What comes to your mind when you think of Moses? Charlton Heston portraying Moses as he split the Red Sea and climbed Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments? Moses leading the Hebrews through the wilderness? All true. Except for Charlton Heston, of course; he wasn’t really there. Moses was that guy, leading in a journey where God provided in ways that boggle my imagination.
Moses’ first 40 years were filled with hope and promise. God arranged and used circumstances to prepare him for the wilderness journey purpose He had for him. But Moses was 80 years old by the time he led Israel out of Egypt. What is the rest of Moses’ story? Power for purpose?
Moses’ Early Childhood
Moses was born during the period when Pharaoh was so worried about the Hebrew population boom that he ordered Hebrew boys killed. But Moses’ mother realized there was something significant about him. Acts 7:20 says he was “exceeding fair;” the word exceeding is the word theos, which means “god or godly.”[i] She must have recognized that God had a special future planned for her baby.
Exodus 2:1-10 records his early life. His mother hid him for three months in disobedience of Pharaoh’s order, after which she placed him in a basket in the Nile River, the very place where the babies were to be drowned! Miraculously, he was rescued and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the palace. He was nursed by his own mother who undoubtedly taught him and spoke over him this special future. It’s as though he was adopted when his mother had no choice. He had an excellent childhood, raised in all the privileges of the palace.
The palace years
During his palace years, he was well educated, trained in leadership and military skills. (Acts 7:22) The Bible doesn’t record what he did during his early adulthood, but Josephus suggests he brilliantly led a war with Ethiopia.[ii] Hebrews 11:24-26 says he refused to be known as Pharaoh’s son. Josephus suggests that when Pharaoh put his diadem on Moses’ head, he threw it to the ground,[iii] choosing instead to suffer with the Hebrews. What excellent training!
I’m not sure what the Hebrews thought of his position as a Hebrew in the palace but, when he was 40, he attempted to rescue his people by striking and killing an Egyptian. (Acts 7:23-24) He assumed his people would understand his purpose, but they did not. (Acts 7:25-28) Pharaoh heard about it and wanted to kill Moses. (Exodus 2:15) Did this event change God’s plan? Not at all, but it certainly caused Moses to question what he believed was God’s purpose for him.
Outcast and expelled
Moses fled Egypt in fear of Pharaoh, going to Midian, the area inhabited by Abraham’s sons through his concubine, Keturah. (Genesis 25:1-6, 1 Chronicles 1:32) There, he rescued Jethro’s daughters from other shepherds at the watering well, much like he had tried to rescue the brickmaking slaves in Egypt. (Exodus 2:16-20) His leadership skills and heart to rescue are not lost. But has he settled for being a shepherd, like Hebrews before him? He must see his training and purpose as a waste. Like Peter, fear begins to take hold and destroy his God-given identity. He cannot see what God has been doing to prepare him. (photo from google images)
He married one of Jethro’s daughters and had a son whose name gives a clue about Moses’ assessment of his future. He named his son Gershom, which means “a stranger there, driven out, an outcast.”[iv] (Exodus 2:20-21) Moses was content to stay there with Jethro. “Content” carries a meaning of making a choice, but out of mental weakness.[v] Outcast. Expelled from Egypt and from purpose.
It seems Moses concluded God no longer had any use for him. He thought he knew what God planned for him, but he didn’t realize his timing was off. Did he feel like his mistakes and efforts to fulfill God’s purpose for him had made him a failure? He must have been pretty discouraged. His self-assessment had certainly changed. He went from being mighty in Pharaoh’s palace to being “just a shepherd.” I wonder if he labeled himself Worthless like I had done.
He most certainly would have known about God’s instructions regarding circumcision, but he didn’t even bother to circumcise his son until God insisted on it later. (Exodus 4:24-26) Maybe he also labeled himself Hopeless.
God’s purpose for Moses does not change
When we next hear about him, 40 years have passed. (Acts 7:30) What a long time to labor under those labels. What happened during those 40 years?
God used that shepherding experience to further equip him, teach him and to prepare him for the real destiny God had for him. His time in the wilderness would make him a well-qualified leader of Hebrews through that same wilderness. Moses made mistakes, but they did not stop God’s plan and purpose. Neither did his negative, incorrect identity labels stop God’s plan and purpose.
God uses our mistakes
You, too, may have made mistakes. I certainly do. Life experiences often cause us to adopt some labels that are simply not what God imagines for us. As we labor under those false labels, we often conclude we are no longer useful in God’s plan for us. I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not the way it works! Just like He did with Moses, God brings us back to His plan and purpose because He delights so much in us! (See Psalm 18:16-19)
Joseph understood what God accomplishes, in spite of our past. Genesis 41:52 records that Joseph named his second son Ephraim, saying, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Indeed, God chooses to make us fruitful or effective, even where we are suffering. In fact, He uses that suffering. He comforts in our suffering so we can offer God’s kind of comfort to others because we know what their suffering is like.
3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. 4 He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (GW)
Take a moment to chew on the verses below. Nothing in your past is powerful enough to cut you off from God’s love that is sufficient for fulfilling His awesome plan and purpose for your life!
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28, 35, 37-39 (NLT2)
Does Moses still have a future? God was not limited by anything in Moses’ past, even his self-directed efforts and missed timing. Likewise, He is not limited by our failures, weaknesses, or mistakes. God’s ability to use us has nothing to do with us and everything to do with who God is. God never settles for the “good for nothing junk” we may think we are. He never loses sight of the future He planned for us. Like Moses, we still have a future, too. How did Moses get reconnected with what God had originally planned, reconnected with the identity God had for him all along? Exodus 18:3-4 sheds some light. We learn he had a second son, possibly quite a few years later. He named that son Eliezer. Eliezer means “God is my help.”[vi]
No matter what we think of the 40-year timing, God restores Moses’ vision of the future He had planned. Like Peter’s catch of fish, God offers Moses incredibly meaningful gifts. Power for purpose. We’ll come back to those next week.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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[i] Strong, James. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Hebrew #2316.
[ii] Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston. Hartford, CN: S. S. Scranton, 1905. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Book 2, Chapter 10.
[iii] Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston. Hartford, CN: S. S. Scranton, 1905. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Book 2, Chapter 9, Section 7.
[iv] Smith, Stelman and Cornwall, Judson. The Exhaustive Dictionary of Biblical Name. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1998. P 59.
[v] Strong, James. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. Austin, TX: WORDsearch Corp., 2007. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Hebrew #2974.
[vi] Smith, Stelman and Cornwall, Judson. The Exhaustive Dictionary of Biblical Name. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1998. P 48.