Moses – From A Sword to A Staff
Preparation For The Journey
It was not easy being on Pharaoh’s list of the ten most wanted men. Moses’ path of flight from the king led him to the land of Midian. He was finally safe from the long arm of this powerful ruler. Though he was not aware of it, one-third of his life would be spent here. What would he do? Why was he here?
Moses Gets A Wife
As Moses rested one day by a well, the Lord provided for yet another area of his life. Seven daughters of the priest of Midian came by to water their flocks, but other shepherds coming for the same purpose drove them away. Realizing the greed of these men, Moses came to the aid of the young women by driving away the shepherds. Then he helped them water their flocks. When Reuel, the father of the girls, learned of the incident, he invited Moses to dwell
with him and his family. Two of the basic needs of Moses were then met. He had a home and a job. Very shortly he would have a wife and soon thereafter a family.
While Moses settled into the pastoral life, the Lord was preparing him for a far greater ministry than tending sheep on the backside of the desert. He would soon lead the Lord’s sheep. The Pharaoh Moses knew eventually died, and God heard the cry of the children of Israel as they bent and nearly broke under the awesome load of the cruel Pharaoh who replaced him. He remembered His people and looked on them with favor.
God had an extensive and intensive training program prepared for Moses. His temper, his haste and his impatience needed to be controlled. He could not rush out and kill as emotion dictated. His character had to be molded and shaped so the Lord could use him. After all, the leadership position for which he was being prepared was monumental. Moses had to “realize that being was more important than doing, and later he learned that the doing came from the being.”1
Moses spent the next forty years in the desert. Much of that time was spent alone with the flock. He eventually came “to the mountain of God, even to Horeb (Ex. 3:1), and while in that area he surely spent much time alone with the Lord. Hours and hours were devoted to quietness of soul and meditation. God’s man was slowly being molded and shaped. Finally, after forty years the Lord’s leader was ready.
“Moses, Moses!” called the voice from the midst of the bush that burned and was not consumed. The Lord got Moses’ undivided attention with this unusual sight. All that had taken place over the past eighty years was culminated in these few short minutes way out in the wilderness. God, having heard the plea of the people, now called His prepared servant to lead them from bondage to liberty and freedom.
“I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a large and good land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:68a). What an exciting hour! Moses had information directly from the Lord. He was thrilled beyond words. His emotions were probably out of control when he learned how Israel would be delivered. Finally, the time for which they had so longed had come!
Then his mood changed rapidly. “I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people” (Ex. 3:10). Me? Moses? I’m going to be leading the people? No way! Not me, Lord! “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11), Moses balked. He didn’t want this responsibility! Better to tend sheep in the wilderness than to have to face that wicked, vile king and lead all these people.
“I will be with thee,” (Ex. 3:12), the Lord responded. My name is, “I AM that I AM ” (Ex. 3:14). As for the Jews, who knew of his murdering the Egyptian forty years prior, the Lord assured Moses “they shall hearken to thy voice” (Ex. 3:18). God had prepared His man and prepared His people to receive him. The situation was tense. All was in readiness for God’s deliverance, except for one man, Moses. He was still far too reticent to obey the Lord.
Even after God performed a miracle with the rod in Moses’ hand, this eighty-year-old shepherd stubbornly refused God’s call. “I am not eloquent,. . . but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Refusing his excuse, the Lord reminded Moses of His creative power. “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?” (Ex. 4:11). Go! said the Lord.
Still Moses said, NO! Now the Lord really got angry with him and said, Take Aaron, then! “I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do” (Ex. 4:15). Finally, Moses submitted to the Lord. He then returned to his father-in-law, Jethro, who must replace him as shepherd so Moses could return to Egypt.
Now Moses was finally ready for phase three of his life. The next forty years would be spent leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, into the wilderness and toward the promised land.
Moses Gets A Helper
Moses was concerned about his inability to speak. The Lord said, “Is not Aaron, the Levite, thy brother? I know that he can speak well. . . And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God” (Ex. 4:14-16).
Moses would not have to go alone to Pharaoh. He would have his eloquent brother to go with him, and together they would stand before Egypt’s mighty king. Now everything appeared to be in readiness. The years of waiting were over, the bondage was about to end, and God was going to move.
Not only did Moses have his brother to go with him, but in his hand was a rod. He had seen the Lord perform miracles with the rod, and the Lord promised him that if the people would not receive what he said, use of the rod to do signs would cause them to believe and obey him (Ex. 4:17).
The next problem facing Moses was one that really haunted him. He had slain an Egyptian forty years ago causing him to flee the land. Would there be people who would remember him? Would he be a hunted man again? The Pharaoh who had sought to slay him had died (Ex. 2:23), and the Lord further informed him that “all the men are dead who sought thy life” (Ex. 4:19).
Again, the Lord had been working to prepare the way for the deliverance of His people. He had His leader, since Moses’ excuses were eliminated. The leader had his helper, and the problems of the past had been disposed of. All was set. Now, the only problems were down in Egypt.
Moses Leaves For Egypt
The journey began. Moses took his family and set out for Egypt. He must have had mixed emotions as he made his way across the wastelands to the land of his youth. He probably longed to see some of the familiar sights again. Would he see friends he had known years ago? What would be the condition of his people? How downtrodden would they be?
Probably the heaviest burden on his mind was Pharaoh. He knew he would have to stand before him. This was going to be most difficult. How would he react? What trials would he have to go through? On his heart were some of the promises of God. The Lord had said, “And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand” (Ex. 3:19). “And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand; but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21). Moses was far from certain what he would face before the children of Israel would leave their Egyptian bondage.
As Moses traveled, he communed with the Lord. Instructions were given as to what he should say to Pharaoh. God explained to him that Israel was His firstborn son. His charge to Pharaoh would be that he should let the Jews go to serve the Lord. The alternative to freeing them would be the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son.
Moses Gets Interrupted
All was going well. The journey was proceeding nicely. But then there was that terrible night in the desert “Holiday Inn.” To say Moses was sick would be to put it mildly. He was nigh unto death. The Scripture points out very clearly that, “the LORD met him and sought to kill him” (Ex. 4:24).
Moses had failed to follow a very important ritual commanded by God. He had neglected to have his son circumcised, a sign of the covenant relationship between God and His people. Perhaps his wife Zipporah, a Midianite, opposed this being done. It is very apparent that she was not enthralled by the whole experience (Ex. 4:25-26). Since the Lord had rendered Moses incapacitated, she had to take a sharp stone and perform the ritual herself. She did not like the task, but she did it.
It was one thing for Moses to neglect the rite of circumcising his son while he was in Midian. Now, however, he was going to lead God’s covenant people, and he must fulfill the obligations of that covenant. With the responsibility which had now been placed on Moses, he must follow all of the Lord’s commands. God’s discipline was upon him. Had he not fulfilled the direct command of the Lord, he would have died.
Moses Meets His Helper
When he recovered, Moses continued on his way, and the Lord had directed Aaron to meet him in the wilderness. Aaron had not seen Moses for some time and was totally unaware of the events that had taken place. They met at Mount Horeb, and Moses recounted to his brother how God had called him to deliver their people and how he had been given signs to prove his call.
Finally, they both came to Egypt and met with the elders of Israel. Aaron told them all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. The signs to prove their calling were performed. When they heard the news, “the people believed” (Ex. 4:31a).
Everything was now in readiness. Moses’ journey had taken eighty years, but for the children of Israel it had been much longer. Their persecution had lasted four hundred years. God was now ready to take Moses and Aaron directly into confrontation with Pharaoh. His people would soon be free.
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7). If anyone ever learned this lesson, it was Moses. He experienced eighty years of training to prepare him to serve the Lord for forty years. Most of God’s children want instant everything. We want immediate maturity as well as immediate service. We can learn many lessons from Moses. God had to shape him, mold him and hone him for many years. Only then was he the servant the Lord wanted him to be. Can we learn from the example of Moses?
- Epp, Theodore, Moses, Vol. 1, God Prepares and Strengthens His Man (Lincoln: Back to the Bible, 1975), p. 85.