FFF 10:6 (June 1964)
Moses—the God Motivated Life
It has been well said that greatness is usually forged in the fires of affliction. God put Moses through the Desert University of Sinai for forty years. Greatness comes through service. The head of the class is reached in God’s School by being servant of all. Holy decisions and high resolves are followed by severe testings. So in the remarkable life of Moses, the man of God. It is summed up by the Spirit in six verses in God’s roll of honour (Hebrews 11:2328): “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 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. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.” Moses was mighty (Dent. 34:12), and meek (Numbers 12:3); he was the man who sang the song of victory (Exod. 15:1); the man who saw God face to face; the only man whom God buried (Dent. 34:6); the only man for whose body the devil fought (Jude 9); the only man whose name is associated with the last song, “the song of Moses and … the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). Truly a giant of God towering over the sons of men. In such a wonderful personage is seen the discipline of self-renunciation. The faith manifested by his parents in their defiance of the royal decree is later reproduced in their son. The commencement of our course gives colour to the whole; and the earliest tuition received in the divine school gives shape and tone to our characters which after-years cannot obliterate. The. story of Moses is summed up by four special characteristics.
His life is characterized by his ability to say no. Though he had been educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in word and deed, yet he was a master in self-discipline. As son of Pharaoh’s daughter, what opportunities for pomp, wealth, fame, splendour and majesty undreamed of in Israel’s day! Yet he calculated all carefully and definitely and wholeheartedly refused it all. The magnitude of his own renunciation entitled him to be the leader of God’s people. How aptly a great writer states his resolve:
“The impulsive ardour of youth will sometimes lead a young heart to say, ‘This people shall be my people, and their God my God.’ But there was nothing of that kind here. It was the deliberate resolve of a man who had seen much of life, who knew all that could be urged from every side, and who was come to years. With nothing to gain and all to lose, after thoughtful examination, he descended from the footsteps of the loftiest throne in the world — for a palace there would be a hut, for luxury, hard fare and coarse food; for respect and honour, hatred and contempt; for the treasures of Egypt, poverty and want; for the society of the learned and the elite, association with the ignorant and depraved. But none of these things moved him.”
No leader of God’s people suffers less than the people he is called to lead. Human leaders rise to place and position in various ways; but God’s man rises only through suffering and the disciplining process of life. One must have a firm hold on self ere he leads others. Moses knew what it was to deny self. So must all who follow Christ. We are to ‘cease to do evil,’ then ‘learn to do well’ (Isa. 1:16, 17). We are exhorted to “abhor that which is evil;” then “cleave to that which is good” (Rom. 12:9). God takes note of what we “do” as well as what we “do not.” Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt — he chose the very best by faith, in seeing Him who is invisible. This is the path, the self-sacrifice which the disciple or follower of Christ must pursue. This will cost the disciplining of all our powers. Moses made a great choice, and as a result his fame has survived the centuries. His contemporaries have long been forgotten; the glory of Babylon and Assyria, the wealth and wonders of ancient Egypt are passed away, but the influence of Moses is deathless. Why has the memory been so vividly preserved?
He heroically chose suffering and affliction with his brethren. Historically, it is one of the first choices of the Bible — to suffer, foreunner of an innumerable host to follow in its train. The Egyptians were aliens, worshippers of false gods. His people were worshippers of the one true God, Jehovah. How much better to be in poverty and pain with “his brethren” than with the heathen princes and aristocrats in the palace of plenty. Their pomp was ‘for a season,’ whereas God’s pleasures are eternal.
His choice led to a new course in the purpose of God. Forty years of exile are appointed for him where he was no longer to be a prince but a pupil under the tuition of the Lord. Everyone, from the king on his throne to the maid grinding at the domestic mill, knew what he had done. He kept back nothing, he shunned not to declare his decision. His tongue told it, his face showed it, his actions proved it. His motto was, No neutrality. “If God be God, follow Him; if Baal, follow him.” Forty years as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he was taught the wisdom of men. For forty years as a shepherd and a servant of God, he was taught the wisdom of God. In the common round of the desert as a shepherd, Moses moves subject to the will of God. Oh, the lessons learned in the patient waiting for God’s time in the carrying out of His purpose!
Moses had the twin graces of patience end perseverance. He endured the refusal of “his brethren;” he endured the coldness of the daughters of Jethro, who left him standing at the well; he endured the opposition of Pharaoh; endured the long years in the seclusion of Midian; he endured the murmuring of Israel in the wilderness; he endured the idolatry of the nation with whom he was associated; throughout the forty years in the ‘waste howling wilderness,’ he endured, the only way that any one shall ever endure — by seeing Him by faith who cannot be seen with the natural eye.
For forty years he learned to master self as a prince in a royal court. Yet this was not enough, thus the pupil must learn in the school of God’s appointment. For forty years he was exiled in the desert of Midian because he had attempted to carry out in his own strength and in his own way, the purpose of God for his life. For forty years he had been tending the flocks and learning how to use the rod, and all that he learned from God in that period, he must use for the people of God. The rod in his hand for protection becomes the rod of power. He learned the lesson of the bosom. Moses had learned what was in his hand; now he learns what he has in his heart. He was taught the surety of the divine ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in the judgment of God on Egypt, on Miriam, on the sons of Korah, and on the nations round about. Even in death he experienced the heavy hand of discipline because of the unadvised expression of his lips in the most sacred service for God. Thus, through this faithful and fruitful life for God, discipline accomplished her noble work. His secret of inward power and abiding influence is summed up in the motto of his life, ‘FAITHFULNESS TO GOD.’