“Into the Wilderness”
A Sermon Series in the Book of Exodus
“A Change of Heart”
- Lincoln, Proclamation of a day of National Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, 1863.
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
When all is said and done, it is not our abilities, or talents, or skill, that we will make a difference for the Lord in this world, but it the condition of our heart – are we humble enough to cry out to God and plead for His help and guidance?
The Hebrew Child Becomes an Egyptian Child (Exodus 2:1-10)
“Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes1 and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
This man and his wife, from the house of Levi, as an act of faith had a child in this horrible time. God’s Word to them was, Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” They were seeking to obey and have faith in God, in spite of all the world’s darkness and despair.
God commends them later in Hebrews 11:23 “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”
(v. 3) “she took for him a basket,” – the author is very specific with the word that is used for basket, literally, “ark.” The only other place that it is used is in the story of Noah (Genesis 6:14-9:18). God saved Moses in the same way that he saved Noah – a savior is rescued from drowning. The ark was a vessel of salvation for them.
(v.3) “she took for him a basket made of bulrushes1 and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.” The salvation of God’s people was tucked away in tiny basket and gently placed amongst the bulrushes. The child was exposed, delicate, fragile, but he was never in any real danger – God was with him, and it was God’s plan. The baby Moses was never safer than when he was in that basket. Moses was far safer when mom pushed him into the water, than had she kept him close to her. She had to let him go, for him to be safe. Why weren’t the parents afraid to do this dangerous thing? “they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” It was God’s plan to save their son, but also to save the nation.
The Pharoah’s daughter ignores her father’s order to kill all Hebrew males, she even acknowledges that he is Hebrew, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children,” And eventually adopts the boy, and names him Moses as her own son. This reminds us that the salvation that was to come was for not only God’s people but for the world, all those who put their faith in the one true God. When it was time to finally exodus there were many Egyptians who went with them, Exodus 12:38, “And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them,”
God had given Moses’ mother a plan, she told his sister to stay close by, and when the infant was discovered to ask the pharoah’s daughter to help her find a nurse maid – which, by design was his own mother, and then was even paid to take care of her own son. Moses’ mother was able to freely take care of and teach her son the ways of God’s people. She had three years to teach all she could about God to her son.
Moses was a type of redeemer, he was one that pointed God’s people forward to a future true and ultimate redeemer. Jesus’ birth was similar to Moses’ birth. A Deliverer, as a child his life is threatened by a king. All the males are killed in order to try and prevent him from becoming the Savior (Matthew 2:16).
At the end of this sections we see, “and he became her son. She named him Moses,” – the Hebrew infant boy, now becomes the adopted child of the Pharoah’s daughter – at three years old he becomes an Egyptian. Moses grew up in the Pharaoh’s palace and would have the best food, clothing, education, housing – everything would have been “the best.”
The Egyptian Man Acts Like An Egyptian (2:11-22)
11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.3 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.
In Acts 7:20-22 Stephen the martyr describes what Moses was like before Ex. 2:14-15 “At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.”
A running theme throughout the book of Exodus is the comparison of two ways, two gods, two cultures competing to see who is truly the most powerful, which way is the best way – the one true way. For three months the baby Moses was hidden by his mother, then for about three to four years his mother raised him, and way able to teach him the ways of the Hebrew people and their God. But then, for the rest of his life (by Ex. v. 11 he is 40 years old), as an adopted child of the Pharoah’s daughter Moses grew up in the Egyptian culture.
Look again at Acts 7:23-24 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.”
Moses at 40 years old wanted his people to be free, he wanted them to follow him – but he made one huge mistake. He was trusting in his “mighty words and deeds.” Instead of following him, they say, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian.”
Moses is using Egyptian strength, Egyptian words, Egyptian deeds “he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” – The way of salvation for God’s people is not to trust in the Egyptian ways. God never told Moses to do anything; Moses took action and then wanted God to bless his action; he never even took God into account at all. Egyptians don’t ask what the One True God wants. Moses thought like an Egyptian, he acted like an Egyptian, and he thought that the people would follow Egyptian ways (even though it was the Egyptians that had enslaved them!)
We go through life, and let’s face it – often times it is very difficult. We get sick, we lose our job, we don’t get the promotion, we struggle with debt, on and on – so how do we engage the struggle? Moses thinks that you should engage with Egyptian strength, words, and deeds? But that is not engaging the world as God would have us engage the struggle.
In the conflict between the two fighting Hebrew men Moses steps ins and seeks to mediate. “The use of the technical legal term for the offending party expresses succinctly that Moses’ concern is with the issue of justice.” The Hebrew man says, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” – No one did, He took it upon himself to lead. Even later when God approaches Moses from the burning bush, when told to go back to God’s people in Egypt Moses gives the excuse, Ex. 4:1 “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice,” I tried to lead them, and they wouldn’t listen.
The Hebrew man used Moses’ decision to kill a man, as a threat against him, “Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” His ill planned attempt at a rebellion collapsed.
This failure and bad decision rocked Moses to the core, be became afraid, it filled him with self-doubt, and he abandoned any thoughts of leadership, rebelling against Egypt, and even being apart of the liberation of his people. He runs into the wilderness and hides. We wants to disappear. Later, when God goes to Moses and tells him that He wants to use him, Moses gives excuse after excuse and in Exodus 4:10 he says, “But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past (40 years ago when I tried to lead a rebellion) or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
If Moses was ever to lead God’s people, then he would have to stop being Egyptian and start being Hebrew. This is not a racial thing, it is a mindset thing. Also, God allowed Moses to try it Moses’ way – and it took 40 years to get him to understand that Moses had to completely depend upon God. You can’t be Egyptian and lead God’s people. You can’t be lost and point people to Jesus.
One may even ask, “If Moses had not killed the Egyptian, and hid his body in the sand – he seemed to be destined to greatness.” Was it this one mistake that took him out of the picture of leadership for so long? No, Moses’ whole mindset had to change, he had to learn what it means to be a follower of God, before he could ever lead God’s people. With Moses we see that leadership is not about eloquence, physical strength, wealth, or power – it all comes to an identity (whose are you?) and the heart. So what does God do, to get Moses ready for leadership?
Hebrews 11:24-27 “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” “By faith,” From this passage we see that Moses wanted to please the God of his people, “by faith,” he rejected all the wealth and power that came with being Egyptian, and slowly became a Hebrew.
The Egyptian Man Becomes a Hebrew Man (vv. 16-22)
16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
It will take another 40 years before God goes to Moses in the burning bush (the first 40 years was in Egypt as the son the Pharoah’s daughter, the second 40 years was as a shepherd in the wilderness). God sends Moses to and places him in a family that will help him remove the Egyptian way of thinking. He would grow to think like a Hebrew shepherd and not like an Egyptian warrior. God puts us in a church family, and over time we become more like Christ. This is why being a part of a church family is so important, we must chip away at wrong thinking and sin in our lives.
Genesis 46:34 “for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”
By the time he has a son, he says, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” Or “I am a stranger in a strange land.” Moses is lost – he’s not Egyptian and he’s not accepted as a Hebrew. He has the best education, training, and he thought he would be a great leader, and those who knew him said that he was “mighty in words and deeds.” but he has been moving sheep around for forty years – that all seems like another life, long long ago.
By the time God speaks to Moses in chapter 3, his heart as been humbled. Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very meek (humble), more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Before you can be used by God, you must humble yourself. Moses not only is humble, but he is racked with self-doubt, and he doesn’t think he will ever be of any use for God (because he made a really big mistake, many years ago.)
In some parts of India the locals have a technique for catching monkeys, which they then sell in the market place. The technique is very simply and it works like this: First of all, they put some tempting tit-bits of food, maybe some fruit and nuts, into a heavy glass bottle which has a narrow mouth. They then secure the bottle to the ground or to the base of a tree, sprinkle a few more tit-bits around it, and leave it alone for a while. The monkey comes along, puts his hand through the narrow mouth of the bottle and grabs a fistful of goodies. – This is the monkey’s mistake! – You see, the monkey can’t get its clenched fist back out of the bottle, and it doesn’t have the sense to simply let go of its treasure! It becomes trapped in a blunder of its own doing. Mistakes from our past are like those nuts in the jar, if you don’t let them go you are trapped.
Will Moses let go of his past? we will see next week in chapter 3.
Toward the end of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones is hanging perilously over a cliff, with his dad holding on to one hand. With the other hand, Indiana is trying desperately to grasp the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail has been the subject of his dad’s research, and most of his life has been spent searching for it. Now, it is within their reach. Indiana’s dad recognizes, however, that he can’t save him and get the cup, and so he tells Indiana Jones to let it go. Indiana ignores him, and his dad tells him, tenderly, again to let it go. It is a touching moment when Indiana’s dad is willing to let his life’s work go to save the life of his son. So often we give so much of our time—indeed, our entire life— over to something other than Jesus. But we only truly find life when we surrender our lives to Christ.
God Responds to the Hebrew People (2:23-25)
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
While Moses was in the wilderness, hiding from his mistakes, and learning to be a follower of the One True God – God was preparing the day for him to return to Egypt. The king who wanted Moses dead or brought to justice is dead.
God’s name is repeated four times – all relating to the people coming liberation. Moses was saved from death, he was raised and trained with the best, and now his time of humbling is almost over. But when we see, “God heard, God remembered, God saw, and God knew.” It is clear that it is God who will save his people.
Appendix – Things important to the text, but I don’t have time to get to in the sermon.
What do we do with the fact this account is very similar to other historical accounts? “The world of the ancient East provides the legend of the birth of King Sargon of Akkad who was an important ruler in Mesopotamia in the second half of the third millennium BC. According to this, when Sargon was born, he was put by his unnamed mother in a little box, made of reeds and sealed with pitch, and was then set afloat on the Euphrates. A peasant saw him and adopted him, and finally the goddess Ishtar grew fond of him and made him a great and powerful king.”
“He (the author) may have been consciously employing this echo (the similarity between the Egyptian myth and the Moses birth narrative) from a well-known Egyptian myth for polemical reasons. What was no more than a myth in Egypt truly came to pass for Israel in Egypt. In other words, the author takes a famous pagan myth and turns it on its head in order to ridicule and taunt Egypt and then to highlight the truth of the biblical story.”
 Brevard S. Childs, The Old Testament Library, The Book of Exodus (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Westminster Press, 1974) 30.
 Martin Noth, The Old Testament Library, Exodus (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The Westminster Press, 1962) 27.
 John D. Currid, A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2016) 76.