BY MARVIN J. ROSENTHAL
If I had been asked to write the epitaph of Moses, I would have written something like this: “Moses, God’s lawgiver, is dead,” or “Moses, God’s miracle-worker, is dead,” or “Moses, God’s statesman, is
dead,” or “Moses, God’s judge over Israel, is dead.”
But when God Himself wrote the epitaph of Moses, He said: “Moses my servant is dead” (Josh. 1:2). God wanted Joshua to understand that He was looking for a man with one special quality, the ability to be a
servant. At least four times in Chapter 1 of Joshua God refers to Moses as a servant:
“Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD. ..” (Josh. 1:1).
“Moses my servant is dead. ..” (1:2).
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee…” (Josh. 1:7).
“Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you …” (Josh. 1:13).
“And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant … (Heb. 3:5).
God’s words to Joshua were not in vain – the general got the message. At the end of his life, he summoned the leaders of Israel together and gave them this needful admonition (needful because many of the people were beginning to worship the heathen gods of the land to which Jehovah had brought them): “. . . choose you this day whom ye will serve … but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15).
God is not looking for great evangelists, preachers, teachers, businessmen, housewives, or carpenters. He is looking for men and women who will make great servants – whose lives will be clay in the Potter’s
hands. Moses was such a man, and God fashioned him for His own purpose.
MOSES’ CALL TO MINISTRY
The 40 years Moses spent on the backside of the desert were not wasted years. Invaluable lessons were learned. Moses needed the discipline of those years before he could obey the ministry to which
God was now calling him. God’s commission to this servant did not come quietly in the still of the night but with dramatic spectacle. The lesson it taught never diminished during the 40 years of wilderness
wanderings. The spectacle Moses beheld was a bush that was burning but not consumed.
The sanctity of the occasion was startling – out of the midst of the bush came the voice of God: “Moses, Moses … put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Ex. 3:4-5).
The burning bush that Moses beheld needed no flame to reduce it to a heap of ashes. The region was dry, the bush scorched and withered, its leaves dead, and its branches were sapless. The flames should have
made speedy work of such a bush, but didn’t. No branch, twig, or leaf was even scorched or singed. It is no wonder Moses said, “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight” (Ex. 3:3). The visual object
lesson was clear. Though every normal indication argued for the annihilation of the thorn bush, it was miraculously preserved.
At the same moment, the Hebrew race was enslaved in Egypt. Like the bush, the Hebrews were stunted because of deprivations; thorny – that is, having no apparent value – and in the crucible of fiery affliction. Every normal indication argued for extinction. But like the thorn bush, that people would be miraculously preserved. And like the thorn bush, Jehovah would one day speak from the midst of her.
The timing of this revelation was perfect. The Hebrews had not yet become a nation, but it was essential that Moses understand three basic facts: 1) the people to whom God was sending him would face the
fiery flames of affliction; 2) the Hebrews would be miraculously preserved; 3) God would speak out of that nation to the peoples of the world.
Moses was hesitant. He questioned, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11)
God reprimanded Moses by saying, “I will be with thee … I have sent thee” (Ex. 3:12). Moses was to be a servant.
MOSES’ CLASH WITH HEATHENISM
The man who does the work is just as important to God as the work the man does. It was only when Moses was prepared and equipped that God sent him to Egypt to redeem His people.
Moses told the Hebrews, The God of your fathers has sent me unto you. His name is “I am that I am.” That name implied that God is the self-existent One who can provide the full needs of His children. This
was a marked departure from the Egyptian worship of more than 80 gods where spheres of influence were severely restricted. Among their deities, Khnum was the god of the Nile’s source; Hapi and Hegt were frog goddesses related to fertility; Seb was the earth god; Uatchit was the fly god; and Serepia was the god who protected the people from locusts. Egypt had gods associated with bulls and cows; gods for
healing; moon gods; agricultural gods; and even Pharaoh was worshiped as a god. Into that environment Moses went, with the intention of bringing the children of Israel forth to worship the one true and
To Pharaoh, Moses said: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go” (Ex. 5:1). On four more occasions God would tell His servant to make the same pronouncement to Pharaoh: “Let my people go!”
(Ex. 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13). It wasn’t only what Moses said, but it was the way he said it. There was no timidity. It was not a request, but a command: “Let my people go!” The gauntlet of challenge was thrown down.
The contest was not between Moses and Pharaoh but between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt. Each of the plagues resulted in dethroning an Egyptian deity until, with the death of the firstborn,
all of the Egyptian deities came tumbling down.
Having defeated the polytheism of Egypt, the first thing God said to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai was, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
Caravans traveling eastward from Egypt would take one of three possible roads. The most direct route to Canaan was the Via Maris, “The Way of the Sea.” A second route was “The Way of Shur,” which crossed
the Sinai Peninsula to southern Canaan and connected with the route going north through Beersheba and Hebron to Jerusalem. The third route ran across the peninsula from the Gulf of Suez to Ezion-Geber, located at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba.
Moses chose none of these routes. They were all filled with danger for the multitude that was heading out of Egypt. Instead, they left Egypt moving in a southeasterly direction. This led directly to
the shores of the Red Sea.
When Pharaoh heard this, he likely concluded that the Israelites were lost, confused, and wandering in the desert – trapped like rats and easy prey for his chariots. He took 600 of his best chariots and
charioteers, plus other chariots (Ex. 14:7). As the Egyptians approached, the Israelite situation must have seemed hopeless. Before them lay the Red Sea; behind them the armies of Pharaoh; and to the
left and to the right was nothing but barren wilderness. While the people murmured, the response of To the servant of the Lord to this potentially disastrous situation was remarkable. Moses instructed the
people: 1) to not be afraid; 2) to stand firm; and 3) “see the salvation of the LORD” (14:13). This would be accomplished by the use of the rod (14:16) which would be stretched over the sea and divide the
waters. The Hebrew word for “divided” means “to sever, cleave, break open or through.” The children of Israel marched through on dry ground (14:22), and the hot-pursuing Egyptians perished by the returning water (14:28).
Now safe on the other side, the physically redeemed Israelites sang of God’s redeeming power. It is fascinating to note that for the first 2,000 years of human history there is no reference to singing
anywhere in Scripture. Only after experiencing redemption does man sing, for spoken words cannot fully express his gratitude. Unregenerate man can make a noise, but only the child of God can sing a song – it is the song of the soul set free (cf., Ps. 40:2-3).
MOSES’ CODE OF LIFE
About 600,000 men followed Moses out of Egypt. The total number with women and children is set, conservatively, at 1.5 million. They had been slaves; they were a mixed multitude; and they knew only of the immorality and idolatry of Egypt. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had become, through the centuries, only a vague memory. They needed to be educated. They had to know what the God who redeemed them was like and what He required. Therefore, on Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the Ten
Commandments. These laws would become the foundation of Israel’s moral, spiritual, and social existence. Mark it well: the Ten Commandments were divinely intended to be a way of life – not a way to life. Perhaps this stanza says it best:
Do this and live,’ the law commands But gives me neither feet nor hands – A better thing the gospel brings, It bids me fly and gives me wings.
No man, woman, or child ever found acceptability before God through the keeping of the Ten Commandments. Their fourfold purpose was 1) to reveal man’s sinfulness (Romans 3:19-20); 2) to reveal the hideous nature of sin (Romans 7:8-13); 3) to reveal the holiness of God (Romans 7:12); and 4) to show man his own inadequacy and thereby prepare him llRED to accept God’s grace in Christ u (Galatians 3:24). It can be stated as a law: the further an individual or nation is from adhering to the Mosaic Law, the greater the darkness and condemnation. Conversely, the closer an individual or nation is to adhering to the Mosaic Law, the greater the light and blessing.
MOSES’ CALM RESOLVE
Moses’ gaze was riveted westward. Below him was the Jordan Valley stretching as far as the eye could see. At its lowest level, the Jordan River snaked its way southward to mingle its waters with those of the
Dead Sea. But Moses was not looking below – he was looking across. Before him lay the Land of Promise. It was hard to believe. Had 40 years really passed since he led the children of Israel out of bondage?
The journey was long, the path rough, and the people difficult. But God had been faithful. He guided them, protected them, provided for them, and now He brought them to the threshold of the land of Canaan. No heart ever ached as much as Moses’ ached to enter into the land. But it would never be. God told Moses that he could view the land from Mount Nebo, but he could not enter. At first look, the Lord’s chastening of Moses seems unduly severe. Moses had been faithful for so long and in so many ways. At MeribahKadesh God had commanded him to speak to the rock and water would come forth. But Moses, in anger, struck the rock twice instead (Numbers 20:11-12). Did that warrant God’s harsh punishment?
To whom much is given, much is required. The Rock Moses struck was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Christ suffered once only for the sins of the world. His death was infinite in worth – it never had to be
repeated. Moses, through anger, violated the divine symbolism – he struck the rock twice. As a result, he would not enter the land. But with a calm resolve he viewed the land given to his forefather, Abraham, as an everlasting inheritance. He knew that the Lord was a covenant-keeping God. What His mouth had spoken, His right arm of power would bring to pass.
MOSES THE SERVANT
Moses towered above all others in changing the direction of human history. He was frequently abused and often misunderstood by his contemporaries. His life was difficult, his pay, by lack of gratitude,
was poor. Though he died before reaching his dream, he evidenced a great love for his own people (Exodus 32:31-32). He penned a considerable portion of the Old Testament. He was neither a president, a king, nor a general. Instead, he was a servant of the living God. He knew firsthand the reality of the psalmist’s words: “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps. 84:10).
Moses was a man of mountains – Mount Sinai and Mount Nebo. He was also a mountain of a man.
May we know the privilege and responsibility which is ours to be servants of the eternal God – the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and, like Moses, in the Lord’s strength, may we be privileged to climb some mountains for His glory.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISED BY ZION’S FIRE/ NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2002, PAGES 15-16. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.