The Expository Files

God's Choice of Moses

Exodus 2:1-24

Who is your hero? Those who have studied American history have some good ones from which to choose: George Washington, our first President; Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator; or Teddy Roosevelt, who spoke softly but carried a big stick. Those who grew up on western films might pick one of the well-known movie cowboys--Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy. Those who are athletically minded could look to different sports figures, such as Babe Ruth, Johnny Unitas, or Larry Bird. Today, many young people number among their heroes rock singers, television stars, and other pop-culture personalities.

However, a friend of mine once made the comment, "The best heroes are Bible heroes." One of those heroes is Moses, who led God’s people Israel out of Egyptian bondage, through their wilderness wanderings, and to the border of the promised land. The purpose of this article is to look at God’s choice of Moses in Exodus 2:1-24.

Moses's background, vs. 1-10
Most everyone knows the story of how during the Egyptian bondage a Hebrew man and woman from the tribe of Levi had a baby boy and hid him for three months but finally had to make an ark or little chest of bulrushes, put the child in it, and placed it in the reeds by the river bank, leaving his older sister to watch. We also know how that Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe in the river, discovered the child, and adopted him, calling his name Moses. Seeing that he was a Hebrew, she asked the girl to find a nurse for it, and so Moses’s own mother became his nurse. But what had led up to this?

In Exodus chapter 1, we read that following the migration of Jacob and his family to Egypt at the request of Joseph, there arose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. As the Hebrews grew in number, this king became afraid that they would join with Egypt’s enemies, so he made laws intended to keep them from multiplying. First, he commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all baby boys among the Israelites, and when that did not work, he ordered all his people to kill any newborn Hebrew boys. So this is why Moses was hidden. Interestingly, this passage does not even tell us the names of Moses’s parents, but in Exodus 6.20 says, “Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses.”
The passage in Exodus tells us what happened but really does not give many details as to why. However, we read in Hebrews 11.23, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.” Of course, the faith in this verse is not that of Moses himself but of his parents who acted by faith.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10.17). So, what had Amram and Jochabed heard to produce this faith? We do not know exactly, but maybe they remembered the promise that God had made to Abraham in Genesis 15.13-16. “Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’” Perhaps even, they believed in the possibility that because the time was drawing near it might just be their son who would lead Israel out of Egypt, and they did not want him killed. In any event, they exhibited a deep faith in God.

Moses's choice, vs. 11-15
Again, we have more explanation of this in the New Testament. “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt till another king arose who did not know Joseph. This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live. At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father’s house for three months. But when he was set out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7.17-25).

Notice that both the Exodus text and Stephen tell us that Moses went out to visit "his brethren." How did he know that the Hebrews were “his brethren” if he was raised by Pharoah's daughter as her son? To me there is only one explanation. His real mother, a Hebrew, was his nurse and must have told him, maybe even over and over and over again, who he was. We do know what Moses later did. He stood up to Pharoah, led Israel out of Egypt, received the law, guided the people through the wilderness, and saw Canaan's land "from Mt. Pisgah's lofty height." Everything that he became and did, he owed to the instruction of his parents, and especially his mother, like Timothy. “When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Timothy 1.5). The faith that dwelt in Moses first dwelt in Amram and Jochabed and illustrates the fact that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. There is nothing that better parents can do for their children than to instill within them a deep and abiding faith.

With this kind of faith, Moses then made his own choice. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11.24-27). It may seem like an oxymoron to talk about “seeing Him who is invisible,” but Paul writes about looking “not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.18). This world is full of temptations designed to take our focus away from God and Christ to things of this life--money, possessions, job, family, recreation, entertainment. "With forbidden pleasures would this vain world charm; Or its sordid treasures spread to work me harm." Like Moses, we must learn to look not at things which are seen, the temporary pleasures of sin which are passing, but things which are not seen which are eternal.

Moses's preparation, vs. 16-24
Apparently, based upon what Stephen said, Moses had given thought to trying to free his people when he first killed the Egyptian, but it just was not the right time yet. God always does things at exactly the right time. Why did Jesus not come right after the fall, or before the flood, or in the days of Abraham, or during the Egyptian bondage, or at the time of the judges, or when the kingdom divided? “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4.4). None of those were the right time. When God had prepared everything in the world to be just the right time, then Jesus came.

So it was with Moses. He needed to be prepared for his purpose by spending forty years in the wilderness. “Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons. And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai….This Moses whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush” (Acts 7.29-35). It also appears that the Israelites themselves needed time to be prepared for his leadership.

Moses is an example, a hero if you will, of faithfulness to God. “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house” (Hebrews 3.1-2). Moses did not just wake up one morning, turn on the switch, and presto! He was faithful. It took several years of patient instruction by a godly mother, his own decision in time of crisis to identify with God's people rather than Egypt, and then forty more years of preparation in the wilderness for him to develop the kind of character which made him faithful in all God’s house. And that is what it will take for us. “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2.10).

Moses certainly was not perfect. He made his share of mistakes and suffered greatly for them, not being allowed to enter Canaan. But we have every reason to believe that he was saved. The general tenor of his life is that he was faithful, and his life is recorded in several places in the New Testament as an example--again, as a hero--for us. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15.4). And something that we can learn from Moses is that, in spite of our weaknesses and faults, if we determine to be faithful as he was, we too can be saved.

By  Wayne S. Walker
From Expository Files 20.2; February 2013