Suffering an acute crisis of identity, feeling dejected because his newly found Hebrew brothers and sisters want little to do with him, and with a murder charge hanging over his head, the prophet Moses went on the lam for 40 years, during which time he got married and herded sheep for his father-in-law.
We learn in Exodus 2:
23During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
God needed an appropriate recruit to do his bidding. Someone who could effectively communicate with the new pharaoh, in his own language, knew the ways of the royal court, and had a Hebrew pedigree as well.
Moses, being a fugitive, I suppose, was just a bonus for us, to show that God can use anyone, and manifest a new destiny for someone out of the worst situations.
Moses met and got a first interview with “I AM THAT I AM” by way of a non-consuming wildfire—the Burning Bush. He reluctantly took on his marching orders, got Divine confirmation of his vision quest, then went back to Egypt with his cool walking stick, and connected with his biological brother, Aaron.
Continuing in Exodus 5:
1Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
Bad move, pharaoh! Lots of unpleasant things began to happen which had a definite, direct and long-lasting impact on Egyptian tourism–10 plagues: Water to Blood, Frogs, Gnats or Lice (not at all helpful to the hotel trade), flies, livestock diseased, boils (that would have done it for me, ‘let those people go’), thunder and hail, locusts, darkness and death of first-borns, as projected in Exodus 7:
1Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”
After the death of the pharaoh’s son, the Hebrews, or Israelites, were allowed to leave—not on a long-weekend pass, as first requested, but were supposedly free to leave forever.
Sidebar: Moses became the primary moving part of God’s will that resulted in extreme hardships and rejection of the people who for the first 40 years of his life were his kinsman.
Isn’t it hard when you find yourself having to separate yourself from certain people, thinking you are doing God’s will?
That could not have been easy for Moses either. But, of course, when he learned the true narrative of his people, he sought to bond with them.
Meanwhile, back at the palace:
The grief-stricken pharaoh commanded his army to follow and corner the Israelites at the Red Sea (some say, it’s better translated in Hebrew, Reed Sea—Yam Suph—or Sea of Reeds, or Sea of Seaweed) and the waters (and/or reeds, and/or seaweed) parted, by the power of God, at Moses’ command, using his wooden staff.
The Israelites passed through and the sea closed-in behind them, drowning the Egyptian Cavalry.
Fast forward to Moses, being up on Mt. Sinai, in the presence of Elohim, getting Commandments, as rules for the Israelites to live in covenant with-and-as God’s “chosen” people. But he tarried with God just a little too long and the Israeli encampment turned into an idolatrous, fleshly, mosh pit. Look at Exodus 32:
3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Meanwhile, our hero, Moses, who has no idea what his then-zany brother was up to, received the bad news directly from GNN—and, I must say, that “bull” especially did not go over well with Corporate.
Exodus 32 continues:
7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
May Day, May Day!!!
Exodus 32 continues:
9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
Weeeelllll, a deal with the Most High is on the table!!! Temp-ting!
Moses may have thought to himself ‘you mean to tell me, all I have to do is put my shoes back on and walk out of this scary meeting and I can drop this grumbling, never satisfied, what-about-this-Moses?-whining, stubborn, rag-tag bunch of pains-in-the-neck for a top-billed, solo road act—complete with a mansion, with a four-car garage–an open account at Whole Foods, a Benz for me and the misses, a pre-paid American Express card and a lifetime pass to Disney World for my kids AND my grandkids—yuuuuum, yum!’
Exodus 32 continues:
11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?
Look at our beloved Moses, standing up for the “stiff-necked” malcontents he had basically just met! Let’s face it, Moses had been gone for 40 years, and had not gotten a glut of bar mitzvah invites before he left town. But he is a making a case—he’s making an argument to save his new family and friends!
Exodus 32 continues:
12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.
Moses had put the pedal to the metal on the ‘straight-talk express’. The former stutterer, in so many words, said:
‘God, Please Stop! People are watching. Don’t do this right now, people will talk—you know how they talk. Let’s just chill for a moment—‘relax, release, relate’—and think this thing through, rationally!’
Could God be influenced by a cheeky threat of having a bad name on the rumor mill, in Egypt, a place He had just devastated? Could one actually cause God to change His mind?
In Exodus 32, Moses continues:
13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ “
Had Moses struck a resonant chord with the Almighty?
Exodus 32 continues:
14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
Oh happy day! “…the LORD relented.”
The indication is that “I AM” was/is quite keen on keeping his covenant promises! Moses heads back down the mountain, and that, in a big hurry.
After having the sand to give God a memory jog, I would say Moses probably grabbed his sandals and high-stepped off that Holy ground at top speed, in his bare feet, if it were not for the fact of having two divinely inscribed tablets of stone in his hands.
But now we learn God is not petty and that He is patient. When Moses climbed down the mountain, he broke the first two stone tablets in disgust with his people.
The bible says those first tablets had writing on both sides, so there were likely more than Ten [original] Commandments, but God didn’t say a Word about Moses smashing His handiwork.
But wait, back in verse 14 when it said that God “relented,” did that mean Moses caused God to change his mind, or, did God just delay executing His will?
Look at Moses’ words, later in the same chapter, Exodus 32:
27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”
Good Heavens! We could do volumes on that passage of scripture. Did Moses just do that on his own?!
Before God exacted his will, by Moses’ command, eventually purging the base camp of a select group of 3000 freaky-deaky, singing infidels, perhaps, Moses had passed a little test on that mountain, to see where his heart was.
Maybe God wanted to see if Moses could be swayed by promises of self enlargement, as opposed to walking in the path of true leadership already laid out for him—to always work in the best interest of His people.
I will leave it up to you to meditate on these things.
What I do know for sure is that much later on, when Moses became frustrated and snippy with God by striking a rock twice with his staff, instead of just speaking to the rock to bring forth water, as he had been so instructed by God, his disobedience caused him to not enter into the “Promised Land,” after walking around in circles with His people in the wilderness for nearly 40 years (See The Book of Numbers Chapter 20).
Things can go downhill, really quickly, if one is disobedient to God’s Word.
The most compelling teachings I hear, these days, focus on instilling principles of love, peace, charity, obedience, scholarship (to study to show yourself approved), character, good stewardship, forgiveness and praying for God’s will to be done, not trying to corner God to enlarge our kingdoms for personal gain.
Would He not want the best for us, as it says in Matthew 6? (Please read Matthew Chapter 6)
We were taught to pray “…Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven…”
Thank God, Jesus did not take the selfish route in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Note to self: Apparently, if one has the favor of God, it’s just fine to remind Him of His covenant promises and fully expect to walk away in one piece, especially, if I am praying on the behalf of other people.
Moreover, I believe I am an heir of the fulfillment of the covenant championed by Moses—with a provision for everlasting forgiveness and a bright future in eternity. (John 3:16). Smile.