MOSES THE ENGINEER OF ISRAEL’S PROMISES
Moses was and is to Israel what Jesus Christ is to Christians and Muhammad is to Muslims. He too was shaped or made by God to keep God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring alive. In a sense, he was the architect and engineer to bring about God’s blueprint of a theocracy, none like the world had ever known. Under Moses, the personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob became exclusively the God of the Hebrews. Before Abraham’s seed could be delivered, it had to learn what it meant to be in bondage. In Israel’s early beginning, it needed protection by a stronger people. Joseph appeared to share this idea. “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7). And for the first time “The I Am” (Elohim) comes down to be the deliverer (Ex. 3:8). Here and after, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend,” (Ex. 33: 11).
The Hebrew writers turned Moses into being more than human; in fact, they turned him into a god against Pharaoh and all their enemies (Ex. 4:16). He and his directions became the only access to God. Moses and the Law were synonymous. This Law was from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This God had chosen an individual, a family and then a people whom He loved, as one loves a child. Unlike all the other gods, He was an “US” or more than one single force or personality. He was “Elohim” and not an “El.” The “I AM” was not a name but a declaration that God was their God. No man could tag a name on God. He was nameless and irresistible. Literally, Moses became the Messiah or deliverer sent by God to free Israel from Egyptian bondage. The writers, in retrospect knew that Moses himself had no such notions and that he harbored doubt that Israel would ever become totally free. Israel was far too much a child to make it on its own. History would prove him correct.
Four hundred years had elapsed since Joseph had brought his family to Egypt. By then a king reigned over Egypt who no longer remembered the man who had saved his people and others from starvation (Ex.1: 8). But then, God meant it to be that way. The people became too comfortable and forgot about God’s intentions. A heavy hand of oppression was required to remind Israel of her duties to God. God was about to send messengers to Pharaoh demanding, “Let my people go so that they may worship me!” One of the messengers was a man called Moses and the other was his older brother Aaron. Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses the name after she had a baby boy pulled from among the reeds of the Nile. Unknowingly and with the help of the baby’s sister, the princess had the natural mother raise and acquaint the lad with the tradition of the Hebrews. Moses himself was of the house of Levi, third son of Jacob and Leah. It took him, however, forty years before he became interested in the oppression of his people. Like his ancestor Levi before him, who killed the Shechemites for violating his sister Dinah, Moses took justice into his own hands and killed an Egyptian (Gen.34; Ex.2).
Moses had acted prematurely and by his own hand. His own people misunderstood his action and drove him into exile. They too were afraid of his method and asked, “Do you want to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?” Killing was not God’s way. God negotiated for a long time and offered man many chances to mend his ways before He let him be killed. The king of Egypt learned this lesson the hard way and so did Moses. God has His timetable and method of delivery. He will act when He regards man as good and ready and not when man seeks to force His hand. Hopefully, others will not have to wait forty years like Moses did.
The desert or the lonely place has a way of changing a person. The aggressive Moses turned into a very timid shepherd. All his Egyptian education and skills were lost in the desert. His was the story of a prince turning into a shepherd and not a shepherd turning into a prince. In his case, God reversed human values. Moses had to learn how to tend sheep before he could lead men. And there was no great education, but forty years of silence. In the meantime, Moses was married, raised two sons and enjoyed the wisdom of the priest of the God Most High, Reuel or Jethro his father-in-law.
At an age when most men have been shelved and forgotten, the Lord called Moses and inducted him into the ministry of delivering souls. To get his attention, the Lord sent an angel to start a fire in a bush. When Moses approached to investigate, God called him by name and said, “Moses, Moses! Do not come any closer; take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of the land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Ex.3: 4-10).
In fear, Moses hid his face and stammered, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?
God did not define or name Himself. Man goes by names, but God goes by being or existing. He simply is, was and will always be. Moses was told, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation. I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites. I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go” (Ex.3: 6-20).
While God was speaking about the Egyptians, Moses was still wondering how he would convince his own people. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.'” God gave Moses the proof by showing him how to turn his staff into a snake, his hand into leprosy and water into blood. And what did the reluctant servant tell His Lord? “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex.4: 10). That almost did it. The Lord was not only displeased; but He became angry with Moses. His response was, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say” (Ex.4: 11).
After all that convincing and demonstrating by God, what did Moses have to say? “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Ex.4: 13). The angry Lord then made Aaron, Moses’ brother the spokesman, and countered, “He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were god to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it” (Ex.4: 14-17). There was one more lesson before Moses became committed to being God’s messenger. Instead of leaving immediately for Egypt, Moses returned to Reuel or Jethro and asked permission to return to his people and see whether they were still alive. This was not what the Lord had told him to say or do. That night, the Lord was about to kill, yes kill this reluctant servant; but Zipporah quickly circumcised one of her sons and touched her husband’s feet with the foreskin of her boy. Moses’ life was spared and she called him her bridegroom of blood (Ex.4: 18-31).
Aaron too was told to meet his brother Moses in the desert. The brothers then gathered the elders, laid out God’s Promises to the people of Israel and backed them with the signs God gave them. And to Moses’ amazement, the elders and the people believed and worshipped the Lord. Pharaoh was much more difficult to convince. He was not about to lose his cheap labor force. Who else was going to built his pyramids? Thus when Moses and Aaron appeared 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 desert.'” Pharaoh responded, “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” (Ex.5: 1-2).