20130908FBCPM & 20130912FBCTH
11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? 14 And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. 15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? 19 And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. 20 And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. 22 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them. (Exodus 2:23–25)
I. Moses Tries To Be A Deliverer
A. Moses Hated Injustice And Oppression
Exodus 2:11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
We leap forward almost forty years. Ancient biographers never felt the need to describe a person’s whole life, only the most important parts. That’s why the Gospels skip most of the first thirty years of Jesus’ life.
The birth of Moses was important to show us that God had chosen him to be the deliverer of his people.
It also shows us how God prepared Moses by putting him in a situation where he would grow up learning things that would help him in his mission eighty years later.
This account is the first glimpse we have of Moses’ as an adult. We will get to see some of his character and abilities, but it will be clear that Moses still has more to learn about being a deliverer.
Note that Moses understood where he came from he “spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.” He knew that he was a Hebrew.
Had he ignored it all these years? Had he been sheltered from the truth of who he was? Had he been educated that they were slaves and that’s how slaves should be treated?
When he saw the mistreatment of one of his people, his hatred of injustice and oppression was sparked.
The phrase “looked on their burdens” can have the sense of becoming aware of something for the first time (NIDOTTE).
Moses likely was becoming aware of the plight of the Israelites for the first time. This doesn’t mean he was ignorant of what was going on, just that now he realized the wrongness of the situation.
He was developing God’s perspective on the situation, which is revealed in the final verses of this chapter:
Exodus 2:23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
Exodus 2:24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Exodus 2:25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
We might call it an “eye-opening experience.” Moses had been raised in a life of ease and pleasure, he’d been taught to despise the lower class, but now, now he had sympathy.
Now his hatred of injustice and oppression surged to the surface. He had to choose.
B. Moses Chose To Suffer Affliction
Exodus 2:12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
Was it murder? Was it justified? Those are questions that commentators debate. Stephen, in Acts, defends Moses—
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: (Acts 7:23–24)
Now, Moses could have chosen a different way of defending his people. Perhaps he could have even used his position to better their lives. But instead of doing that…
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; (Hebrews 11:24–25)
Even still, what Moses did was wrong. The fact that God removed him from Egypt and his people for forty years is proof of that.
There are clear guidelines on when it’s right to kill: capital punishment for murder, for example.
Otherwise, we are choose another path.
Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie—were taken to the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbrück, where they were imprisoned for harboring Jews in their home.
One day as Betsie was savagely attacked by one of the guards for not meeting her work quota, Corrie imagined taking a pickax and hacking the Nazi to death…But that is not the way God wants his people to combat evil.
As Betsie said to her sister, “No hate, Corrie, no hate.” Hatred is not the way of the cross; nor is violence the way of Christ, who said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:38, 39). (Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005], 59.)
So Moses was right in choosing to suffer affliction with his people, he was wrong in choosing murder as a solution. He would discover how wrong the next day.
C. Moses Rejected As A Leader
Exodus 2:13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
After his “eye-opening experience,” Moses must have envisioned himself as a leader of his people. After all, he had the training in Pharaoh’s palace to do so.
So he goes out “the second day,” probably to see how else he could help his people. He sees two Hebrews fighting.
It says “behold,” which may indicate that Moses was surprised to see them fighting—as if fellow Hebrew brothers wouldn’t dream of fighting.
So he steps in to lead his people to a better way. To show them that they don’t have to fight and kill one another to solve their problems. The backlash is instant and it stings:
Exodus 2:14 And he [the other Hebrew] said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
Some leader! Moses could not even settle a simple dispute between Israelites without being accused of murder. Forty years would have to pass before God would use him to lead!
Notice that he was rejected as a leader. The other Hebrews wanted none of his leadership.
- Perhaps they felt that Moses had a cushy life, while they slaved away.
- Perhaps the Egyptians were treating them worse than usual because someone had killed the taskmaster.
Whatever it was, Moses was not well-liked among the Hebrews—he had been rejected as a leader.
Worse than that though, is that the news of his killing the Egyptian was out. Moses knew what that meant—he would have to flee for his life.
D. Moses Flees Egypt
Exodus 2:15a Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh…
It’s somewhat surprising to me that Pharaoh would want to kill Moses—after all, the leaders in those days could often do anything to anyone without fear of repercussions. I would have thought that Moses would only get a slap on the wrists.
But Moses was a Hebrew. He wasn’t Egyptian and, no matter how much the Pharaoh’s daughter loved him, or how long he had lived in Pharaoh’s house, he would always be less than a “real” Egyptian.
Some suggest that for a foreigner to kill an Egyptian was one of the greatest crimes. It certainly seems to be the case here.
So out of fear for his life, Moses fled. Again, this was preparation for Moses’ future task.
Now Moses can cut his emotional ties with Egypt.
He can be humbled and made to depend on God. Indeed, when God calls him later to deliver the Israelites, Moses is convinced that he is incapable of such a task.
This is the great lesson we learn from this account, that…
E. Salvation Is Not By Works
Moses attempted to save his people through his own works. He had zeal, but not a zeal according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).
It was not unreasonable to suppose that the Israelites could have revolted and beat the Egyptians on a military level. Egypt would have had something like a population of four million at the time, and the Israelites numbered something like two million.
Moses would have to establish himself as a leader, develop an organization, and then plot the overthrow of the Egyptians.
Stephen hints that this, or something like it, was what Moses hoped would happen:
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. (Acts 7:25)
Perhaps Moses thought since he was doing the right thing, God would follow along and help out. That’s not what God had in mind.
God’s salvation is not by works. Later, we’ll see that, while Moses was at the forefront, it was God who would do the delivering through his own plan and his own power. Moses was simply along for the ride.
At the edge of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army behind them, Moses encouraged his people—not with his talents and abilities, but by reminding them that the Lord was their deliverer.
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. (Exodus 14:13–14)
Then, a few verses later,
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. (Exodus 14:21)
The same is true for our salvation. It isn’t what we can do. It’s not our goodness or our talents. It’s the Lord that saves us.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
It’s God who is to get the glory. If Moses had managed to find a way to get the Israelites out of Egypt through his own power, he would have boasted all the way to Heaven’s gates.
And if we found a way to save ourselves, we also would have boasted for all eternity. But there’s only God’s grace that can save us.
Have you humbled yourself to receive that grace found in Jesus Christ? Does God get the glory for your salvation?
II. Moses Learns To Be A Deliverer
A. Moses Comes To Midian
Exodus 2:15b But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
(1) Training For The Wilderness
The Midianites (who were nomads) dwelt mainly in Arabia just east of the Sinai.
The forty years that Moses would spend with the Midianites would train him how to survive in the wilderness desert as a nomad. A skill that would come in handy for the next forty years of his life as he wandered with Israel in the wilderness.
(2) Long Lost Half-Brothers
The Midianites were descendants of Abraham by his wife Keturah (see Genesis 25:2). Which would mean that the Midianites would be long lost half-brothers (or something like that!).
Although we are talking about five centuries or so, the Midianites would have had a similar language and similar customs as the Israelites.
Midianite traders sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt (see Genesis 37:28,36)—Joseph would be the first of many Israelites in Egypt. It’s ironic that the Midianites would help the first Israelite to come out of Egypt four hundred years later.
The Midianites would, from time to time, be enemies of Israel. But they were a rugged and independent lot, just the kind of people to help Moses at this point in his life.
B. Moses Delivers The Seven Daughters
Exodus 2:16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.
Exodus 2:17 And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.
This priest’s name is Reuel, but he is also called Jethro (Exodus 3:1, 18:1). He must not have had any sons, because daughters didn’t normally become shepherdesses.
One reason they didn’t was because of exactly what happened here: the boy shepherds would bully the girl shepherds!
Notice how they waited until after “they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.” Then, the shepherds drove the daughters away and used the water that they had just worked hard to draw and fill the troughs with!
But remember the character of Moses: he hates injustice and oppression. He is meant to be a deliverer, but he messed up his first delivery attempt in Egypt by killing an Egyptian.
But he steps forward again to right a wrong because that’s his character. You can’t not do what you were meant to do and be.
We also get the impression that he was a physically imposing and assertive man. He was able to stand against a number of shepherds who were harassing the seven women.
It’s possible that he is so strong that he killed the Egyptian with his bare hands, perhaps even accidentally.
It’s been suggested that Moses had military training that he had received in Egypt. Kind of like Prince Harry in Britain. We may have revise our image of Moses of being a old man with a long white beard to being a fit, trim, military machine.
No doubt that Moses is equipped by God to be a deliverer. Now it is a matter of waiting for the right time.
Finally, we have here an indication that Moses did learn from his mistake; he doesn’t kill the other shepherds, he seems only to have driven them off. He started to act like a real deliverer.
C. Moses Finds A New Family
At this point, Moses is an orphan and a stranger in a strange land. He is alone, but here we see that God gave him a new family.
(1) A Winning Character Trait: Service
Exodus 2:18 And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?
It’s possible that the daughters were bullied every day at the watering hole. Everyone accepted that they would be late coming home.
Exodus 2:19 And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.
The daughters explain that “An Egyptian delivered us,” which indicates that Moses, by his physical appearance and probably his speech, looked and acted like an Egyptian.
We learn more about Moses’ character in that the daughters say that he “drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.” He was willing to serve, even at menial tasks.
Service is alway high on the list as a requirement for God’s spiritual leaders. Jesus himself established a strong precedent for us to follow if we are to follow him in everything we do.
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
And just to be clear, Jesus also commanded us each to be servers:
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. (Luke 22:26)
(2) Winning A Wife
Exodus 2:20 And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread.
For some reason they did not invite Moses to come meet their father. Perhaps it was simply that he was a stranger, or perhaps it was more comedic—they were so excited that they completely forgot.
Anyway, Jethro desires to show this stranger some hospitality and sends the daughters back to get him. Perhaps he was still at the well, wondering where he should go next.
His introduction to Jethro must have went well:
Exodus 2:21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
Jethro, most likely having no sons of his own, probably enjoyed having Moses around.
The daughters would have liked not having to be bullied by the other shepherds anymore. All around it was a good situation for everyone. Moses needed a home and they needed someone like Moses.
Soon wedding bells were ringing, and Moses had a wife and then…
Exodus 2:22 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
Even though Moses has found a family and was “content to dwell with” Jethro, the name of his son shows us that it’s bittersweet contentment:
Moses names his son Gershom, which is literally, “alien there,” and reveals to us that he is not entirely happy in his new situation. He feels that he is “a stranger in a strange land.”
Someone has pointed out that “Moses was 40 years in Egypt learning something; he was 40 years in the desert learning to be nothing; and he was 40 years in the wilderness proving God to be everything.” (Boice, Ordinary Men Called By God)
We need to also understand that nothing in our lives are wasted by God. He can use each moment to shape us and mold us into the kind of people that he wants us to be.
The question is: are we going to allow him? Are we going to be willing to serve? Are we going to look for God to work in our lives, or try to do it all ourselves? We need to adopt the attitude of John Wesley. He prayed this prayer:
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. (qtd in Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005], 74.)
This is what Moses learned, and it’s what we need to learn also. God can work through our failures, if we choose to submit to his will and not our own.