Moses Is An Example for Us


27By faith, Moses left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; he courageously endured his voluntary exile because he saw the Invisible One. (Heb. 11:27)

There are times in our life when our faith in God does not match the circumstances that we are going through. This demands a faith that at times may seem challenged by the circumstances.


I had such an experience when we returned from my post-graduate studies in Scotland back in May, 1991. While we were yet in Scotland, I had been offered a New Testament teaching opportunity at a Christian college in New York (King’s College) beginning the fall of ’91. At the end of June of that year, however, I got this very apologetic letter from King’s that they were encountering financial difficulties and the Board had instituted a hiring freeze for the fall, with the unfortunate prospect that they may have to close the campus the following year (which they did, but a number of years later reopened at another campus).


Confident in early summer that I would have a teaching post in the fall, when fall rolled around I had nothing. I strongly felt the Lord leading me to teach Bible at a Christian college or seminary early in my college years. Now with no teaching opportunities on the horizon, Keri returned to nursing, working full-time on the evening shift (at what was at the time, St. Joe’s Hospital in Lancaster). Instead of teaching, I was now playing the role of Mr. Mom with our two children ages 5 and 3.


After about two years a local seminary had contacted me, which I had never heard of—Evangelical School of Theology in Myerstown, where I have been teaching for 27 years.


I can now see God’s hand in all of this where at the time I couldn’t. I was enjoying spending time with the kids during those two years, but I began to wonder if I would ever land a teaching post. I still felt the Lord leading me in this direction with the support of others, but the day to day circumstances of those couple of years seemed to shout differently.


On a much grander and more challenging scale, this was Moses’ experience in our passage today. The Old Testament context is Exodus 2:11-25. The circumstance was Moses’ flight from Egypt for murdering an Egyptian when Moses saw him beating a Hebrew, one of his own people (2:11). He quickly learned that his deed had become known to his own people and feared that what he had done would become known. When word reached the palace, Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses; Moses, however, slipped out of the country, fleeing to the foreign land of Midian.


As Stephen reports many years later in a speech in Jerusalem during the days of the early church, Moses sensed that God would use him to deliver Israel from their bondage to the Egyptians and motivated his killing of the Egyptian, thinking that his people would see in this that God was using him to deliver them,


When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, “Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?” But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. (Acts 7:23-26)


By this act, he made himself a traitor and insurrectionist in the eyes of Pharaoh, and a trouble-maker in the eyes of his own people.


According to Hebrews 11:27, Moses displayed faith in God when he left Egypt not fearing the wrath of the king and courageously enduring his voluntary exile because he saw the Invisible One. The idea here is that Moses’ leaving, or in stronger language, abandoning Egypt and enduring the 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness displayed faith in God, that his passion to free his fellow Hebrew people from the heavy hand of the Egyptians was God-given and suggested that God was preparing to deliver Israel from bondage.


The passage in Exodus 2:13-14 does not contradict the Hebrews passage, although at first glance it may appear to do so. It recounts that the day after Moses had intervened for his fellow Hebrew by killing his Egyptian pursuer, without anyone seeing it, Moses thought,


He went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”


This Exodus passage, however, does not indicate whom or what Moses was afraid of. Nor does it tell us that Moses fled Egypt because he was scared of Pharaoh’s wrath. With the above Acts passage in mind, the writer of Hebrews suggests that his flight was governed by his conviction that God was at work in all of this but couldn’t stay in Egypt, rather than a desperate attempt to save his own skin. However, his flight does show that he severed all ties with Egypt.


Moses was fully trusting in a Sovereign he couldn’t see, believing that the events of his life supplied the evidence that God was behind them. Going from the halls of power, he now did the lowly work of tending his father-in-law’s flock for forty years in the wilderness of Midian (Acts 7:30). That is a long time, all the while wondering what the events of his life in Egypt were all about. It was only at the end of this time that God appeared to him at the burning bush and connected the dots for him, so to speak, telling him, when he was 80 years old (!) (see Exod. 7:7), that God was sending him back to deliver Israel out of Egypt.


It is not a coincidence but intentional that God is described as the Invisible One. Pharaoh was very much visible. But Moses’ allegiance with a God, whom he could not see and a work that this God seemed up to at the time he fled Egypt, coupled with the fact that God hadn’t spoken to him as he did to his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, his forsaking Egypt for Israel was quite inexplicable. The only adequate explanation is that he sensed the God of his forefathers was now at work in his life, beginning with his miraculous rescue from death as an infant by his mother when she put him in the reeds of the Nile to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter.


If God and what he is at work doing in our lives seems at times ‘invisible’ to us, he has provided us a human example in Moses to follow. God will reveal in the time and way he chooses, but our place in this is to stay close to him and trust that he is at work in the events of our lives when things don’t make sense. It can be quite hard, but in God’s hands, this hardness itself pushes us to him and upon the graces of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in this, we become a contemporary model to others of persevering with God through these difficult times.