The years of the life of Moses may be divided into “three forties.” The first forty, he spent as a prince in Pharaoh’s court; the second, as a shepherd in Midian; and the third, as the leader of God’s people. During his time as a shepherd, he spent a great deal of time alone, in quiet thought and meditation. But as he went about his humble duties, he was being matured for the great work that the Lord was about to call him to perform.
One day, Moses had a strange experience. The aged shepherd was leading his sheep in the desert of Midian, on Mount Horeb (more famously known as Mount Sinai). Suddenly he came upon a bush which seemed to be on fire. The bush burned, and yet it was not consumed in the fire. This was an emblem of God’s people under the cruel bondage in Egypt. And it is a good reminder to us of the Church in every age; even under the severest persecutions, the presence of God keeps her from being destroyed.
From the midst of this bush, the Divine voice was calling the shepherd to become the leader of His people. He was told to take off his shoes, which was a token of respect and submission. When we come to worship in the presence of God, we ought to draw near with solemn preparation, carefully avoiding everything that appears light and unbecoming for His service. In response to the Lord speaking to him, Moses hid his face, as if he were ashamed and afraid to look upon Him. The more we see of God and His grace and His Covenant-love, the more reason we shall see to worship Him with reverence!
The Lord assured Moses that He was very much aware of the afflictions of Israel. Even the secret sorrows of God’s people are known to Him. Their cries of affliction under oppression are heard by Him. Moses was told that the Israelites would enjoy a speedy deliverance from Egypt by methods that would be outside of the common methods and workings of Providence. God, by His grace, delivers us out of the spiritual Egypt of slavery to sin and Satan; and He will also bring us safely to the heavenly land of Canaan.
Forty years earlier, Moses had thought that he was ready and able to deliver Israel; but the Lord had not finished preparing Him, and so his attempt to begin this work in his own strength ended in failure. Now, however, when God declared him to be the best person on earth for this very special responsibility, he acknowledged his own weakness. This was the effect of an increased knowledge of God and of himself. When Moses had killed the Egyptian four decades before, his self-confidence had been mingled with his strong faith and great zeal; but now, he began to slide to the other extreme. A sinful distrust of God was creeping into his heart, under the pretense of humility. Every one of us is a fallen human being, and so there will always be weaknesses in even the strongest graces and the best duties of the most eminent saints. But all of Moses’ objections were answered in the words of the Lord, Who assured Him, “Certainly I will be with thee!” That promise alone is enough.
God now made Himself known by a name that denotes what He is in Himself: “I Am that I Am.” This explains His name Jehovah. It shows us that He is self-existent; and that He is eternal and unchangeable, and always the same – yesterday, today, and forever. It also shows that He is incomprehensible; we cannot find Him out, even by diligent searching. Moreover, He is faithful and true to all His promises; He is unchangeable in His Word, as well as in His nature. He told Moses to let the people of Israel know that the Lord God of their forefathers was sending him to them. He was to revive among them the true religion of the patriarchs, which was almost lost, and then they might expect the speedy performance of the promises made unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Lord told Moses that he would be successful in convincing the elders of Israel that the time for their deliverance had finally come. As for Pharaoh, that would be quite a different matter. Moses was forewarned that neither petitions, persuasions, nor humble complaints would prevail to move his obstinate mind. He would not even submit to the mighty signs and wonders of the Lord Himself. But those people who will not bow to the power of His Word will certainly be broken by the power of His hand.
In Pharaoh’s tyranny and Israel’s oppression, we see a picture of the miserable state of sinners. However dreadful the yoke of their slavery may be, they drudge on until the Lord sends redemption to them. In addition to the invitations of the Gospel, He also sends the teaching of His Holy Spirit, Who makes these people willing to seek and to strive for deliverance. Satan loses his power to hold them, and Jesus brings them out of prison; and then they give all to the glory to Him, and joyfully serve Him and His Church!
Heavenly Father, keep us from overlooking the picture in this chapter of the Lord Jesus coming down from heaven to redeem His people. Our Savior has surely seen and heard our afflictions in spiritual Egypt! How precious it is for us to remember that when our souls are bowed down under the bondage and oppression of sin, yet You remember us in our low estate, for Your mercy endures forever. We thank You for employing Your Almighty arm to bring us out of sin’s slavery, and into the Canaan of everlasting rest. Amen.
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