Moses, the reluctant prophet, patiently blessed and prepared by God for a special job, tried every way he could think of to convince God that He was wrong in choosing Moses. “I’m not the man for the job.” “I don’t even know what name to use for you when the people ask me which God sent me!” “They won’t believe me!” “I’m not a good speaker.” And finally, “Please send someone else!” But God ignored all of Moses’ excuses. However much Moses wanted to avoid being the chief executive in the “administration of death,” God was more determined to use him in that job. God intended to free and create the nation of Israel, to give that nation His law and He had handpicked Moses for the job, to be the human instrument through whom the law would come! Moses did the job. But he didn’t give up reasoning with his Maker. Moses pleaded, argued, begged was more bold before the throne of grace than any other man recorded in the Bible.
Things didn’t go well from the beginning of Moses’ great commission. Before Moses even got to Egypt, God nearly killed him because he had neglected to circumcise his son after all, God couldn’t afford to have the leader of Israel have a son who was not bound to the covenant He had made with Abraham (Ex. 4:24-26)! This situation upset his wife Zipporah greatly: she called him a “bloody husband” because or circumcision, not realizing it was God who required it, not Moses, her husband. So upset was she that she turned right around and took her children with her, returning to her father’s house, leaving Moses alone to go to Egypt.
Now Moses had been forewarned by God that the Pharaoh would not take too kindly to the idea of releasing all his Israelites slaves, but he was still not prepared for the first crisis. When Moses gave his now famous “Let-my-people-go” speech to Pharaoh, all the king did was laugh at him and punish the Israelites with heavier demands! To say the least, Moses’ popularity, gained with the Israelites through miracles and promises, suffered a great setback at this point: “”All you’ve done is to make us stink in Pharaoh’s nose, and given him a good excuse to work us all to death!” they complained.
Moses had nowhere to turn except to the God who had sent him. He knew YHVH was merciful and he knew God’s truth and knowing these things, he went boldly again to God’s throne: “Lord,” he protested, “how can you mistreat your own people like this? Why did you ever send me, if you were going to do this to them? (This is as close as anyone can dare come to saying “I told you so” to God!)Ever since I gave Pharaoh your message, he has only been more and more brutal to them, and you have not delivered them at all” (Ex. 5:22-23, The Living Bible.)
I am not mature enough spiritually, and I am sure you feel the same way, to talk to God like that! So, it seems we, as Christians of today must admit that Moses understood more about “grace” than most would give him credit for and used that knowledge to the fullest extent!
Well, God’s answer to Moses was to give him more promises, tell him to be patient. But when Moses passed on YHVH’s words to the Israelites, they didn’t see it the same way he did: “They wouldn’t listen any more because they were too dispirited after the tragic consequence of what he had said before” (Ex. 6:9).
Moses had tremendous reservoirs of strength, to be sure, but he was also human, just like you and I, and so he also had doubts, an inferiority complex, and discouragement and in addition to that, remember, he was carrying on a running argument with God about having to do this job in the first place!
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses again and told him, ‘Go back again to Pharaoh and tell him that he must let the people of Israel go’” (vs. 10-11).
Summing up his main arguments he had used at the burning bush, Moses retorted: “But look, my own people won’t even listen to me any more: how can I expect Pharaoh to? I’m no orator!” God ignored these repeated arguments and simply commanded Moses to get the job done!
Bolstered by promises and miracles from God, Moses and Aaron, both octogenarians, went before Pharaoh again. Sure enough he was stubborn, just as God had predicted and Moses had known he would be. Moses and Aaron pulled the trick with the stick and turned it into a snake but Pharaoh was not impressed, as the Israelites had been, because his own magicians did the same trick with their sticks!
Moses, frustrated and dejected, was back to square one! But God had not yet begun to fight! God and His patience and determination to make a name for Himself in the events of the Exodus, had ten plagues already planned to use against Egypt and do remember that this was the same One who became the “little Lord Jesus,” born in Bethlehem so many centuries later!
Now the real battle of Egypt began in earnest! Egypt is called “the gift of the Nile.” And, for good reason. The longest of the world’s rivers makes Egypt habitable. Without the Nile, there would be no Egypt! Naturally the Nile became an object of worship to the Egyptians. It supplied life, renewed each year as it overflowed its banks, deposited the fertilizer and provided the water for the crops. So the river Nile was the greatest god in the entire Egyptian pantheon.
By a miracle of vast proportions, God, through Moses and Aaron, turned the entire Nile River and all other supplies of water into blood! Blood! Don’t pay any attention to well-meaning commentaries that tell you there was a coincidental red mud slide that just happened to spill into the river upstream when Aaron touched the water with his rod. This was a miracle, not a mishap! God says blood and God meant blood. After all, who made blood in the first place? Could not God have a “blood bank” available with which to fill the Nile? Or maybe, as He did much later in changing water into wine, (a much nicer miracle). He just changed the water into blood. No small miracle, granted but real nonetheless. The fish died, the river stank and was not potable. The most revered god of Egypt had been made to stink and become evil to its worshipers. Impressive!
This was not just a jug of H2O, but the entire water supply! One god down, many yet to go. But Pharaoh was predictably hardhearted. His sorcerers turned a pint of water into blood also, and that was enough for Pharaoh. “He wouldn’t listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted, and he returned to his palace, unimpressed” (Ex. 7:22-23)! Now it has always seemed to me that it would have been much more practical and impressive if Pharaoh’s boys had turned the blood back to water to prove its impotence instead of adding to the plague. But that’s not the way Egyptians thought in those days.
The power of that awesome first plague had a good effect on Moses and he began to pursue his job more willingly, began to become the Moses we all remember. Over a period of about a year, God, through Moses and Aaron punished that great nation Egypt with such devastating miracles that it looked worse than Germany after World War II. In fact, it ceased to function as a nation for more than a generation!
All the gods Egypt worshiped were turned into deadly enemies, fearsome plagues: Frogs, flies, beetles, bugs and lice a great list of gods! became in their turn hideous national disasters. Most of the cattle they worshiped died of a mysterious disease while the livestock of the Israelites remained healthy. An unprecedented lightning storm complete with hundred-pound hailstones destroyed trees, crops, buildings and killed many inhabitants. What the hail left was destroyed by a later plague of locust. No crops in Egypt at all that year! For three days God turned out all the lights of heaven with a darkness so thick no one could move. The sun, the moon, the stars, all so avidly worshiped by the Egyptians were all turned off like one might turn off a light switch.
The gods Egypt trusted in were not only no help to them, but they became frightening tormentors causing pain, death and destruction. The great God YHVH showed who the real God was by turning the things they worshiped into idols of evil and death.
All of Pharaoh’s priests and sorcerers admitted defeat and begged Pharaoh to let Moses have his way. The whole populace in panic-stricken terror besought their king to let Israel go. All the treasures of Egypt were pressed on the Israelites in eager desire to have them gone. Egypt lay in shambles. But Pharaoh stubbornly resisted his advisers, his people. He resisted Moses, Aaron and God until his own son died with all the rest of the firstborn of Egypt. That was the straw that broke the Pharaoh’s back!
The sordid slaves of Egypt led by a jubilant Moses left shattered Egypt in triumph. “Exodus” entered the languages of the world with all its meaning, and remains with us to this day. (“Exodus” is a later Greek word meaning “exit” or “leaving.”)
In that epic miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea God crushed the last remaining vestige of Egyptian power: her Pharaoh and all his armies drowned. Egypt was nothing: no crops, few houses, sick people, gold, silver and all treasures gone with the Israelites, no Pharaoh, no army, no government, no Egypt!
Yet in the face of this overwhelming evidence of power from heaven executed through Moses for the benefit of Israel, grumbling, griping, complaining and rebellion were the milestones of the trek through Sinai and Moses took the brunt of it all. Moses they could see. It was through Moses that God had done all these miracles. And when there were any problems it was Moses who faced the public rage: Moses who got the blame.
“Moses brought us out of Egypt,” they complained, “to die in the desert!” They couldn’t see God, only Moses. “Moses’ plagues,” “Moses’ exodus,” and when God Himself spoke His law to the whole nation with His own voice they called it “the law of Moses” and people make that same mistake to this very day! (We’ll get to the details of that in the next article.)
God tests and tries us all in different ways, but be thankful you don’t have to go through what Moses did! Moses knew whose idea this whole plan was: God’s. God’s plan! God’s people, God’s plagues, God’s Exodus (and, of course, God’s law).But the people only saw Moses, the man to blame. When Moses was up on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he was staggered by what his Maker had to say: “Quick! Go on down, for your people that you brought from Egypt have defiled themselves” (Ex. 32:7).
Remember, Moses had not wanted the job in the first place, tried in every way to avoid the calling God had given him now God Himself seemed to sound just like the people and blaming it all on Moses! But God had more to say.
“I have seen what a stubborn, rebellious lot these people are. Now let me alone and my anger shall blaze out against them and destroy them all; and I will make you, Moses, into a great nation instead of them” (vs. 9-10). This was the same God of love who later became Jesus Christ; the same God who gave His own life for you and me, and yes, all those Israelites whom He was now threatening to destroy and even those Egyptians He had destroyed; the same God of whom John spoke in the New Testament when he said: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John`1:17). But in this situation it was God (who became Jesus Christ, the Spokesman, the Logos) who had just given the law in His own voice to Israel, and written with His own finger in stone to Moses and it was Moses who was asking for grace!
“But Moses begged God not to do it. ‘Lord,’ he pleaded, ‘why is your anger so hot against your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and mighty miracles’” (Ex. 32:11)! People have misunderstood John’s statement cited above, probably because they have not read the whole book!
At this particular moment the life of an entire nation millions of people, with all their potential billions of descendants (perhaps you are one of them!) hung on the words of one man: Moses. Most people’s opinion of Moses’ supposedly harsh character would surely demand that Moses would have been the first one to take God up on His offer! Let God kill all the Israelites; they were just a pain in the neck to Moses anyway! And what a promise to Moses himself: to make a whole nation from the one man, Moses, just as He had made the whole nation of Israel from one man Abraham! After all, Abraham was 100 years old when his son of promise, Isaac, was born and Moses was only 80!
Moses, who governed with an iron hand. Moses who administered corporal and capital punishment for crimes against God’s laws and stoning has got to be one of the hardest of all capital punishments! Moses, granite-faced, stern and unbending. Moses, man of law, prime minister of the administration of death!
There are not many Christians who would depend on Moses for mercy! But here’s the story of what really happened believe it or not written in the eternal words of God’s own truth! Moses interceded for Israel instead of for himself. Moses screwed up his spiritual courage and spoke to God Himself as no other man has. Moses went boldly to the throne of grace.
Addressing God Almighty, Moses said: “Do you want the Egyptians to say, ‘God tricked them into coming to the mountains so that he could slay them, destroying them from off the face of the earth” (v. 12). A strong argument, but I would think a dangerous one to use on God Himself. But Moses, seeking mercy for others, went far beyond that!
“Turn back from your fierce wrath,” Moses boldly said, “Repent!” Moses said to God! “Repent of this evil against thy people.” Has any other may dared to speak to God like this and live? Moses did! Yet somehow it doesn’t seem to fit with what we’ve always heard about Moses, does it?
Moses continued: “Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever” (vs. 13).
What boldness! What absolute trust in the mercy and grace of God! What spiritual guts! What a merciful Moses! And beyond that, it was effective: it worked! “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (v. 14)! Why?
How can this be? God angry?! Moses merciful?! It doesn’t make sense with what you’ve heard before, does it? An enigma, a puzzle, a paradox!
But what about all those people the great God of love destroyed and all those people that harsh man Moses “saved” that day? And, in a larger sense, if God is all powerful and all loving, why does He allow so much human suffering today? Moses learned the answers to these puzzles in a gripping tale worth the telling. Read about it in the next article.
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