FFF 9:7 (July 1963)
Moses in God’s School
Many lessons may be learned from the biographies of Scripture. That of Moses is one of the fullest. By any standard, he was one of the greatest men of human history in his influence upon both his contemporaries and succeeding generations.
In the Bible he is called, “The Man of God” (Psa. 90, title), “Servant of God” (1 Chron. 6:49), “Prophet” (Deut. 34:10), “Priest” (Psa. 99:6). It would be interesting to ask, wherein lay his greatness and how was he fitted for his position and work?
Stephen summarizes three sides of his character in Acts 7:22: first, he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, he had the formal education of the schools in Egypt. Second, he was mighty in word; that is, he could express himself well. Third, he was also mighty in deed, he was not just a scholar and a speaker, he was a practical man. This is a rare combination in any age. At the same time, he was impetuous, quick tempered, hasty, as may be seen in his killing of the Egyptian and in his interference with the Israelite. At forty years of age he probably knew a lot about mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and politics. Like other men whom God chose to do a specific task, he had to attend another school at the backside of the desert. This was also the experience of Elijah, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul. At the end of forty years of shepherd work in the Wilderness, God dealt with five parts of his anatomy; thereby, teaching him five simple lessons which completely revolutionized his life and left a stamp upon his subsequent service. They were: first, his feet (Ex. 3:1-5); second, his hands (Ex. 4:1-2); third, his bosom (Ex. 4:6-7); fourth, his mouth (Ex. 4:10-12); and fifth, his face (Ex. 34:28-35).
At Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, he sees the bush burning with fire, yet, not consumed. From the burning bush, God speaks, saying, that he is to take the shoes from off his feet for the place whereon he stands is holy ground. God reveals Himself, and Moses hides his face. He is brought into the presence of God and learns there the lesson of reverence. There are seven cases of calls to special services detailed in the Bible. All are different, yet there is one feature common to all, each is brought into God’s presence, and the effect is the unshod feet. Abraham, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Paul, as well as Moses experienced it, and this produced a sense of the holiness of God. Notice the reaction of Job, Isaiah, Peter, and John to this experience. It should be a rebuke to modern familiarity in addressing the Deity and also a lesson in how to behave ourselves in the House of God.
God spoke again to Moses, saying, “What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And He said, cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand.” The lesson of the shepherd’s rod that became a serpent is most important. It is the sceptre of delegated authority which has fallen from the hand of the first Adam, and become a serpent. But the Seed of the Woman has dealt with the serpent’s head. The Risen Lord has said that all authority in Heaven and on earth had been committed to Him, and by that authority He commisioned them and sent them forth with His Gospel. At Christ’s command the Christian goes forth with the rod of delegated authority in his hand to do the Lord’s work. It is interesting to notice the various occasions on which Moses subsequently used the rod: first, in Pharaoh’s court (Ex. 7:10-12), at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:16), at the Rock in Horeb (Ex. 17:6), and likewise in the fight with Amalek (Ex. 17:9); of course, there are also other occasions.
“And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold his hand was leprous as snow. And He said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.” The lesson here is right on the surface, it is that of indwelling sin in the heart of the servant. The Lord taught this lesson to the apostles in the Upper Room (John 13). There it is typified by the defiled feet. The basin and the water correspond to the washing by the Word of God, sanctification. Paul deals with it doctrinally in Romans 6 and 7. No man or woman should ever go to the mission field without having learned this lesson. Isolation and pagan environment will test the most spiritual.
In Egypt, at the end of his secular education, Moses was too quick, he acted in haste, now he is too slow, and makes a series of excuses. First, he says, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Nevertheless, the Lord tells him to go, saying, “I will be with thy mouth.” To this Moses replies, “O my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of whom Thou wilt send.” In effect, he says, Lord send whomsoever Thou wilt, so long as it is not I. The Lord becomes angry at this act of false modesty. Very few men start out as public speakers; to learn to speak effectively is a long, slow, painful process. There is a great difference between the glib tongue with its facile verbosity and the anointed lip and speech. The discerning hearer can detect it immediately. The five great discourses of the Book of Deuteronomy show that Moses overcame his difficulty, and God fulfilled His promise in being with his mouth. But to the end of his career, impetuosity was his besetting sin. He died for speaking unadvisedly with his lips (Psa. 106:33).
The final part of the anatomy of Moses with which God dealt was his face. Twice he spent forty days on the mountain top with God, and when he descended, the glory of God’s presence was reflected on his countenance. The practice of the presence of God has a transforming effect even on the physical appearance of the one who enjoys it. Paul applies the passage in 2 Corinthians 3 to the contrast between the transient, fading glory of the old covenant and the permanent, increasing glory of the new: “But we all, with open (unveiled) face beholding (reflecting) as in a glass (mirror) the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).