The time had now arrived for God to visit His people. Moses’ education in Egypt had been replaced by a divine education in the wild hostility of Sinai, caring for the sheep, learning to appreciate the vulnerabilities, needs, and requirements of the defenceless in order to lead Yahweh’s flock (cp Psa 78:52). Egypt’s methods for settling disputes are not God’s because “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20).

There was so much of Egypt in Moses, a problem all too prevalent in the people he was being trained to lead. Note the self-centred emphasis in Exodus 2:l1to 14—he went, he spied, he looked, he saw, he slew. But now he was ready and what a different man he had become. When the angel of the bush appeared and commanded Moses to return to Egypt, Moses’ first response was to say: “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). Rejection by his brethren, isolation from his family and long years of reflection in the midst of a hostile wilderness had wrought its work.

When God’s power was displayed in a thorn bush, Moses’ question about God’s name reveals a man who sought to know the God whom he worshipped (Ex 3:13). This was a constant quality of the man. He was for ever seeking to understand and know the Father. The answer he was given expresses a clear purpose for all generations—that God would manifest Himself in mighty men and women of faith because they are part of His family, the true seed of the fathers. The Yahweh Name was given to memorialise the promises of old and assure the children of faith of resurrection and life (cp Luke 20:36–38).

Called to Serve

When Moses encounters God in a remarkable dialogue that spans nearly two chapters of Exodus we discover a self-effacing servant who in the end angered God by his excuses to serve. There is a great warning for us in this. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear”, writes Paul, “… but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). We have all been called to serve and the power to do so comes from God’s strength alone. Our excuses to avoid a life of service are not really acceptable at all.

Despite the divine commission we see Moses’ humility and respect in the way he honours his father-in-law by first seeking his permission to leave the family hearth (Ex 4:l8). How many of us would have just assumed our right to leave? We see also mingled with the humility and faith a man with faults too. He had neglected the covenant of circumcision with his second child. It was a token which taught the unprofitableness of flesh and its inability to produce and deliver the Godly seed. But he was not permitted to deliver God’s firstborn if he could not put his own house in order first. He endured the rebuke of his wife and humbly put the matter right (Ex 4:22–26).

The path of redemption is not always smooth. When he arrived in Egypt he found Pharaoh hopelessly intransigent and his brethren in opposition once more to him. Defeated and frustrated he questions Yahweh’s methods (Ex 5:20–23) and this time the fuller purpose of God is unveiled transforming a despondent Moses into a man of fortitude (Ex 6:1–9).

Conflict in Egypt

The conflict between Moses and Pharaoh was intense and the first plagues affected all indiscriminately. As the drama unfolded a difference began to emerge between the Israelites and the Egyptians portraying the emerging hope and faith among the people of God as they witnessed the power of the Creator over His works. Even some Egyptians began to see the difference and moved across the divide. In the end though, Egypt and all that she stood for was smitten: agriculturally, religiously, economically, financially, socially and militarily (cp Isa 60:12). No flesh is permitted to glory in the presence of God.

Another important quality in the life of Moses emerges from the sharp battles he experienced with Pharaoh. He constantly entreats God on behalf of Pharaoh (8:30, 9:33; 10:18). Despite Pharaoh’s unyielding hostility, Moses prayed for his enemies. It was a characteristic that was developed to the fullest in dealing with the people of God in the wilderness.

“Through faith”, comments Paul, “he kept the passover” (Heb 11:28), by which we can infer that he was the driving force behind implementing this amazing feast. He saw the full significance of what it represented as the means by which deliverance could be achieved. To him, as well as to us, identification with the Passover lamb was absolutely necessary; it was a life and death principle, the ultimate mark of separation between Egypt and Israel, salvation through God’s provision of a lamb and the partaking of its body for the journey through the wilderness (1 Cor 5:7; John 6:51).

As Moses led them out of slavery he once more was assailed and accused when circumstances of Yahweh’s making appeared to go wrong (Ex 14:11–14). But the greatness of this shepherd is evident. Pressed by a people driven by doubt and anger, he is able to turn them to God. His words of encouragement, “Fear ye not, stand still and see the salvation of Yahweh” (Ex 14:13), were able to turn the tide and stimulate faith in an unthankful people (Heb 11:29). So monumental were these words, that even God used them to encourage others in the face of overwhelming adversity (2 Chron 20:15–17). What a glorious leader he was turning out to be!

Patience in the Desert

Can we begin to imagine the spiritual resources you would need to call upon to deal with the wild swings of emotion displayed by the people. One minute they were screaming at him in fury, the next they were singing a prophetic song which vindicated Yahweh as a God of war, at enmity with the powers of sin and ready for a greater deliverance in the future. Three days later he was assailed again, only to heal their bitterness of unbelief by cutting down a tree and hurling it into the bitter waters—a type of the Lord Jesus who was of our nature, yet was the branch of Yahweh who can remove the bitterness of death from mankind (Isa 53).

Only thirty days out from Egypt the congregation saw Yahweh as the destroyer and Egypt as the sustainer (Ex l6:2,3). How would we cope with such infidelity? Yet here is Moses with enormous patience and care, guiding the people through all their difficulties. How that purity of motive would have been tested when they accused him of returning to the old Egyptian man of Exodus 2:14 (Ex 17:3). How that strength of purpose and calling would have been tested when they tempted Yahweh, doubting His very presence among them (Ex 17:7). It would have been so easy to give up in total frustration.

But Moses was different. When Amalek appeared from nowhere, prowling and lurking, ready to pounce on the unwary and attack the feeble (who represent spiritual drifters) his answer was to lift up holy hands and pray. This is how to put life into perspective and gain the victory for our brethren— through effectual, fervent prayer.

Our final glimpse of this great man in the book of Exodus is a man who is able to speak to God as a friend, face to face. Despite the idolatry of the people so soon after the giving of the ten commandments Moses is once more praying for their redemption, pleading with God that He would return into the midst of the camp and lead them into the land. Here he is on his knees seeking to know further the way of Yahweh, pleading for an insight into the fullness of the Father’s character. “Show me thy way”, he implored. And God yielded to the request and unveiled the wonder of His Name in all its glory.