that a person could wish for from a human point of view. However he spurned all this to become a man with a mission; a man of faith, looking to the fulfilment of God's promises and the redemption of His people from slavery in Egypt.
A Change of Lifestyle
The children of Israel did not understand his mission and in a moment of anger he killed an Egyptian. As a result of this he became a marked man and had to flee from Egypt to escape the wrath of Pharaoh. [Exodus 2.11-15] He went from the luxury of Pharaoh's palace to a nomadic life in the land of Midian. This changed his way of life dramatically to an unsophisticated, quiet and simple existence as a shepherd, devoted to his sheep by day and by night, subject to the dangers of attack by wild beasts and roaming robbers. He became a stranger in a strange land. From the pleasures, the wealth and luxury of the Egyptian court, Moses now tended the flocks of Jethro, the priest of Midian.
So why did Moses give up his former life and why did he choose to follow a simple nomadic life tending sheep? The reason is given to us in that wonderful chapter on faith.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews:
`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...for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.' [Hebrews 11.24-27]
Moses chose to be an Israelite and learned to place his trust in God, a great change from his former life enjoying the pleasures of the Egyptian court. At the age of 40 years Moses had the opportunity to become a great man in Egypt, but God in His wisdom, arranged events for the next 40 years to bring about an important change in the character of this man, so that afterwards he was described as the meekest man in all the earth. [Numbers 12.3]
Now while in his prime, at 40 years of age, he would have liked to have delivered his people, after another 40 years of solitude, living a simple life as a shepherd and being much older, his enthusiasm understandably waned and he felt unable to deliver God's people from Egyptian bondage. When the angel of the Lord appeared to him at the burning bush and told him to go back to Egypt, he said: `Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?' [Exodus 3.11] He tried hard to persuade the divine messenger that he was not suitable for this important mission, and besides, he could not speak fluently. In addition, he doubted his ability to persuade his own people that God had sent him to deliver them.
We see what a changed man he was now, feeling unable to do the task that God was asking him to do. It needed a number of miraculous signs to convince him otherwise. The sight of the burning bush, the voice of the angel and the special powers given to him by using his shepherd's staff (which became the rod of God), combined to convince Moses to return to Egypt as the deliverer and great leader of God's people, instead of remaining as a shepherd in the land of Midian. Even so, his lack of confidence as a spokesman caused God to be angry with him and Aaron his brother was selected to be the spokesman.
Moses was finally convinced by the demonstrations of divine power, and the reassuring words of the angel who said to him `I will be with thy mouth, and with his (Aaron's) mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.' [Exodus 4.15]
Back to the King's Court
Having convinced Israel that God had sent him to deliver them from bondage, Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh, to tell him that God had sent him with a special message:`Let my people go.' [Exodus 5.1] Israel were in slavery and they too were about to experience great changes. God's promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had to be fulfilled for God's kingdom to be set up in the land of promise. God had said to Abraham hundreds of years before:
`...thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their's, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.' [Genesis 15.13,14]
Moses had lived in the court of Pharaoh for many years and knew how to gain the presence of the king - and how to obtain the favour of the courtiers. The divine assurance at the burning bush had now given him fresh confidence. Moses then demonstrated his faith in God by fearlessly confronting that powerful king, who from a human standpoint had the power to put him to death at a moment's notice.
Moses the Miracle Worker
Wielding that shepherd's rod which he had formerly used to herd the sheep, he now used it to initiate those ten miraculous plagues, which almost brought Egypt to ruin - by the power of God. There was now no hesitation, for by faith Moses accepted all that God's angel said and went ahead to deliver Israel out of the bondage of Egypt.
As each plague was introduced by Moses with the rod, so he demonstrated the great power of God which had been entrusted to him. The Israelites would stop and listen to his words (and those of his spokesman Aaron), as well as Pharaoh's courtiers, with great astonishment. But, as the plagues progressed, Pharaoh's heart was hardened and finally, before the last plague, he threatened to take Moses life if he ever came into his presence again. [Exodus 10.28] But the faith of Moses was strong and his confidence in God was not shaken by the threats of that great king.
The Passover Feast
The time had now come for a major change in the lives of the children of Israel and to commemorate this great event, God instituted the Passover feast. Israel had to demonstrate their faith by making the necessary preparations to keep the Passover. Only in this way would they be saved from the last great plague. The Passover feast would be celebrated with staff in hand and shoes on their feet in the early hours of the morning, ready for the call to leave Egypt and go to the promised land. God's angel instructed Moses concerning the ritual of the feast and this had to be passed on to millions of people without the aid of modern technology - what a task! If each man had a wife and two children, with 600,000 men, this would be in excess of two million people !
At midnight on the appointed day, the angel of God passed over all the land of Egypt and the firstborn of man and beast died - except where the blood of the slain lamb had marked the side frames and lintels of the doors. The preparations were hurriedly carried out in the homes of the Israelites and now all hinged on their faith in God. The record in the book of Exodus tells us how the angel of death passed throughout the land of Egypt and a great cry went up `for there was not a house where there was not one dead' and the Egyptians said `We be all dead men' and they thrust Israel out in haste with many gifts. [Exodus 12.29-36]
Moses demonstrated his complete trust in God and led Israel out of Egypt into the desert. The record then tells us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart again, he changed his mind and decided to pursue the children of Israel. Again Moses showed his faith in God - a great miracle was performed and all the people passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. Israel witnessed the salvation of God and the Egyptians were all drowned as they tried to follow. The songs of victory sounded loud and long in praise to God for delivering them from Pharaoh and his army.
In the Wilderness
Many times the faith of Israel waned as they took that arduous journey into the desert of Sinai, but not the faith of Moses, which remained strong. He now found himself at the head of a multitude of people who in the main, were uneducated and given to grumbling. Moses led them to Mount Sinai, the place God had chosen to make a covenant with them to constitute His people, the nation of Israel.
We read in the book of Exodus:
`Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation...' [Exodus 19.4-6]
The people replied:
`...All that the LORD hath spoken we will do...' [Exodus 19.8]
However, the faith of many became dim and only by the impelling faith of Moses did the journey continue to the promised land. Many things happened to them during the forty years wandering and on occasions faithless Israel brought faithful Moses near to despair. Nevertheless his confidence in God remained strong time and time again, even to the extent of mediating on behalf of the rebels and pleading with the angel of God to spare Israel and show them mercy, even though they were faithless and perverse. On one occasion when Aaron and Miriam confronted Moses and challenged his authority they were told: `My servant Moses...is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth...' [Numbers 12.7,8]
However all God's faithful servants, with the exception of Jesus, failed at times and Moses was no exception. We can feel for Moses with so many rebels to contend with. On one occasion when the people were thirsty, God's angel told Moses to speak to the rock and water would flow. [Numbers 20.8] Moses was angry with the people and said: `Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?' He then struck the rock twice with his rod. [Numbers 20.10,11] This rash act had far-reaching consequences for Moses, for in so doing he broke a powerful type. Jesus is represented by the rock as the Apostle Paul reminds us [1 Corinthians 10.4] and Jesus would only be smitten once and not a second time. Through his death and resurrection the `water of life' or salvation, would become freely available to all who demonstrate their faith in God, both Jews and Gentiles.
Moses came within sight of the promised land - but was not allowed to enter it and like all of us he was mortal. He died in faith and was buried by God's angel in a mountain within sight of his goal.
The Final Outcome
In summing up the life of Moses we have considered the meekness and humility of this man, who was reluctant to undertake so great a service. But having accepted this great work, he was faithful in discharging his responsibilities and unwearied in fulfilling them. He was vigilant in governing the people, resolute in correcting them. Despite their constant rebellion, he loved his people and was patient with them. He acted as their mediator, pleading with God on their behalf. These are some of the qualities of character which Moses displayed in his life - truly he was a man of faith in times of change.
So what lessons can we learn from our consideration of the life of Moses? The Apostle Paul tells us that `whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.' [Romans 15.4] Like all previous generations, we live in times of change. We believe that the greatest change in the history of this world will take place very soon. The Apostle Paul reminds us that Moses and others like him, looked with the eye of faith to the coming of Jesus the second time, to reward all God's faithful servants. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus will return to restore the kingdom of Israel, as heir to David's throne. He will rule the world in righteousness and bring lasting peace to this troubled planet. To share in that time to come, you must believe in the promises and like Moses, demonstrate your faith in God by being obedient to His requirements.
Are you prepared to do this ?