Last Sunday we began a new series of sermons called “The Wandering Church”. In this series we will present a chronological history of the exodus of Israel from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land. We learned last week that the exodus was preceded by a period of around 400 years in which the family of Jacob moved to, settled in, and then multiplied greatly in Egypt. Their prosperity led to fear on the part of the native Egyptians, which eventually resulted in the enslavement and heavy oppression of the children of Israel.
Some 320 years after their relocation from Canaan to Egypt, sometime around 1525 BC, a child named Moses was born. As the son of Hebrew parents, and in accordance with the law of Pharaoh at the time of his birth, Moses was supposed to be cast alive into the Nile River. This gruesome tactic was intended to curb the foreign population. In a strange sort of way, this is exactly what happened...
Moses’ life can be broken up neatly into 3 sections, each lasting around 40 years. In part one, Moses lived in the household of Pharaoh; in part two, he lived in desert of Midian; in part three, he led the exodus. Moses would live two-thirds of his life watching the oppression and persecution of the Jewish people. In his later years God would use him to be their deliverer.
This morning we will examine the events of Exodus chapter 2 which cover the first 80 years of Moses’ life from his birth to his calling at the burning bush. We will discover the remarkable circumstances which led to his upbringing as Egyptian royalty, his violent outburst that resulted in a murder, and his subsequent flight to and life in the arid region of Midian.
I. BABY IN A BASKET - Exodus 2:1-10
Moses’ was a descendent of the tribe of Levi. After his birth, his mother could not bear the thought of casting him into the Nile River, so she hid him for 3 full months hoping to prevent the child from being discovered and killed. Can you imagine how difficult this must have been? Soon she realized that her plan could not continue - the growing infant would be found eventually. Even if he wasn’t, how could this baby realistically live his entire life in hiding?
Moses’ mother devised a new plan. She prepared a floating basket and placed Moses inside. Then she set the basket in the shallow water along the bank of the Nile River. She placed it among the reeds that grew there so that it would not be carried downstream by the current. She even picked an area where she knew he’d be discovered - though could not of known what might happen to him. Her plan was risky - but she had little alternative. I am sure she prayed extensively about it. Finally, she had Moses’ older sister stand at a distance watching to see what would happen to the baby in the basket.
It wasn’t long until Pharaoh’s daughter, along with her maidens, came down to the river to bath. She noticed the basket and had it brought up out of the water to her. When she opened it, there was baby Moses crying. Moved with pity for the Hebrew infant, the Pharaoh’s daughter mercifully decided to bring up the child as her own. As this was taking place, Moses’ sister approached (although they did not know her true identity) and asked if she might go and enlist a Hebrew woman to serve as the baby’s nurse. When the Pharaoh’s daughter agreed, the girl went a found their mother to do the job.
Moses’ actual mother - though this was likely unknown by Pharaoh - was actually paid to bring up her own son. Generally nurses were responsible for the upbringing of children until about age 12. Thus, as a young child Moses was taught the heritage and faith of the Hebrews by his real mom. As a teen he began his preparation as an Egyptian prince and his mother disappears from the story, but because of her Moses would never forget his Hebrew roots...
II. ACTING OUT IN ANGER - Exodus 2:11-14
Living in the palace, it is hard to know how aware Moses was of the harsh treatment of his native people. Surely he knew it from an intellectual standpoint, but I would imagine he rarely actually saw it himself. Still, the thought of their enslavement bothered Moses until one day he went out to see it firsthand. Sure enough, he came upon an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. Furious, Moses snapped and acted out violently. Thinking that no one would find out, and seeing no witnesses around, Moses came to his Hebrew brother’s defense and murdered the Egyptian man. Then he buried the body before returning to the palace.
Moses went out again the next day - perhaps to see if the corpse had been discovered, or maybe to see if someone else needed protecting. While he was walking, he found two Hebrews fighting each other. When he intervened, they told him that they knew what Moses had done the day before. Moses realized that his secret was out, and that he would soon be discovered and punished for the murder he’d committed. Moses was absolutely terrified of what might happen to him.
One of the character traits that we see throughout the life of Moses is a tendency to act out angrily. Moses had a quick temper which, though he tried hard to control it, sometimes got the better of him. As we go through this study of the exodus together, I challenge you to look for instances in which Moses became agitated and did something that he shouldn’t of. He was not a perfect man, yet neither or we. God can still use us, despite our weaknesses.
III. MOVING TO MIDIAN - Exodus 2:15-22
Sure enough, when it came to Pharaoh’s attention that Moses had committed such a horrendous crime, he sought to kill him. Hearing this, Moses became a fugitive running from justice. He fled to the distant desert region of Midian where he could hide safely and live in obscurity for the remainder of his life. He settled himself there.
The daughters of the priest of Midian would come to the well to water their father’s flock. One day Moses was there when they came, and he assisted them by preventing the shepherds from driving them away. When the priest found out how helpful Moses had been to his daughters, he invited him to come live with them. He even gave his daughter Zipporah in marriage to Moses. Together the couple had a son named Gershom. Moses lived in anonymity working for his father-in-law for 40 years.
The Midianites were a nomadic people who roamed about throughout the Middle East. They were originally the descendants of one of Abraham’s concubines named Keturah. They are mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament, almost always warring against or causing problems for the children of Israel. While the borders of Midian are unclear, many scholars place the region along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba in northern Saudi Arabia.
IV. NOTICING THE NEED - Exodus 2:23-25
While Moses was living in Midian, persecution against his fellow Hebrews continued. Eventually the king of Egypt died and a new one took his place. Having grown up in the palace himself, it is likely that Moses had been closely acquainted with the new Pharaoh during his childhood - the two may well have been half-brothers! Despite the change in Egyptian leadership, the oppression of Israel continued and the slaves began to cry out to God for help.
Scripture says that God heard their cries and remembered His covenant with Abraham. Over 500 years earlier the LORD had promised to make a great nation of the descendents of Abraham, and to give them the land of Canaan as an inheritance. Though their present circumstances seemed desperately bleak, God was preparing to honor His word. The exodus of Israel was drawing near…
God hears His children when they cry out to Him. Although we may not always receive an answer immediately, we can trust that He is listening. When we are struggling and in need, God notices. Furthermore, He always keeps His promises. We can find great comfort in knowing that the LORD is always aware of our difficult circumstances and is making preparations to deliver us from them. He is a good God, even when our life seems bad.
Joseph began as a young Hebrew shepherd who grew up to become a mighty Egyptian monarch. Moses began as a young Egyptian monarch who grew up to become a mere Hebrew shepherd. In this sense, their lives are the exact opposite of one another and serve as fitting bookends to the 400 years of Israel's presence in Egypt. Moses’ life seeks to unwind Joseph's life. God had used Joseph to bring His people to Egypt, and would now use Moses to lead them out…
As I consider the story of Moses, I realize that it does not matter how far you’ve fallen - God can still lift you back up. It doesn’t matter how big the mistakes of your past may be - God can still forgive you. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve run away from Him - God still welcomes you home. It doesn’t even matter how old you are - God can still use you.
God used the circumstances of Moses’ early life to prepare him for what was coming next... While in the palace, Moses learned how to be an expert administrator and a bold, fearless leader. While in the desert, Moses learned to be a patient and compassionate shepherd. Moses was familiar with the inner workings of the Egyptian government and the practices of Pharaoh's house, and he also knew and held a strong faith in the God of Israel. Together these skills made him uniquely qualified to lead the exodus.
I take great comfort in knowing that God does not thrust His children into service without preparing them in advance for it. He does not expect us to do things without equipping us to do them. In our message today, God spent the first 80 years of Moses’ life readying him for the last 40. Could it be that God is preparing you right now for something wonderful yet to come?