The providence of God

There can be no doubt that Moses was a man specially prepared by God. One cannot have even the most casual consideration of his circumstances and not be struck by the amazing hand of God in his life. When we consider the mix of circumstances that led to his preservation as a child and his dual upbringing at the bosom of his mother, together with the court of Pharaoh, we are struck with an incredible sense of awe at how the events unfolded. The hand of God is seen in even the smallest detail. We will be taking three texts as the basis for our thoughts in this study, Exodus 2–4, the related verses in Acts 7, and Hebrews 11.

A careful reading and familiarity with our Bibles is the best study tool there is. Ponder for a moment the words in Exodus 2:6 where we read of the daughter of the Pharaoh opening the wicker basket in which the young boy was laid; it says, “and behold, the babe wept”. At first glance it reads as if it were a merely a chance occurrence but we may be utterly certain it was anything but random. Calculated to tug on the heart-strings of Pharaoh’s daughter, it achieved the desired effect as “she had compassion on him”. How God did it we know not. In my colourful and weird imagination I have an entirely fanciful and somewhat flippant picture of a submerged angel with a pin poking through the bottom of the basket, though more likely it was the sudden shaft of sunlight which startled him; the reality is, until we ourselves are infused with angelic powers, we will never know how the ministers of heaven achieve the Father’s will. While Pharaoh’s daughter made entirely her own choice, the angels ensured that circumstances were favourable to encourage her to co-operate unwittingly with the divine plan.

The point is that every detail is providential; there are no coincidences with God. While they might seem to be happenstance to us, we may be assured of divine purposeandcontrol.Weknowthatthiswasabsolutely the case because in his defence, Stephen prefaces this part of the story with these words: “when the time the promise drew nigh” and goes on to say, “In which time Moses was born”. ere is in those words a de ni- tive statement of purpose from God as well as a strong link to Paul’s later words to the Galatians: “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son”. In a very real sense the life of Moses was a chapter that set the scene for Jesus to be born at the set time.

A type of Christ

Moses is perhaps the greatest type of Christ in Scripture. Sadly, we often miss that fact because the Jews would not let go of Moses and take hold of Christ and we find the apostles having to contrast Moses with Jesus to point out the enormous superiority of Christ. The fact remains that Moses is a superlative type of Christ. It will be our joyful task to compare Moses with Christ and remind ourselves with what eloquence Moses speaks of the greater prophet who was to be like him. Of all the clear types of our Lord in Scripture, nothing like this was said of any of them: “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth”. In Hebrews 3:5 we read, “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later”; by which I take Paul to mean Moses is the premier type of Christ in the entire Scriptures.

Moses birth and early years

There is considerable similarity in the circumstances of the exact detail and care taken over the birth and development of both Moses and Jesus. The word “proper” in Hebrews 11:23 does not merely imply that everything was as it should be and Moses was proper in form and appearance; the word means ‘beautiful’. This description does not imply that Moses was a gorgeous baby: he may well have been, and that would not have hindered his cause with the princess, but that is not the sense in which the word is couched. Stephen adds, “beautiful in God’s sight”(as the ESV eloquently puts it). For his parents to have acted in faith, knowing that the child was special to God required that they, like Mary and Joseph, had received an angelic visitation or vision for we know that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. In the same way that God chose Joseph and Mary with care, there is deliberate choice woven into the record of Moses’ parents.

In two glorious and sweeping statements, Stephen simply says, “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” From this we infer that he learned much from the diverse upbringings he had, and that they both contributed to make him the leader that he was.

Jochebed had her son to influence for only a few short years.We cannot be certain how old Moses was when she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter. The earliest suggestion I have read is one year old, and some would place it as long as three or even five years. It would seem that the proverb,“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) is in the Apostle Paul’s mind when he wrote,“by faith Moses when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”.

Let us not underestimate the value of a godly mother in the formative years. The words of Psalm 22 principally apply to Christ, but ask yourself if they may not also apply to Moses: “Thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly” (v9–10).

A faithful mother singing, O Be Careful Little Eyes as she rocks the cradle is worth more than a hundred diplomas from the finest Egyptian colleges. The early years of a child are critical. Neuroscientists tell us that approximately 85% of critical brain connections and learning are achieved by age three. Mothers in particular, you have the threads of immortality in your hands; take great care over what you weave. In the records of the chronicles of the kings of Israel in some of the most horrible of circumstances, time and time again, faithful mothers raised their boys to be fine kings. Sadly, the histories also reveal that unfaithful mothers at times raised hideous monsters.

Amram and Jochebed would have known that their time with Moses was brief. It is not likely that they would have been allowed any contact with him from the moment Pharaoh’s daughter took him into the royal courts. In consequence, every moment lead- ing up to this would be truly precious. How much would they have crammed into that little mind of the promises and purpose of God? Clearly they did their work well enough so that Moses was able to develop life-saving faith as a result. He even knew he was ordained to be the deliverer – amazing! As far as Amran and Jochebed were concerned, their part was then concluded and they fade from the record.

In the courts of Pharaoh

As Moses entered the courts of Pharaoh, he received a new name from his adopted Egyptian mother. What Moses was originally called we do not know. His new name signifies in the tongue of Egypt ‘salvation through water’, from ‘Mo,’ the waters and ‘Uses,’ saved from. The divine record is pleased for us to remember him in this way, as it were, as a symbol of baptism. As the morning mist lay over the Nile, we might indulge the thought that Moses, in type, was baptized into the “cloud and the sea” as the people of Israel later were.

We have no window to see further into those earlier years, yet even the words in Exodus: “and the child grew,” are echoed by Luke as he penned the history of the first days of Jesus. Stephen tells us that he was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, book 2 chapter X) describes the greatness of Moses as a general in the defeat of the Ethiopians and although he is known to embellish the record, it makes interesting reading.

It would appear that the phrase, “Son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” was a title of rank afforded Moses. He was adopted into the royal house. Moses would thus have suffered for forty years similar temptation to Christ, as he, for forty days, grappled with the prospect of the reward which the kingdoms of this world have to offer, and like Jesus, he chose, in faith, a path of affliction, waiting for God to exalt him in due time. Look at the language Paul uses for Moses’ choice: “esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches”. Let us not imagine that Moses did not see Christ or that he unwittingly played out the types in complete ignorance of their significance. Moses comprehended Christ and he did so after only a few years of divine instruction. The record is replete with passages that testify to Moses being very aware of his role in the grander purpose of God. Here we leave Moses poised to become the deliver he knew he was destined to be.