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Moses Flees Egypt
“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.” (Exodus 2:11-15)
If we would understand what we have just read, we must read two more passages of Holy Scripture (Acts 7:22-29; Hebrews 11:24-27) in which God the Holy Spirit explains what we have read here in Exodus 2.
"And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full 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 him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday? Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons." (Acts 7:22-29)
"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of 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)
Moses is held before us by divine inspiration as a picture of God’s saints in this world, a very clear and vivid picture of the lives of sinners saved by God’s free grace in Christ. He is now a grown man, forty years old. He is not an old man, but he is not a young man. He is now a man in the prime of life, full of strength, well-established in the world, and in the position of highest possible honor, advantage, and usefulness
A Man of Faith
And Moses was a man of faith. He believed God. — “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king.” It is obvious that Moses’ parents had taught him what God had revealed to them, that he was the deliverer ordained of God to save his people. And that which his parents taught him, the Lord God had revealed to him as well. Like the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom he was a type, Moses was a man chosen out of the people to save the people of God’s choice. — “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” It came into his heart to visit his brethren, because God put it into his heart.
I stress the fact that Moses believed God. He trusted Christ. He acted in faith. But Moses the believer, the saint, the redeemed, blood washed righteous man, while acting in faith, while living by faith, while seeking to serve God and his people, was still just a man of sinful flesh, just like you and me. He knew that he was the man chosen and appointed of God to deliver his people; and he chose to identify himself with God’s afflicted people.
Who could question his devotion? Who could question his zeal? Moses knew full well what the consequences of his actions would be if Pharaoh found out what he had done. Yet, when he saw an Egyptian beating one of his brethren, Moses stepped in, slew the Egyptian, buried him in the sand, and sent his brother safely home. That act is a blessed picture of what Christ has done for us (John 12:31-33; Revelation 20:1-3).
Yet, Moses made a grave mistake. He made a supposition. — “For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.” Go through the Scriptures, looking at how that word “supposed” is used (Matthew 20:10; Mark 6:49; Luke 2:44; 12:51; 13:2; 24:37; John 20:15; Acts 2:15; 7:25; 14:19; 16:27; Philippians 1:16; 1 Timothy 6:5). Anytime a man supposes something, his supposition is wrong. Faith is not an act of supposition, but of confidence.
Moses knew that he was the man God had chosen and appointed to deliver Israel. He knew it by divine revelation. But he supposed that the time had come for Israel’s deliverance forty years before God had determined to deliver his people, forty years before he was prepared by God to be their deliverer, and forty years before they were prepared by God to be delivered. And his supposition got him into trouble.
What a lesson there is here for preachers and those who would be preachers! As in everything else, God’s ways are not our ways. Moses ran before he was sent. And when a man does that, he is sure to run into trouble. Moses thought he was ready to deliver Israel; but he was only ready to be withered. Moses was ready to work; but he must first learn to wait. God’s time had not yet come to judge Egypt and deliver Israel. God had chosen to prepare Moses by putting him in Pharaoh’s palace for forty years, and by putting him in the Midian desert for forty years. He will not have a novice to do his work. Still, the Holy Spirit is specifically talking about this very event in the life of Moses, when he tells us, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.”
Like you and me, Moses made mistakes, displayed infirmities, was sometimes impatient, sometimes rash, and sometimes hesitant. All these facts are plainly exhibited the more to magnify the infinite grace and inexhaustible mercy of our God. You see, Moses was a man who was saved by God’s free grace in Christ, accepted in the Beloved, and a man who lived by faith just like us.
His deeds of faith were also deeds that showed the terrible weakness of fear. Moses acted with boldness, but with fear, with confidence, but with uncertainty. — "And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand" (v. 12). He was hoping for the favor of his brethren; and he feared the wrath of Pharaoh. Yet, the Spirit of God tells us that he acted in faith. How can that be true?
Have you ever noticed that when the Spirit of God gives us the history of God’s saints in the Old Testament, he always presents them to us as they are, warts and all? He makes no attempt to hide any of their sins, weaknesses, failures, or imperfections. But, when he relates the same history of the same people in the New Testament, he never talks about their sins and failures. In the New Testament he only talks about their faith, their righteousness, and their triumphs. In Exodus we read, that “Moses looked this way and that way,” that “he feared and said, surely this thing is known,” and that he “fled from the face of Pharaoh.” In Hebrews we are told that everything he did, he did by faith in Christ, “not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” There is a reason for that. In the Old Testament, under the law, sin is always exposed. In the New Testament, in this gospel day, in this age of grace, God always covers the sins of his people.
Again, Moses was, just like God’s saints in the world today, a man born of God, a sinner saved by grace. And a regenerate man or woman is a person with two natures, flesh and spirit, that which is natural and sinful, and that which is spiritual and holy. That which is born of flesh can do nothing but sin. And that which is born of God cannot sin (Romans 7:14-8:4; 1 John 3:5-9).
Yes, God’s people do sin. Sin is mixed with everything we do, even with our greatest deeds of faith; but the sin is not what we really are! And our God, having put away our sins by the sacrifice of his dear Son, will never impute sin to his own, but only righteousness (Romans 4:6 and 8). More than that, he accepts our deeds of faith as deeds of perfect righteousness through the merits of Christ’s blood and righteousness (1 Peter 2:5). In fact, he accepts our works and sacrifices as works of righteousness, perfect righteousness. That is what he declares them to be (1 John 3:7). And he shall, in the last day, reward us for them as works of perfect righteousness when “the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthian 4:5).
Now, let me show you what Moses did for the glory of God, by faith, because he believed God, because he trusted Christ, because he endured as seeing him who is invisible. He “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.” He chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” He esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” He preferred the cross of Christ (the Gospel) to the crown of Egypt. “He had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Moses lived for eternity. And “by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
By faith, because he believed God, Moses despised all the pleasures, attractions, and honors of Pharaoh’s court. Faith caused him to relinquish what could have been a wide sphere of usefulness. Human reason would have led him down another path. It would have led him to use his influence on behalf of the people of God, to act for them instead of suffering with them.
Human wisdom might very well have said, “Moses, God’s providence has opened a wide door before you. Look what you can do for Israel as Pharaoh’s grandson. This must be the will of God.” But faith does not interpret God’s Revelation by his providence. Faith interprets God’s providence by his Revelation.
Faith caused him to think differently. Human reason and faith are always opposites. They never agree about anything. And, perhaps, there is nothing about which they differ so widely as in what we think of as the “openings of providence.” Human reason always regards such openings as opportunities for self-indulgence. I have known many who, when offered a better paying job, moved to a place where there was no gospel church, no place of public worship, attempting to justify forsaking the assembling of themselves together with God’s saints by asserting that it was “a providential thing.” Faith looks upon such “providential” things as opportunities for self-denial. Jonah found a ship going to Tarshish, because that was what he wanted to find. That which he might have thought was a “providential” opening was, in reality, the path of disobedience. “So he paid the fare thereof” (Jonah 1:3).
It is truly the believer’s privilege and wisdom to see our Father’s hand and hear his voice in everything; but we are never to be guided by circumstances. Our God promises, “I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32: 8). He guides us by his Spirit through the eye of his Word’s instruction and teaching. “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (Psalm 32:9).
Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and forsook Egypt by faith, believing God’s Revelation (Romans 10:17). Had he acted according to sight and reason, he would have grasped the throne of Egypt. But he walked by faith, not by sight. Therefore, he is held before us as a noble example to follow.
Because he believed God, he esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” It was not merely reproach for Christ, but “the reproach of Christ.” The Lord Jesus Christ, in indescribable grace, identified himself with his people. He came down from heaven, assumed human flesh, and bore our sins in his own body on the tree. Being made sin for us, he cried, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee have fallen upon me” (Psalm 69:9). He confessed our sins to be his own sins (Psalm 40:12; 69:5), and bore the wrath of God in our place, being made a curse for us, when he hung upon the cursed tree. He did not merely act for us. He made Himself one with us, and became all that we are, that we might be made all that he is, even the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). When Moses esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt,” he esteemed the gospel of Christ; he esteemed his crucified Savior, “greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” That is what faith does.
He possessed all the ease, wealth, and dignity of Pharaoh’s house, where “the pleasures of sin” and “the treasures of Egypt” were scattered before him. Had he chosen to do so, he could have lived and died in that splendor. But faith in Christ would not allow such a choice. Moses saw his brethren bowed down beneath the heavy burden of cruel bondage; and faith in Christ demanded that he identify himself with them and take his place with them, in all their reproach, bondage, degradation, and sorrow. Had he merely acted in benevolence, philanthropy, or patriotism, he might have used his position and influence on behalf of his brethren. He might have succeeded in inducing Pharaoh to lighten their burden, and make their lives easier. But that is not what faith requires. Faith demands identification with Christ, his gospel, and his people. Today, that initial act of identification is believer’s immersion, baptism, by which we publicly confess our faith in Christ and identify ourselves with him, his gospel, and his people (Romans 6:4-6).
We must never be satisfied with merely patronizing God’s saints, wishing them well, or speaking kindly of them. We must always identify ourselves with God’s despised people. A patron is one thing; a martyr is something else. This distinction is apparent throughout the entire book of God. Darius was so attached to Daniel that he lost a night’s rest on his account; but Daniel spent that same night in the lion’s den, nonetheless, as Christ’s martyr. Nicodemus spoke well of Christ, but longed to know Christ, being identified with him in fellowship of his sufferings and made conformable to him in his death.
In all this Moses was also typical of our blessed Savior, who identified himself with us at the heavy cost of all that love could give. Had he not done so, had he remained “in the bosom of the Father,” we could never have been united to him. Like Moses, because of his love for us, the Son of God “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2: 14). The Jews tried to take him by force and make him their king; but he refused the glory offered to him by man, for the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross, despising the shame. His infinite heart of love for God’s elect could be satisfied only by bringing his chosen sons and daughters into everlasting union with himself, by the blood of his cross, bringing “many sons” with him to glory. “Father,” he says, “I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17: 24). Praised be his adorable name forever!