Moses is so prominent in Scripture he ranks third behind only David and Jesus with 848 mentions. 3,500 years later, Moses’ incredible life and ministry still matter because he made such an indelible impact as:
1. A Leader: He is considered one of the greatest leaders of all time (sacred or secular). As the first national leader of Israel, he was a meek man who led by example not a bully who barked out orders (Num. 12:3).
2. A Liberator: God used his unique background as a prince in Egypt and leadership skills to deliver Israel from the chains of slavery.
3. A Lawgiver: Moses gave us the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and the Torah, the basis for many legal systems in the world.
4. An Author: He wrote most of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible which chronicle creation through the first 2,000 years of human history).
5. A Prophet: As one of the greatest prophets, Moses heard God’s voice, spoke His words, worked mighty miracles and appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.
6. A Shepherd: Moses tended Jethro’s sheep for forty years in Midian, then he served as the spiritual shepherd (pastor) of Israel for forty more years.
7. A Friend of God: Moses encountered God at the burning bush and enjoyed a unique relationship with Him, “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Dt. 34:10). “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11).
8. A Type of Christ: Everything Moses was to Israel, Christ is to us and more—“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Dt. 18:15).
Moses’ name fittingly means “drawn out of the water.” His mother made a waterproof basket and set it afloat among the reeds of the river so Pharaoh’s daughter would find him. A church sign read, “Never lose hope, Moses was once a basket case too.” One of my favorite Bible jokes goes, “Who was the best female financier in the Bible?” Answer: “Pharaoh’s daughter—she went to the bank of the Nile and took out a little prophet (profit)!” Incidentally, the three arks mentioned in Scripture all deal with preservation:
1. Noah’s ark—preserved Noah’s family, animal species and the human race.
2. Moses’ ark—preserved a baby and the future of Israel.
3. God’s ark—preserved God’s covenant and law.
Infanticide was the law of the land for Hebrew male babies. Pharaoh ordered them all thrown into the river at birth to prevent a revolt (Ex. 1:22). However, Amram and Jochebed feared God more than Pharaoh. When Pharaoh’s daughter heard Moses cry, she could have drowned him on the spot. Instead, her heart melted with love and she adopted him as her own. Ironically, she paid Jochebed to nurse her own son (Ex. 2:9) who prayed over him and taught him about the God of Israel. Then she moved Moses into the palace unaware her adopted son would later topple her family’s empire.
Moses’ life is neatly divided into three sections since he lived 120 years (Dt. 34:7):
– 1st 40 years = Pharaoh’s man (pampered in the palace, he thought he was somebody).
– 2nd 40 years = Jethro’s man (tending his father-in-law’s sheep, he found out he was a nobody).
– 3rd 40 years = God’s man (he discovered how God can take a nobody and make a somebody out of them).
Despite his heroism, Moses had human flaws:
– He killed an Egyptian while defending a Hebrew slave and was a fugitive—Ex. 2:11-12.
– God nearly killed him for failing to circumcise his son—Ex. 4:24-26.
– He smashed the two tablets of stone in rage over the golden calf idolatry (making Moses the only man to break all Ten Commandments at one time)—Ex. 32:19.
– He angrily struck the rock twice with his rod instead of speaking to it, costing him a trip to Canaan Land—Num. 20:8-12.
– He clashed with Aaron and Miriam over his second marriage—Num. 12:1-15.
– He was often frustrated by Israel’s stubbornness and unbelief.
Moses is the only person whom God served as his undertaker. That’s right, God buried him (Dt. 34:5-6). Why? Two reasons: 1. To show His personal love and care for him since they shared such a close friendship. 2. To prevent idolatry. Moses was so mightily used by God, the Israelites, who recently came from Egypt where they mummified and deified fallen leaders, might have made his body a shrine for hero worship. In fact, Satan fought Michael the Archangel over Moses’ dead body presumably for that very reason (Ju. 9). Lesson: always worship the God who uses the instrument not the instrument He uses!
Though raised as an Egyptian, Moses never forgot his true identity as a Hebrew. This is evident by five decisions he made by faith (Heb. 11:23-27):
1. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. While she spared, adopted and raised him, she was still an idolater and a negative influence he later rejected.
2. He suffered with Hebrews instead of sinning with Egyptians. Sin, like a credit card, is fun for a while, but eventually you will pay. Moses joined the oppressed minority rather than the sin-obsessed majority.
3. He valued spiritual things more than Egypt’s treasure. Moses chose what was eternally valuable. Egypt’s gold was no match for God’s glory.
4. He forsook Egypt. He fled to Midian trading his evil, baby-killing stepfather (Pharaoh) for a godly priest and father-in-law (Jethro, also called Reuel, meaning “friend of God”).
5. He focused on Him Who is invisible. With all the visible glitz, glamor and golden idols of Egypt at his fingertips, Moses chose to serve the invisible God—Yahweh!
Remember Moses’ excuse when God called him? “O my Lord, I am not eloquent . . . but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10). That seems to contradict Acts 7:22, “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” When God met him at the burning bush, Moses had been in Midian for forty years. He probably didn’t speak much Egyptian there (if you don’t use it, you lose it). Either his language skills declined, or he developed a speech impediment later in life. Regardless, God’s anointing overcame his limitation. He had tried to intervene for Israel years before, but it backfired. When it’s not God’s time, you can’t make it happen on your own; when it is God’s time, nothing can stop it from happening!
So, what life lessons do we learn from Moses?
– Our birth status doesn’t determine our destiny.
– Successful mid-life career changes are possible (maybe necessary).
– Meekness is not weakness.
– You don’t have to be a tyrant to be a strong leader.
– Divine ability trumps our disability.
– Faithfulness is just as important to God as faith (Num. 12:7).
– If we seek God’s face, we’ll get His glory too (Ex. 34:28-35).
Of all the titles on his business card, the most important and impressive is “Moses, the man of God” (Dt. 33:1). His staff rained plagues down on Egypt, his faith opened and closed the Red Sea, his prayers brought manna from heaven and water from a rock, his face glowed with God’s glory, his words are still read and loved by millions, his obedience shook Egypt and saved Israel and his life is still an inspiration to us all.