The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
Day 8: God’s Wilderness School
By faith he left Egypt...
While we’re on the subject of education, we really have to take a look at God’s Wilderness School, or we aren’t doing justice to the subject at all. The schools of men can be valuable, especially when they have Spirit-filled men teaching the principles of God’s Word. They fill our minds with the right kind of knowledge, and override or eliminate a lot of the wrong information that was there from other sources. Education is good for the mind.
But the Wilderness School is where God works on our character. At first glance the curriculum doesn’t seem to make sense at all... some of the required courses are "Failure 101," "Loneliness," and "Unanswered Prayer," for example. These can’t be of God; why they’re the opposite of what we should expect as His children! But that’s just the beginning. There are also courses on "Rejection, Persecution, and Misunderstandings." "Suffering 101" is mandatory—you’ll never get a diploma from God’s Wilderness School without it!
There are also quite a few electives—something to fit everybody’s particular needs, in fact. Abraham and Sarah, as well as many others took a course in "Childlessness" (That wasn’t my favorite course, either, but it is invaluable). Daniel took courses on "being captured by a conquering army and trekking hundreds of miles with your hands in chains behind your back"... fun, huh? Paul took an elective in "Debilitating Eye Diseases," and "being able to see everybody but yourself healed"—Smith Wigglesworth took a similar course 1850 years later in the same school, but his specialty was kidney stones. Luther studied one called "Forced Exile," and John Bunyan studied "Prison Ministry." John Wesley took courses in how to fail as a missionary to the Native American, how to fail in love, and how to fail as a person, in just two short years in God’s Wilderness School of Georgia—and they helped lead him to a living relationship with Jesus shortly afterwards.
I could go on and on, of course, but you’re beginning to get the point, aren’t you. Knowledge alone, Paul said, puffs someone up instead of building them up. We need thorns in the side, crosses to carry, whatever you want to call them, lest we be lifted up because of the abundance of the revelations (that’s Paul’s phrase again—see 2 Corinthians chapter twelve). Suffering and adversity are really good for us, in spite of the pain, or rather, because of the pain they cause.
Knowledge can influence our character, to be sure. But there’s nothing like a crash course in God’s Wilderness School to really crucify that pride, humble us, and soften us up into someone capable of really caring for others, someone who’s been in their shoes and knows how it feels. We need both forms of education in order to be successful for the Lord—the academic and the wilderness—and God will make sure you get enrolled in them, don’t worry. If you’ve had it pretty easy so far, and are starting to think that maybe this wilderness stuff doesn’t apply in your case—watch out, you’re just about to enter. You’re not greater than Moses, you know. But your Heavenly Father loves you just as much as He did Moses, and He’s going to put you all the way through college even as He did that faithful servant.
Day 9: The Devil’s Dummy
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.
When Moses grew up he started to have a burden for his own people, the Israeli slaves in the land of Goshen. He began to visit the area, trying to get a feel for them, for by this time he was thoroughly Egyptian in every way. (When he met his wife Zipporah a short time later she called him "an Egyptian"). He looked, acted and thought as an Egyptian, and not only an Egyptian but an Egyptian of status, used to taking things into his own hands, giving orders and having them obeyed.
Nevertheless, he felt the call of the Lord, and also the plight of His people Israel. He decided to ally himself with the slaves instead of with their masters. As an Egyptian prince he could have had anything he wanted – money, power, influence, wine, women, and song – but he recognized the impermanence of all of that. He would not throw away his life in such vanity. He would not be the "devil’s dummy." He chose, rather, to believe in God, join the company of the saints and walk by faith, no matter what the cost might be in terms of money, popularity, or the perks of this world.
Every true believer needs to make a similar decision at some point or another in his or her life. The Moses illustration is especially applicable to those who’ve been raised in Christian families... born of believing parents, yet raised in Egypt, which is a type of the world and its value system. Especially if a child goes to public school, like Moses, they may be much more Egyptian than Israeli as they grow and develop. The call of the world is strong in their hearts. All the popular and interesting kids at school are involved in borderline activities, if not downright sinful, illegal ones. If there are any Christians in the place, they are silent, undeclared ones for the most part, still trying to make up their own minds about what to do with the claims of God and Jesus Christ. It’s easy for the enemy to paint a bleak picture of Christianity to young hearts, and to present the world as having so much more to offer.
But the world’s pleasures—though real—are passing, and tend to leave a feeling of emptiness behind them. Fleshly gratification is pleasant for a few moments, but doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. Moses realized this, and decided to seek after that which satisfies the inner man, gives peace, fulfills the spirit, and leaves the aftertaste of satisfaction, instead of guilt and frustration. It cost him some—he actually was forced out of his country and into the wilderness, in addition to swearing off all the illegitimate pleasures of the world’s system. But he knew it was worth it. He now had true satisfaction, and eternal life on top of it.
If you’re in the process of making a decision yourself, or a reevaluation of your spiritual life, don’t be the "devil’s dummy." Follow the Lord, even as Moses did. He never regretted it, and you won’t either.
Day 10: False Starts & Crucified Ministries
But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel... And he supposed that his brethren understood the God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.
When Moses went down to visit his fellow Israelites he saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave. It was more than his idealism and recently kindled nationalism could stand, and he immediately went over and killed the Egyptian. He was already feeling called to be the deliverer of Israel, and he assumed that this was the opportune time to step in and start delivering. He had the calling down alright, but his timing was about forty years off. The Israelites themselves weren’t happy with him; they didn’t understand who he was or where he was coming from; he was just making trouble for them by killing Egyptians—what kind of reprisals might Pharaoh offer once this came to his attention? Moses was thoroughly discouraged when he found out that not only did everyone in Goshen know who killed the Egyptian, but they weren’t happy about it either... and likely would turn him in when the time came. He fled into the wilderness.
Many men of God down through the years have made false starts in the flesh before finally entering into their callings in the timing and anointing of the Lord. John Wesley went to Georgia as a missionary to the American Indians, before he himself had been saved! He was trying to do works pleasing to God, trying to advance his career as an Anglican priest, and he no doubt had some sentimental feelings for the Indians. Nevertheless, he failed miserably, and fled back to England, never to return to America. Many other great men of God have fallen flat on their faces in some of their first attempts, or seen their successful works ruined by divisions or sin, only to rise from the ashes a few years later and enter into their life’s calling. There is a certain death and resurrection of ministry that often takes place.
And of course, the reason why a death and resurrection needs to happen is because the first work was still fleshly, still needed some crucifixion in order to be born again into something truly spiritual, something that would give lasting glory to God.
Moses humbled himself and set aside his dreams of great things for himself. We must do the same when we find our ministries temporarily benched or destroyed. You don’t want it if it’s not God’s best, and you don’t want anything to stand in the way of God’s best for you and your ministry. So like Moses, you humble yourself and allow God to do His complete work. Don’t worry, if your ministry is of Him, it’ll be resurrected in better shape than you ever dreamed; and if it’s not... well, again, you don’t really want it anyway.
Day 11: Is There Life After Eighty?
"Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel... And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.
Acts 7:23-30 (NKJV)
The life of Moses falls neatly into three periods of forty years each: (1) Forty years in the courts of Pharaoh, (2) Forty years shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness, (3) Forty years leading the children of Israel in the wilderness. We can make several observations from this...
First, forty is the number of testing in biblical numerology, and each of these periods in the life of Moses bear that out fully. In Egypt he was tested regarding his commitment to the God of his fathers, whether he would compromise or walk fully with the Lord. In the next forty years with Jethro the very fiber of his being was tested—what kind of man would he turn out to be after the wilderness school? Then, as leader of Israel, his patience and godliness were tested again and again by the rebellious people.
Second, we learn that God can call someone to the ministry at any age, even at an age when the rest of the world may be ready to put you out to pasture. In Moses’ case, he entered into public ministry at the age of eighty! The key to late starts, or any new start for the Lord, is humility and brokenness, and the willingness to change and do something new. Moses was humble; in fact, his humility was legendary – "more than any other man on the face of the earth," (Num 12:3). After forty years in the wilderness he was ready for a change, ready to make his life count for something, and not just go down as a shepherd who once had big dreams. The older and more established you get, the less likely you are to be humble and changeable, but if you want to move on with God, you humble yourself—and allow God His humbling work in you.
And the final forty years of his life were the best! A few relatives might have thought him a little crazy, but no one tried to lock him up in a nursing home—he was just beginning to live! The Bible goes over the first eighty years of his life in less than one chapter in Exodus; the rest of his life takes four long books to cover! In retrospect we can see that the first eighty years were just preparation for the ministry of the last forty. That’s a long time to be in school, but then again, it’s worth it if you go on to be one of the three or four greatest men in the history of the world. Let God have His way with you, and you can excel, too. Stay humble and teachable, ready to do anything for the Lord at the drop of a hat. There is life after forty, and even after eighty!
Day 12: God’s Willingness
Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. 24 So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.
God hears the cries and the prayers of His people, and contrary to popular opinion, He doesn’t need a great deal of persuasion to be moved to compassion and begin to act on our behalf. In fact, He is waiting to be able to help us at the soonest possible time. As we read here, He is faithful to His covenant with us, His agreement to aid and assist us, to fight our battles, to provide His blessings for us. In the case of the children of Israel, that covenant was based on promises to Abraham. We in the new covenant also have the promises of Abraham, sealed and guaranteed and enlarged upon through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. The gap has been bridged between us and God. We have His ear. He wants to help. He has sworn to help, and given exceedingly great and precious promises to that effect in His Word.
If there is a delay, it’s most often because of some negligence on our part, some unmet condition, or perhaps our entire spiritual condition. We’re not able to hear His answer and respond to it. Our hearts are in the wrong place. "You have not because you ask not," James explained... You’re not even thinking about God, and any prayers you do offer are not in real faith that He hears and wants to help, but just last resort experimentation. "You ask and receive not because you ask to consume it on your lusts," he went on to say. Your hearts are in the wrong place entirely; you’re not seeking first the kingdom; you look on the Lord as a sugar daddy, not as Master and Savior; you have no respect for Him; you get upset like a spoiled child if He fails to jump at your slightest wish. It’s not a matter of a faith confession or a promise from the Word in these cases – it’s a matter of getting your heart right, of doing a 180 degree turnabout and really living for God.
The Israelites weren’t ready to receive deliverance until they had reached a certain stage of desperation. Moses tried to get them to stand on their hind legs and resist the Egyptians forty years earlier, and received no thanks for his efforts. They weren’t ready for deliverance; their conditions had to be worsened before they would really cry out for freedom. Even when the Lord sent him with Aaron to explain the plan of the Exodus it took a lot of persuading, and at the first sign of delay and opposition their faith faltered again. Moses and Aaron were on their own after that until the Passover. And ever afterward the Israelites showed the same reluctance to believe God and walk with Him. Any small discouragement could throw them completely off track again.
The fact is that God delivered them at the soonest possible moment; He didn’t wait until they had reached some place of overcoming faith; He actually took them out when they were quite unprepared for deliverance, hoping to carve them into a believing people along the way. In the final analysis He was unable to bring them into the promised land, but not because He didn’t try, and not because He was difficult to persuade. God is always ready; it’s man that keeps the prayer answers from flowing.
Day 13: The Angel of the Lord
The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, " I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up." 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." 5 Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 6 He said also, " I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
"The Angel of the Lord" is believed by most Bible scholars to be the preincarnate Son of God. He appears again and again in the pages of the Old Testament, always at very crucial times, calling men to the ministry, leading and guiding them along the way, and lending strength and encouragement as it’s needed.
We have to make a distinction between "an angel from the Lord," and "the angel of the Lord." The standard, garden-variety angels appear often, too, but they must be differentiated from "the angel of the Lord." The word "angel" simply means ""messenger," but there are messengers and there is the Messenger. Angelic beings delivered messages to Daniel, Zachariah, Mary, and many others—but they did not receive worship, they did not call men to the ministry, they did not even preach the Gospel, but simply relayed a message. The preincarnate Son was the Message as well as the Messenger—John calls Him "the Word," God’s ultimate message to man.
"The angel of the Lord" does receive worship. Here in Exodus He commands Moses to take His shoes off, an act of homage and worship. Furthermore, the Bible has already identified Him as the Lord... "when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush." While Moses is removing his shoes the Lord—or the angel of the Lord—introduces Himself, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." There is absolutely no question as to the identity of "the angel of the Lord." He comes right out and calls Himself the God of Abraham and the patriarchs.
Often when "the angel of the Lord" appears, God suddenly starts speaking in the first person. And the people, like Jacob at the brook, or Mr. & Mrs. Manoah, the parents of Samson, suddenly marvel, for they have seen God, have looked into His glorious countenance and still live. They apparently understood that "the angel of the Lord" and "the Lord" are one and the same person.
In both instances just mentioned—Jacob and Manoah—the people asked the angel of the Lord His name. And in both instances He declined to answer, saying, "Why do you ask My name?" To Manoah and his wife the angel of the Lord added, "seeing as it is Wonderful," which is reminiscent of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah, "and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God," etc.
Here in Exodus chapter three Moses also asks His name, but this time He answers. "I AM WHO I AM," which is essentially the same as Yahweh or Jehovah, the personal name of the God of the Old Testament. "The angel of the Lord" and the Jehovah of the Old Testament are the same person.
And that person, the eternal Word, was made flesh and dwelt among us for a short season. Since then we’ve known Him as Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man.
Day 14: The Fire of God
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.
The burning bush is our first introduction to the Shekinah glory of God. It is the cloud or pillar of fire and smoke that the Lord dwells in, and it’s mentioned often in the Scripture, right on through the letters of Paul, and the book of Revelation. We’ll have occasion to talk about it in more detail a little further along in Exodus, but let’s pause just long enough at this point to take a look at the nature of the fire that Moses saw.
"The bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed." The fire of God’s glory may not burn up bushes, but it has been known to burn up people! On more than one occasion, God’s fire went out from the ark of the covenant and consumed rebellious and irreverent people. Getting too close to God while still in an unrepentant, unsanctified state can be a very dangerous thing, for God’s fire may not burn a bush, but it quickly consumes the flesh.
The flesh of the old carnal nature, that is. "That which is of the flesh is flesh, and that which is of the Spirit is spirit"... "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"... "they who are in the flesh cannot please God"... (Jn 3:6, I Cor 15:50, Rom 8:8). The old carnal nature is hostile to the things of God. It is motivated by pride, rebellion, and the lusts of this world; it has been molded and formed by the god of this world, Satan. The flesh has been at war with God ever since it first reared its ugly head in the Garden of Eden, prompting Eve to take the forbidden fruit.
You and I may never stand before a burning bush, and we may never see the fire come out of the holy of holies, but the fire of God is still busy in our lives today. Jesus promised a baptism in "the Holy Spirit and fire." That fire is the presence and glory of God within us, convicting us of sin, and burning away the chaff of the old nature.
One day that fire will judge us and our works before the Lord. That which is of the Spirit will be preserved, but that which is still of the flesh will be burned up (see I Cor.3:12-17). In another reference to that day Paul says "for our God is a consuming fire," (Heb 12:29). As long as there is flesh, and the works of the flesh, the fire of God will be around, burning pride and arrogance, sin and rebellion: all that exalts self, and even unsanctified works done in the name of the Lord—for nothing of the flesh is of any use to God, it must all be burned.
He...will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.