The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
Day 1: Introducing Moses
And the woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it, and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.
Such is the introduction to one of the most influential men in the history of the planet. Moses, unquestionably the greatest man in the Old Testament, the one whose revelations from God shaped and formed the nation of Israel, defined their entire value system and world view—and not only theirs, but all of those who call themselves Christians, as well. Our view of God, of right and wrong, of justice and liberty, all of the underlying assumptions about what is real and what is not, and how to treat our fellow man, are all founded in the writings of Moses. The student of our culture would have to begin his study, not at George Washington, the Pilgrims, or even the Romans, but at Moses, the man so uniquely used of God to lay the basic spiritual foundation of nearly all the peoples of the West and the Mid-east.
Over one quarter of the Old Testament is attributed to him. Genesis he wrote by compiling the existing records and genealogies, as well as by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy deal directly with his own life—those four without Genesis equal the four Gospels and Acts in volume.
The rest of the Old Testament is not understandable without a thorough knowledge of the books of Moses, for it is a history of how well Israel followed the laws given to him, what the prophets had to say about the people and the laws, and what songs were sung in the worship ceremonies prescribed in those laws. Moses is only surpassed, in terms of message and revelation, by the Lord Jesus Himself, and even He quoted Moses dozens of times.
God spoke to man through Moses. He answered the great questions of life through this faithful servant: where did we come from? why are we here? where are we going in the afterlife? and what can we do about it? And Moses spoke to God on behalf of men: he interceded often for the wayward and rebellious people of Israel, he offered sacrifices that foreshadowed the final, ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ on the cross.
God still speaks to us through Moses today, some 3500 years later, and Moses still speaks to us by the example of his faithfulness, love, and commitment to the Lord who saved him and called him to serve. We'd do well to listen closely and walk in the footsteps of this great man of God.
Day 2: Moses in Context
And [the King of Egypt] said to his people, "Behold, the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we... so they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses.
The Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites was most likely Thutmose III, an exceptionally powerful and warlike ruler that reigned in Egypt from about 1482-1450 B.C. The Israelites had been in that land for over 350 years, and were multiplying at a rate that alarmed the natives of the land. During that time, Egypt had also been taken over by Hyksos invaders from Asia Minor, and had only recently completely expelled them from the land. They were understandably paranoid about foreigners in their midst getting too powerful, and that's one of the reasons they decided on harsh measures to control the population of the Hebrews.
Just a little historical research can open up our understanding of the Bible in a marvelous way. In fact, any real understanding of God's Word has to take into account the historical and cultural background. You can't really read a section of Scripture in its proper context unless you have a minimal knowledge of the time in which the characters lived. For example, the "latter rain" prophecy in Joel chapter two doesn't begin to make real sense unless you understand the rainy cycle of Israel—then it turns out to be a history of the church, and especially of a great end-time revival that will carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. You can't fully understand the resistance of organized religion toward Jesus unless you know who the Pharisees and Sadducees were and what they believed; you might be tempted to accuse anybody who resisted you of being a Pharisee or a "legalist" unless you really understand the historical context, and what those people actually stood for. Why was Paul received so well by certain Gentiles, but had little fruit at Mars Hill in Athens? how was that audience different than the usual Gentile audience he spoke to, and why did he present the gospel in a different way to them? you'd have to know what proselytes and God-fearers were, as well as other things, to really answer these questions correctly.
People have taught on everything from ladies not wearing slacks—or keeping silent in church—to Martin Luther King being the "black horse" of the Apocalypse because they didn't check the history and culture of Bible times. It's not all that hard to do it right, either—you don't have to have a PhD. I got that information about Pharaoh in less than five minutes by looking up "Egypt" in Unger's Bible Dictionary. You can do the same. And your Bible time will be much richer for it.
Day 3: Civil Disobedience
And the woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.
Is it ever right to break the laws of the land? This is a question that Christians have argued over as long as the church has been in existence.
On the one hand you have Romans chapter thirteen, which includes such instructions as, "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore He who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves," (vss.1-2). That seems pretty clear, and we would do well to pay attention to it. The government that Paul was referring to was not always a just one either, but a very repressive one, which sometimes persecuted the early church. Some say they'll respect authority as long as that authority is respectable, and as long as they walk uprightly; but that kind of attitude can't be backed up in Scripture: Paul, by the Holy Spirit, commanded us to submit even to a government as corrupt and evil as Rome.
On the other hand, biblical saints often found themselves in opposition to the ruling authorities. David fled from Saul and set up his own little revolutionary band in the hills—of course they never really did any revolting against the government of Saul, but they didn't submit to him either. Saul wanted them arrested and put to death; they didn't turn themselves in. Elijah likewise hid from Ahab, and eluded a nationwide search to bring him to court. The apostles disobeyed explicit commands from the Jewish leaders to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. It would seem that there are times when the laws of God supercede the laws of man—I cannot obey a command that is contrary to the instructions I have received from the Lord. I am to submit to earthly governments, whether good or bad, corrupt or honest, democratic or totalitarian—unless their commands directly oppose the Lord's.
Moses parents did not obey Pharaoh's command to throw all the boys born to them in the Nile. They had a more pressing command from a higher source: God. The midwives also did not obey Pharaoh, though he apparently took them aside personally. They worked instead to rescue the little ones. There are many today who similarly believe in rescuing the innocent from government decrees that allow them to be killed. They lay their own bodies in front of abortion mills in an effort to save even a few babies from being slaughtered that day, and the thanks they get, even from some Christians, is to be branded as lawless radicals because they get arrested for trespassing. What is a greater breech of law, trespassing or murder? Whose commandments shall we obey? The 1973 Supreme Court, or the Supreme Judge and Ruler of the Universe? Perhaps this is one of those cases where the truly righteous will be those who practice civil disobedience in order to be obedient to a higher court.
Day 4: By Faith
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict.
Moses parents were not only innocent of sin in their disobedience to Pharaoh—even though he represented the legal, and God-ordained, government of Egypt (see Romans 13:1)—the Bible says they did it by faith! It was a step of righteousness and obedience, a step of faith and trust in God. They knew that somehow the Lord would protect that child and keep him from being discovered by the authorities; and even if He didn't they weren't about to break his commandment against the taking of a human life (see Gen.9:6).
The time came when they realized they could no longer hide the child's presence in their home, and so they sought the Lord about what to do. I believe it was also by faith that his mother laid him in the waterproofed wicker basket in the bulrushes near the place where Pharaoh's daughter bathed, and set his sister Miriam to watch over him until he was discovered. He wasn't abandoned in the slightest, he wasn't given over to crocodiles, or death by starvation or exposure; he was purposely, and by faith, placed in the most strategic spot in the river. Any other place in Egypt he would surely have been killed, because that's what the law said. But who was the most likely to be above that law? Who could turn even Pharaoh Thutmose's cold heart? Who would be likely to be moved with compassion on a lost child and be able to do anything about it? Who better than Pharaoh's own daughter?
So Moses parents put him in the river, protected from the water, and from the sun, safe and sound in his little ark of safety, and waited... and prayed... and trusted God. They didn't know exactly what would become of him, though I believe they were convinced by revelation from God that this plan would work and the child would live. Beyond that they didn't know. Would the Egyptians make him a slave, a servant, or what? To think he would actually be raised as the grandson of Pharaoh would be too much to hope for, but it may have crossed their minds. Perhaps he would grow up to help his people Israel... they must have thought of it, considering the oppression that they were under, and the Messianic prophecies that had been given even by then. But they probably put such lofty thoughts down quickly... don't want to be proud... let's just pray some more, dear. And so they did. By faith they put that child in the ark and floated it in the bulrushes where Pharaoh's daughter liked to bathe and walk with her maidens. And by faith they waited and prayed. And the Bible says "he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed."
And they weren't.
Day 5: Holy Pushiness
When [Pharaoh's daughter] opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?"
You'll remember that when Moses' mother put him in the river in his ark, she also left his sister to watch from a little distance to see what would happen to him. The sister was soon rewarded by the appearance of Pharaoh's daughter, and the discovery of the baby. It is here that young Miriam, for that's the name of Moses' sister, did a remarkable thing. When she saw that the woman's heart was moved with compassion, she pressed her point home immediately – "shall I go find a nurse for you?" Pharaoh's daughter hadn't yet decided to keep the child, she hadn't got over the wonderment of finding a baby in the bulrushes at all, she really had no idea of what to do—so Miriam supplied the answer. Miriam decided for her that she should keep the child, and that the only logical thing to do was to immediately find a Hebrew woman who could nurse it (they didn't have bottles and formula in those days!).
Miriam practiced what we might call "holy pushiness" She couldn't take the chance that Pharaoh's daughter would make the wrong decision, so she pushed her in the right direction. She didn't even try to talk the woman into keeping him—she didn't want to start a debate or discussion—she just acted as if the decision were already made, as if there were only one possible outcome anyway. She took over. And Pharaoh's daughter, relieved at having the decision made for her, said, "Go ahead." Of course, the beauty of the thing is that Moses was nursed by his own mother, and she even got paid for it!
There are times when we have to practice "holy pushiness," too. When we share the gospel with someone, we're often far too polite—or should I say, timid? We're content to reason with them, argue the pros and cons of walking with God, and even take up the discussion again on a later date. We don't want to come across too pushy, to scare them away, or secure an insincere conversion, so we allow them plenty of time to make their decision about Christ, and plenty of places along the way to back out.
The devil isn't as polite as we are. He's working overtime to distract them: lying to them, bringing various forms of fear and intimidation, or tasty temptations, to their minds in order to get them to decide against receiving Jesus just now. When we are silent or polite we are not giving them a chance to make up their own minds, we're often giving Satan a chance to make up their minds for them!
Miriam's brother's life was at stake. This was a state of emergency, not something that could be thought over for a season. So she acted, and she was bold about it, she was pushy! When eternal lives are at stake we must realize that a state of emergency exists, too, and we must do everything we can to move people into making the right decision. Why not practice a little "holy pushiness" today? Don't just ask someone to church—tell them what time you'll be picking them up! Go for it! And you'll be successful more often, as Miriam was.
Day 6: In Praise of Education
And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.
Egypt was the world's great superpower in the days of Moses and the early patriarchs of the Bible. It was the world's most civilized and advanced country—to this day men marvel at the architectural genius of the pyramids and other structures of the period. They were quite proud of their educational system, which included arithmetic, geometry, poetry, music, astronomy, and more.
Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, the Bible says. Much of what he learned he no doubt had to discard, as the temple priests were the teachers and professors of the day, but they taught him how to think and gave him much of the sum of knowledge available back then. His was a good education, and I believe it was orchestrated by the Lord Himself, who had destined him to be found by Pharaoh's daughter and brought into that part of Egyptian society where all this education would be within his reach. The rest of the Israelites, slaves and uneducated peasants, thought only of their stomachs; they hadn't the luxury of enough leisure or prosperity to think about philosophy, art, and education—they were kept busy in day to day survival. God needed an educated man to pull off his plan of deliverance, and He raised him up.
Some of us Pentecostals and charismatics still scoff at education, as though the Holy Spirit can only anoint ignorance, that God can't use a man who knows what he's doing; you have to stumble along blindly and trust God, or it's not the real thing. We even mistrust someone who does come across as more educated—like he's some kind of high-falootin’ fancy-pants with a bunch of new-fangled ideas. The Lord doesn't have such a low opinion of education as some of us. He educated Moses, and anointed him for service; He educated Paul and anointed him for service; He educated Luther and Wesley, and anointed them for service. In fact, the handful of men that God has used in the greatest measure to were generally well-educated.
There's a balance, of course. We don't trust in education, and we don't replace God's ways with manmade ideas; and we must be careful of education based on the secular humanistic foundations so prevalent today. But knowledge is a good thing. Knowing how to think is a good thing. Being rational, well-informed, open-minded, and knowing a little about what you're trying to do is a good and necessary thing. It's great to be able to fly by the seat of your pants—we all admire the Waldo Peppers and Amelia Erhardts of this world; but I'm not sure I want to be on board a 747 piloted by someone who's wondering if they have enough fuel, and hoping Hawaii will actually be where it's supposed to be when we arrive in the morning. Perosnally, I'd feel more comfortable in the hands of someone who was educated on all the state-of-the-art equipment in a modern cockpit.
The same principle hold true for ministers, and Christians as a whole. Get educated, but keep trusting in the Holy Spirit's anointing.
Day 7: More On Education
And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.
Since becoming a Christian, I've wrestled quite a bit with the subject of education, especially formal education. When I entered the ministry in 1976 I had a high school diploma and about two years of training in a non-accredited Bible institute. I had absolutely no knowledge of pastoral theology, and very little leadership or basic people skills. Nevertheless, God blessed and we soon had a successful work going. I learned by studying the Bible thoughtfully and prayerfully, and by trial and error. I came to think of formal education as irrelevant, possibly even detrimental to successfully ministry. I went by the seat of my pants, and considered it the only way to fly.
After a few years in India I became painfully aware of my lack of education. I knew nothing of anthropology, cross-cultural ministry, world-view or contextualization; I could easily minister to American hippies and blue collar workers, but the Hindustani culture had me totally baffled. Missions itself was a totally new concept, and we spent a lot of time rediscovering the wheel when we could have just read a few books and been able to work more effectively. In retrospect, I realize I did as much wrong as right, but I learned a lot. I started looking again at our American works and realized that I had not only made mistakes in India, but here as well. Sins of ignorance... and pride... I guess the two go together quite often.
I still have reservations about formal education: especially the emphasis on degrees and the pecking order based on them; and what sometimes seems like the separation of university and seminary life from the real world, and a tendency to view it from a distance. But I've come to realize that I can gain a lot from the the accumulated knowledge of other people in the same field as myself, and I'm trying to make up for the lost years by getting as educated as I can. I want to be able to fly by the instruments, too.
As one of my old teachers once put it, the knowledge you gain in Bible school is like firewood, and the Holy Spirit's anointing is the fire. He can only burn as much firewood as you have laid up. You can burn brightly for a short time on a small amount of firewood, but your effectiveness will be limited by how much you have. To have a broader base, to reach more people, to be a better instrument in the Master's hands, you have to lay up some more education, be a broader-based person. Limited education may mean limited ministry.
You still have to sort through what you learn, decide what is scriptural, what is simply custom, and what is relevant to you where you're at; but at least you'll have a few more choices, you'll know what happened to others who made similar choices, and you'll have a better idea of what you're up against.
And you still need the fire, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and the gumption to get up and do something. A bunch of people sitting in classrooms passing logs around aren't helping at all—you’ve got to take those logs out to a cold world and burn them for Jesus.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.