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(Exodus 2:11-15) Forty Years Ahead of God

(Exodus 2:11-15) Forty Years Ahead of God

by Stephen Davey Ref: Exodus 2:11–15

It's only natural for us to want what we want, when we want it. But part of submitting to God's authority in our lives means giving up control of our Day Timers! When Moses took matters into his own hands it brought about disastrous results. He was forty years ahead of God! Who's timetable are you working on?



(Exodus 2:11-15; Acts 7:21-29)


Take your Bibles, please, and turn to the book of Acts.  The book of Acts, chapter 7.  Our study, this morning, has several parallel passages; one in Hebrews, chapter 11, one in Acts, chapter 7, and then, of course, in Exodus, chapter 2, as we continue in our study of that great Old Testament book.  I want to read with you, before we get into our study, the passage in Acts, chapter 7.  So, once you’ve found that, I’ll ask that you hold your finger there because we’ll be turning it a little bit to Exodus but I don’t want you to lose your place in the book of Acts.  Perhaps your study notes, that have been made available to you, will help in holding your place. 

Acts, chapter 7, let’s start with verse 20.  “And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home.  And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son.  And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.  But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.  And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.  And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.  And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’  But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him” - Moses - “away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?  You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’  And at this remark Moses fled, and became an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.”  Hold your finger there in that portion of scripture. 

Exodus, chapter 2, and I want to read just the few verses that are given of this same account.  We’ll start with verse 11 here.  You’ll note the similarity of the two passages.  “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.” - note this - “So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  And he went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’  But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us?  Are you intending to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?’  Then Moses was afraid, and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’” - verse 15 - “When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses.  But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.” 

Now turn back to Acts, chapter 7.  If you have ever wondered if there was a scriptural illustration of getting ahead of God, you are about, this morning, to study one with me.  It’s possible, as we study the life of Moses in this section of his life, this episode that is given to us by numerous passages of scripture, three in all, it is possible to serve God and, at the very same time, ignore God.  It’s possible to be interested in doing the will of God, and yet, doing it your way.  It is possible, in the account of Moses, to be so far ahead of God that, when you total up the years, you discover that he was forty years ahead of God’s plan.  But yet, God gave us this colossal failure by Moses for reasons that we want to discover, this morning, for our own instruction.  Because, I believe, in our fast paced  society in the twentieth century, it is possible for us to pull that same frazzle, that same hectic kind of lifestyle, into the life of the church, the life of our own personal ministries, and patience is sadly lacking.  We find ourselves ahead of God. 

Let’s begin by discovering, in context, what happened to Moses after we studied, last session, Pharaoh’s daughter taking him away.  The text tells us that he, “was educated” - verse 22 of Acts, chapter 7 - “in all the learning of the Egyptians”.  We learned, last week, that Moses was given his name, “Mosheh,” from Pharaoh’s daughter, not from his parents.  “Mosheh,” was actually an Egyptian pun on a Hebrew word that means “to draw out.”  And Pharaoh’s daughter was saying, “This is my son who I drew out of the water.”  So she gave him a new name.  He was, perhaps, a three or a four-year-old boy.  Then it tells us, in verse 22, that he, “was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians”.  And I would agree with most, that Moses was being groomed, he was being prepared for nothing less than the throne of Egypt.  He, being the only son of Pharaoh’s daughter, was being groomed as the Pharaoh-to-be.  And, as a result, this idiomatic phrase is given, he, “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”

The Egyptian commoners didn’t have this opportunity.  Archeologists have helped us uncover what occurred back in those days.  And they have uncovered the Temple of the Son, which some have referred to as the Oxford of the ancient world.  This was the place where Moses was educated.  His head would have been shaved.  He would have worn the gown of the priest.  And he would have been given instruction in just about every area of study today.  He was schooled in mathematics.  He was schooled in archeology.  He was schooled in the sciences.  Chemistry being one that the Egyptians still out-distance us in, especially in embalming the dead.  We have nothing that even compares to their process.  The arts, painting, we have nothing that can even compare today to the Egyptians, where their murals have lasted 4,000 years and their colors are brighter than what we have.  And Dupont, I’m sure, would love to get their hands on the formulas that they used back then because you and I have to paint our houses every four years.  Moses was schooled in law.  Even while he was living. the code of Hammurabi was in existence.  And it was the legal system that he learned so well and, I think God used, as he would, one day, spell out the law for the people of Israel.  You must understand, ladies and gentlemen, that Moses is not in a dusty land that is on the back side of some desert.  He is in Egypt in, perhaps, the sixteenth dynasty where the great pyramids of Giza are standing during his lifetime.  The Sphinx, that you have seen pictures of, was standing when Moses was being reared in the bosom of Egypt.  It was an impressive place.  It was a world conquering land.  And Moses was THE individual, right in the middle of Pharaoh’s court, being trained, schooled, educated by the finest in the land.  I can’t help but compare the fact that Moses traded in a humble slave shack for the palace of Egypt.  He would leave a place that would have very simple meals for meals, the gourmet delights, prepared by Pharaoh’s own chefs.  You can’t imagine, we cannot help but try, what he left and what he potentially gained.  So we find, Moses then, in verse 22, being, “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians”

And the result was this, you’ll note verse 22, “he” - became - “a man of power in words and deeds.”  In other words, Moses embodied the qualities of human leadership.  If we had had Peter Drucker or John Naisbitt or someone from the secular or the marketing world come and evaluate Moses, he would have said that Moses is the man for the job of delivering the Israelites.  He’s the one for this position.  He embodied all that the world would consider great, in terms of leadership.  Extra-biblical records reveal that Moses, perhaps, led the Egyptian army against Nubia or, what is today, Ethiopia.  And he conquered Ethiopia and he captured the capital city because, in his education, he was a warring lord.  Pharaoh was conquering the known world and Moses was right in the middle of it.  I would imagine that if Moses took stock of his own training, his education, the qualities of his own life, he would have certainly said, “I am prepared.  I am ready.  The time is NOW to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.” 

But, not only did he embody the qualities of human leadership, if you’re taking notes, the second thing that strikes me is, that Moses, obviously, exemplified the criteria for spiritual ministry.  Because he’s about to turn his back on everything that he had .  Why?  Because of his love for the people.  He longed, I believe, to be their deliverer.  He had passion and, when the text says, that he went out to look, it was with, the word meaning “with passion,” or “great emotion.”  He wanted to lead these people out of tragic and severe slavery into freedom.  And you would have looked at him and said, “Man alive!  Sure, you’re God’s man!  What are you waiting for?  You’ve got a burden.  You’ve got passion.  You’ve got desire.  You’ve got all of the qualifications.  You’ve been educated in leadership.  If anyone is capable of leading three or four million people out of Egypt, you’re the man.”  He had everything possible except the counsel of God.  He had all of the knowledge of the Egyptians but he still lacked the wisdom that comes from God.  So he hatches a plot. 

Before that, I want to turn you back to Exodus.  Keep your finger in Acts.  Exodus.  And I want to build a case on a premise that’s not, specifically, spelled out in scripture but, I think, to be consistent with scripture.  You may agree with me that this is the case.  Hebrews, chapter 11, says that, Moses - “left Egypt, not fearing the. . . king”.  Perhaps you remember that passage of scripture, as we studied Hebrews, chapter 11.  However, you remember reading, when we came to the end of this passage, that he fled in fear for his life.  It sounds like an apparent contradiction.  However, the scriptures reveal to us, that he left to go view his brethren.  And the word is given to us in verse 11.  Look at it with me, chapter 2 of Exodus.  “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up,” - Acts tells us, when he was approaching forty - “that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors”.  Turn back to Acts, chapter 7, and look with me at that verse, verse 23.  “But when he was approaching the age of forty,” - note this - “it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.”  You could circle the word “visit.”  The word “visit,” is used several times in the New Testament.  In fact, it’s used in Luke, chapter 7, verse 12, when Jesus Christ sees a funeral procession coming His way.  And the coffin is right beside Jesus Christ and, the text tells us that, Jesus reached over and He touched the coffin.  And, as a result, the pallbearers stopped their march and Jesus Christ said to this deceased young man, “Get up.”  And, right in the middle of this funeral procession, this boy sits up and starts talking.  Imagine being part of that one!  Well, the people are amazed and they said this, “God has visited His people!”  Same word here.  Meaning that, “God has come to dwell among His people.”  When the text tells us that Moses went out to - “visit his brethren”, I believe, what he is saying is, that Moses went out to live with them.  It was then, without fear of Pharaoh, that he left all of the court, he left all of the wealth, and he went out to view, with emotion, to dwell among the slaves, the Israelites.  It wouldn’t be until later, when he murdered that Egyptian, that he fled for his life.  So, I believe, that Moses is, at this point, abandoning Egypt. 

Let’s go back to Exodus and take a look.  “Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.  So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”  Now if you’re taking notes, I want to give you two things about Moses’ unkindly plan for deliverance.  The first is this, his actions were prompted by his own timetable.  Acts, chapter 7, records, “It entered HIS mind to visit” - the Israelite.  Perhaps, Moses had taken stock and he’d thought of all of the qualifications that he had.  He looked out and he knew, from what was happening in the court, that the Israelites were under an extermination edict.  The male babies were being thrown into the Nile River.  They were being persecuted and killed.  And, perhaps, he was so filled with emotion, he looked around and he thought, “Lord, perhaps, this is the time.  I’m going.”  And, “It entered HIS mind to” - go, the key phrase.  And while he is there, he notices an Egyptian beating.  The taskmasters, according to the archeologists renderings, had these long rods.  They were sticks with just enough flex to create a tremendous sting and they could cause severe damage and even death.  And, I picture in my imagination, that Hebrew quivering on the ground and the Egyptian beating him with a rod.  And there’s Moses, in all of his regalness, his royal robe, standing there watching, perhaps, clenching his fists and shuffling his feet.  And so, he says, “NOW is the time.  Let’s begin the deliverance.”  And he looks this way, he looks that way, he, perhaps, looks behind him, he looks everywhere . . . but up.  And, at that moment, he lashes out with a stone, with at hammer, with a sword, we don’t know, but he killed the Egyptian.  I think, the first thing that strikes me is, that his actions were prompted by his own flesh, his own timetable, his own rational.  And, I’m sure, Moses could have rationalized, “He was being beaten.  Perhaps, he would have been killed.  They are slaughtering the Hebrews.  It’s time to act.” 

I think, and this is the second point, that his methods were inconsistent with God’s plan.  You know, it’s a difficult thing to try to determine the mind of God.  In fact, God says that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”.  I think it is very difficult when we come to a conclusion that we are going to act and we look at all of the resources and we see what’s happening.  Perhaps you’re thinking of investing some money and you gather all of the facts together and it all makes sense.  The advisors say, “Go for it!  Now is the perfect time.”  And you do everything but look up.  It’s possible for us to concoct our own definition, our own formula for rearing children or for loving our husband and wife and we never look at the manual.  We never look up.  It’s possible to rationalize our lives and justify our means and our methods.  That is why it is so crucial to compare them to the record of scripture.  I pulled out that book I mentioned earlier or the author, Megatrends, which was a block-buster, a best-seller, by John Naisbitt.  And, it represents, pretty well, the secular thinking, in terms of leadership.  I pulled it out again to look up the definition because I had remembered it striking me as a little bit different than what the scriptures would suggest.  And I quote what he says about leadership, “Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.”  And that’s really clever.  That’s the world’s view.  If you’re really sharp, if you’re really on edge,  if you’re watching, you’ll see the gap opening up and just then, in the energy of the flesh, you’ll manipulate your way in, you’ll get in front.  If you can sense a mood change among a few people, they need a leader and you’re the one and, at the right time, you step into place.  Oh, it sounds so good.  Moses, probably, figured out the parade was ready.  Maybe he even heard the band striking up.  “It’s time!  There’s a need!  I’m the man!  God already told me, through my parents, that I was the deliverer.”  So he stepped out in front.  The problem is, the parade was not going to be ready for forty more years.  His methods were inconsistent with God’s plan. 

I think this is a difficult thing because so often we can evaluate our methodology on the basis of pragmatism.  What seems to work.  It has crept into the church.  It has crept into Christian movements.  We do things because they WORK.  And yet, what may not seem to work, was God’s plan for forty more years.  More suffering.  More death.  More tragedy.  And yet, in that forty year period, God was at work.  I think of a man, that I talked to recently, who came back from a board meeting of a mission organization, ABWE.  And they, along with other mission organizations, are involved behind the iron curtain.  And they cannot publicize it because they would give away people who are serving over there under cover, underground.  One man was brought back out of Russia.  Regardless of what you and I may read, there is not religious freedom over there today, any more than there was forty years ago.  He had had a meeting with several Christian leaders.  In fact, he told the story to this board that had gathered, several hundred men on this advisory board.  And he talked about how he was in Russia and he was ministering to, what is called, the persecuted church, not the licensed church, but they refer to themselves as the persecuted church.  This is the underground church.  In China, there are supposedly forty million in the persecuted church with scraps of paper for Bibles and leaders who are sent to Siberia, if they are caught.  Well, he had a meeting with 2,000 young people in the forest this past December.  And they met for four hours until the KGB discovered where they were and came in waving their pipes and their rubber hoses.  What would we suggest to that church?  What would be suggest to the believer?  What should they do?  What methods should they use in propagating the gospel, in building a church, in living out their Christian lives?  Should they take up the sword, like Moses?  Should they kill?  Should they use Egypt’s methods to battle Egypt?  Moses did and he was way ahead of schedule. 

If you were with us last Sunday night, I spoke briefly on a passage I want to turn your attention to now.  This is the methodology of the New Testament church.  Notice this, I Timothy, chapter 2.  Paul is writing from a prison cell.  The man in leadership in Rome is, none other than, Nero.  And Nero has a habit that he enjoys.  He takes Christians and, after killing them, he impales them on a stake and he douses them with oil and then, around his gardens, are the bodies of Christians put to flame.  And, while these Christians encircle his garden, he throws lavish parties.  And, in the process of all of that, he is persecuting Christians, putting them to death.  And the apostle Paul, an aged man, is writing from a prison cell and what does he say for the church to do?  Notice verse 1,  he says, “First of all,” - that is, in priority - “then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men”.  He could have stopped there.  We could have assumed that he was talking about Nero, his arch enemy.  But he says, in verse 2, “for kings”.  The word is “basileus,” which means “emperor.”  “For” - the emperor - “and all who are in authority”.  In other words, the New Testament church is to not adopt the methodology of the world.  It is in spiritual warfare and our warfare weapons are spiritual.  And he says the priority is prayer.  He says, “Don’t forget to pray for Nero.”  Pray what?  Pray that he may be deposed?  Pray that he will pass moral legislation?  He says, “Pray because” - “God . . . desires” - verse 4 - “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”   Pray for OUR Nero.  Pray for those in authority over us.  Even when it seems that our prayers do not work, what would you tell the Russian believer?  “Pray.”  “Does it work?”  “We don’t know.  We’re dying, by the hundreds.”  We do not measure methodology by what seems to work, we measure it by what the scriptures teach.  And our primary warfare is not a sword, it is a prayer. 

Well, Moses had something to learn from the apostle Paul and God would take him for forty years and teach him that.  But, I want you to notice the results of what happens when he adopts the methodology of Egypt to liberate the people from slavery.  Look at verse 13, Moses - “went out the next day” - and just pause there, for a moment.  What’s he doing going out the next day?  He’s going out the next day because he’s gong to announce himself.  He is going to say, “I’m here.  I’m the deliverer.  I’m God’s man and it’s time for me to lead you out.  Let’s begin shaping our plowshares into swords.”  And he goes out and before he can get his speech together, he sees - ‘two Hebrews were fighting with each other”.  As if they didn’t have enough trouble, they were fighting each other.  And he says, “Why are you striking your companion?”  And this Hebrew says to him, “Who made you a prince   . . . over us?”  In other words, “Where is the source of your authority?  Just because you announce yourself, doesn’t mean anything to us.”  You see, forty years later, Moses would come back to the people with a rod in his hand and a message that, “I am coming under the authority of Yahweh.”  And then they would follow.  But they are basically asking him, “What is your source of authority?”  And Moses has nothing to say.  Why?  Because he is there in the energy of the flesh.  This is HIS ministry.  This is HIS work.  This is HIS time table.  This is HIS job. 

Because of that, two things happen.  Instead of being accepted, he was rejected.  The second thing that happens, instead of becoming a leader, he becomes a fugitive.  Look at verse 15, “When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses.  But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.”  “Sat down,” is related to, literally, pitching camp.  Can you see Moses now, on his steed, racing across the desert?  His gowns of royalty are whipping about in the wind as he gallops along for his life.  And here is the prince, here is the man, the leader, now running scared.  He ends up in a little oasis in the land of Midian and he sits down and he pitches camp by a well, disillusioned.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I suggest to you that, whenever we operate in the flesh, whenever we tell God what we are going to do, whenever we discover some sliver of what God’s will may be and yet, we define it on our terms, by our own definition, we also can become disillusioned.  Moses had had everything.  He had prepared his plan.  He had done everything but seek the face of God.  And, over the next forty years, and we’re going to study that next time, God will take Moses and turn him from an obnoxious, brash, self-imposing leader, who has his life under his own control, into a man who’s under the control of God. 

By way of application, I want you to consider these questions.  There are three of them.  Number one, is impatience a characteristic of your decision making?  Do you tend to make a decision, whether it’s to teach a Sunday school class or invest money or purchase something or whatever you do, on the basis of NOW.  “I can’t wait.  Now is the time.  And everything seems to be right.  I’ve looked to the left.  I’ve looked to the right.  Why wait?” Impatience.  Hudson Taylor, the man who opened China up a century ago, said that the primary qualification for one who will serve God is threefold, “Patience.  Patience.  Patience.”  And I am stepping all over my toes up here. 

Secondly, are you making some decision right now?  Here’s an indicator of the patience.  Are you making a decision that is violating the counsel of God?  No matter how you define it, no matter how you align it, no matter how you rationalize or justify, is there something in your spirit where God is saying, “You’re out of bounds?”  “But God, I want this.  I want this job.  I want this person.  I want this position.  I want this place.  And, sure I’ll pray, a perfunctory prayer, Your way, but, in a sense, it’s my life here, I’m running it.”  And, as a result, violate God’s command.  You see, Moses knew that it was against God’s nature to kill.  In fact, Moses would one day, with his own pen, and I think, immersed with conviction, write the words, “Thou shalt not kill.”  What an afternoon that must have been for him.  One of the keys in understanding whether or not you and I are impatient, ministering by the flesh, is that it violates something of God’s counsel. 

Thirdly, do you look everywhere but up when planning some project?  In my office I have a little phrase or motto that reminds me often of one of the greatest delights in life, if not the greatest.  It was written by a missionary who said, “Wise is the individual who knows which way God is going and goes with Him.”  Moses would need to learn which way God was going.  He would need to learn God’s plan, God’s consistent design.  And then he would have great delight, as I trust we, in going with God, in going God’s way.  Let’s pray.                                          

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