Without a doubt, Moses stands in Scripture as one of the greatest men ever born. He was born into a humble family of Levi, raised in prosperity in the family of Pharaoh, reduced to humility in the family of Jethro, elevated to prominence in the family of Israel and highly esteemed in the family of God. He died under this epitaph: “there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom Yahweh knew face to face” (Deut 34:10).

Our story begins in the opening pages of Exodus. After many years of peaceful coexistence with their Egyptian hosts, the children of Israel now found themselves in bondage with bitter servitude. Under taskmasters, their men were enslaved and by cruel decrees, their sons were killed. Egypt was in effect representative of life under the dark bondage of sin and death. Then, when the fullness of time was come, a man of Levi took a wife of Levi and bore a son who was to redeem them from all of this (Ex 2:1).

The record introduces Moses to us as a boy torn between the woman (Jochebed) and her seed and the serpent (Pharaoh) and his seed. No names are mentioned in the early verses of chapter 2: he was born of a woman, watched by a sister, seen by a daughter, fetched by a maid, cared for by a nurse who was the child’s mother. In every sense he is presented as the seed of the woman.

Education in Egypt’s Court

His trial began early and Scripture emphasises this conflict. Moses was “nourished up in his father’s house three months: and when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son” (Acts 7:20,21). In Pharaoh’s house he studied the wisdom of the Egyptians in science, culture and history (Acts 7:22). This would have brought before him the remarkable life of Joseph, a major figure in Egyptian history and the saviour of God’s people. As time went by, Moses, like Joseph, became a great man, mighty in word and deed. He would know of Joseph’s promise of a deliverer to come and would discover that Joseph was about forty years old when he delivered his brethren (Psa 105:20–22; Gen 50:24). [1]

Given the miraculous circumstances of his own birth, his fourth generation descent from Jacob, and the remarkable parallels between his life and Joseph’s, he knew he must be the deliverer! (Acts 7:25,23). Everything depended on him. His nation was desperate for him and he would be the saviour they needed… so he waited for God to use him.

And he waited, and waited—for forty long years.

Finally, exasperated, and a full forty years old, he acted, convinced his brethren would understand. He declared his interest by taking things into his own hands and killing a man. But his brethren did not understand. They rejected him instead.

Having already refused a promotion in Pharaoh’s house, and now with Egyptian blood on his hands, he was a marked man. Unable to return to Pharaoh’s house, he fled for his life, hurt, depressed, alone. He had failed.

But what had gone wrong? Why didn’t God use him? Why did his brethren reject him? He supposed his brethren would have understood that God by his hand would deliver them. But God’s plan was different. God would send him much later by the hand of an angel (note the contrast between Acts 7:25 and Acts 7:35). Israel’s deliverance could never be achieved by the strength of man.

Perhaps he elevated Joseph as his mentor; he may have presumed he could simply continue where Joseph left off. But he forgot that Joseph had seen a side of life he’d never experienced. Joseph was a shepherd before he was a deliverer. Paul tells us that Moses refused the wealth of Egypt and fled the country in faith (Heb 11:24–27). We might have thought that faith would have best been manifested by staying on, working with his people, defying Pharaoh. But this was not in the purpose of God. Moses was to endure another forty years “seeing the invisible” before he could become fit to lead others.

Discipline in the Desert

And as time rolled over him, he would wonder whether he had ever been right about his calling. He would wonder whether he was involved in the purpose of God at all. Perhaps the parallels he saw between his life and Joseph’s were but a vain dream. The discipline, the etiquette, the learning of Egypt seemed so irrelevant in the desert of Midian. In time, the initial frustration gave way to a hopeless despair. Loneliness took its toll. He felt his God had deserted him, as is reflected in the naming of his firstborn, Gershom (“refugee”).

Over forty years, the man so mighty in word and deed lost all self confidence. But in proportion as every quality in life appeared to disintegrate before him, the Father reshaped him into a vessel fit for use and a true saviour of his people.

And having converted Moses, God sent him back to the people he loved. The child that had been drawn from the waters was now being drawn from the desert to work the work of God.

So here is our opening glimpse of Moses. He is first resourceful, intelligent, quick to take matters into his own hands, brimming with self assurance. Forty years later he is surrounded by doubt, frustrated and alone (Ex 3:11,13; 4:1,10,13; 5:22,23; 6:12,30). Many of us have to experience similar cycles like this before we are in a position to respond to the real work of God in humility and total dependence upon His strength.

In this context how true are the words of Paul, himself once a proud and self-assured Pharisee, but later a humbled and appreciative apostle: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God … And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.


[1] Joseph was 30 at his elevation Gen 41:46, plus seven years plenty Gen 41:53, plus 2 years famine Gen 45:11 plus some months converting his brethren