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“CERTAINLY I WILL BE WITH THEE”
—EXOD. 3:1-12.—DEC. 1.—
MOSES, at forty years of age, having been schooled in all the learning of the Egyptians, and recognized as mighty in word and in deed, as noted in a previous lesson, determined to cast in his lot henceforth with the people of God. He renounced his relationship to the king’s family, “refusing to be any longer called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, and with them to have an inheritance in the promises made to their fathers. While with the Egyptians he was a sharer of the riches which were accruing to that people through the oppression and bondage of the Israelites; and Moses could no longer be a participator in the fruits of this wrongdoing, nor enjoy these pleasures of sin, injustice. We have this attestation to his moral rectitude, his love of justice. It indicates that he was naturally high-minded, noble, just. How many of the Lord’s people, living under the instructions of the Gospel, and the enlightening influences of the holy spirit at the present time, need to take a lesson from Moses’ course. How many would be willing to enjoy the fruits of sin and injustice—to continually receive and enjoy wealth and luxuries known to be unjustly wrung from poor unfortunates? How many would be inclined to console themselves with the thought that they were not directly responsible for the injustices and oppressions whose profits they nevertheless would enjoy? How noble was Moses’ course, and how much approved of the Lord! It is proper that all who know and love righteousness and justice should take a firm stand upon these principles.—Heb. 11:24-26.
It is written that Moses’ course in this matter was the result of his “esteeming the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” The reproaches of Messiah were heaped against the Israelites; for undoubtedly the Egyptians had learned that the Israelites believed themselves to be the heirs of the great promises from the Almighty made to their father Abraham, and repeated to Isaac and Jacob,—that through this nation should come the great Messiah, the great Deliverer, who should bless and rule the world. No doubt the oppressed people were frequently taunted upon these extravagant hopes, by their oppressors. But Moses, believing these promises, preferred to associate himself with the despised people, and left the courts of Egypt. As the Apostle explains, this was because “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward”—he hoped by allying himself with his own people to preserve his share in these Abrahamic promises and in the blessings which must ultimately come through them by a better resurrection.—Heb. 11:35,39,40.
Although, naturally, Moses was meek, he nevertheless was not ignorant of his education and abilities; and these being known to the Israelites he had every reason to suppose that they, expecting deliverance from Egypt about this time (in harmony with God’s Word to Abraham about four hundred years before) would rejoice in having him for a counsellor, a representative, a qualified law-giver, amongst them.
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In his zeal for his brethren, and in his abhorrence of the injustice practised upon them, he smote one of the Egyptian task-masters, and delivered the oppressed Hebrew. He presumed that by such a course he would awaken the energies and spirits of his people and that they would accept him as their leader and that the deliverance from Egypt would forthwith begin. But his disappointment was great when the next day he discovered that his kinsmen had no such loyal feeling toward him as he had toward them; for, while endeavoring to correct a dispute between two Israelites, the one who did the other wrong resented the endeavors of the peacemaker, and showed that he and a large class whom he represented failed to appreciate the conduct of Moses, and failed to accept him as a law-giver. The erring Israelite demanded, “Who made thee a judge or a law-giver over us?” Where is your authority? We deny that you have any. Would you slay me, as you did the Egyptian yesterday? Moses was completely disheartened, and fled to the wilderness of Paran. He had fondly hoped that his sacrifice of the throne and glory of Egypt for his people’s sake would be appreciated by them, at least, but coming to his own his own received him not. Apparently he had made a great sacrifice, and to no purpose. Undoubtedly the natural meekness of his disposition was intensified by this rebuff.
Thoroughly discouraged, cut off from the cultured class of Egypt, cut off also from his kinsmen, whom he had hoped to assist, Moses hermit-like, settled down to a life in the wilderness. His natural nobility and training made him chivalrous in the defence of women, and soon he found himself defending the seven daughters of Jethro, who, as shepherdesses, were tending his flocks. This led to his marrying one of these, and himself becoming a shepherd, caring for his father-in-law’s flocks. Forty years was the period of this isolation, this great change of life from one of culture, refinement and honor amongst men, to the solitudes of that wilderness. Moses, so far as we have information, up to this time had no direct manifestation of God’s favor. He merely had a knowledge of the hopes which belonged to his people through the promises made to Abraham. He doubtless regarded as a mistake his action at forty years of age, in attempting to become the leader of his people; yet from the inspired record we must suppose that his faith in the divine promises never faltered, and that he preferred to be on God’s side, and an outcast from Egyptian society, rather than the reverse. Nevertheless, we can see that God’s supervision was over all of his affairs, and that with the tests of his loyalty came valuable experiences, preparing him for the Lord’s great work, in the Lord’s time. It gave him another kind of schooling, and a valuable one, though he was ignorant of it at the time. We cannot doubt that his wandering as a shepherd over that wilderness for forty years made him thoroughly familiar with every road, every hill, every stream, in it, and that this was subsequently of great advantage to him, when, under the Lord’s direction, he became the leader of Israel through that wilderness toward Canaan. Neither need we doubt that Moses’ own character received valuable lessons of patience and humility and obedience to the divine will during those forty years. Even his marriage here to Jethro’s daughter, who bore him two sons, would seem to have been overruled by the Lord for the good of his people; for the woman being an African, a black, the sons would of course be mulattoes, and would correspondingly have less respect amongst the Israelites than if they had been Moses’ children by an Israelitish woman, for as such they might have had the reverence of the people in Moses’ stead at the time of his death, and thus the tendency might have been to establish a rulership in his family line, which evidently was not the divine purpose.
How often the Lord’s people—spiritual Israelites—find that they have experiences somewhat along the line of Moses! How sometimes our efforts and energies and plans for good, yea, our self-sacrifices, seem to be rejected, their value nothing, and ourselves turned away from activities and opportunities which we had coveted as opportunities for the Lord’s service. How disheartening we have found this, until later on we discovered that the Lord’s hand was able to bring blessing out of our disappointments, and how we could and have learned lessons under trying circumstances, which we could never have learned otherwise. And how these lessons have been ordered of the Lord so as to fit and to prepare us for future usefulness in his service and to his people. Let us, then, have the more courage and the more faith and the more trust in God—trusting him where we cannot trace him, knowing that all things shall work together for good to them that love him—the called ones according to his purpose.
It was at this time, when Moses was eighty years old, that the Lord sent him to deliver Israel. Perhaps it was not accidental that Moses’ career was thus divided into two equal periods—40 years of Egyptian training, and rejected; then 40 years’ absence followed by his successful deliverance of God’s people. Perhaps in this Moses was a type. So also the period from the time Israel started as a nation (at the death of Jacob, the last of the patriarchs) until the antitype of Moses “came unto his own and his own received him not” (1845 years) is the same length as the period of his absence, at the end of which is his second advent, shortly to be followed by the successful deliverance of all of God’s people from the oppressions of Satan, sin and death.
What a change the forty years wrought in Moses! At its beginning he was ready and anxious to lead the Israelites; full of modest confidence in himself, as a leader, a commander, a law-giver, for that people—no doubt realizing by faith that God had prepared him and educated him that he might have the proper qualifications to be their leader. But now, when the Lord’s time has come, his courage is gone, his self-confidence is upset, and he protests to the Lord that he is totally unqualified. Now the Lord needs to encourage him, and Moses receives more deeply than he could have done forty years before the thought that Israel’s deliverance was not to be by man or through man, but by the Lord himself,—and that the human agent would be merely the Lord’s representative. What a valuable lesson Moses was learning, and how necessary is such a lesson to all of the Lord’s people, especially to any and to all whom he would use in
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any special sense in connection with his work. We must learn that it is not our work, but God’s work, not our power or ability or wisdom, or greatness or learning, but the divine power working in and through us, which is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds, and to the lifting up of weak, and to the bringing in of the great salvation which he has promised. The more thoroughly we learn this lesson the better it will be for ourselves, and for all who, in the Lord’s providence, we are sent to assist in his way—to deliver from the bondage of sin and death.
Our Golden Text, “Certainly I will be with thee,” is an inspiration to the Lord’s people everywhere and at all times, when endeavoring properly to do any part of the Lord’s work, heeding his call through the Word. If God be for us, and if God be with us, who can prevail against us eventually? There may be with us, as there were with Moses and his service, various difficulties, trials, vexations and disappointments,—for we have the treasure of the new nature in earthen vessels, and the weaknesses and imperfections and short-sightedness of these are sure at times to cause us difficulties and discouragements. On such occasions our duty is to turn the eyes of our understanding to Him whom we serve, whose ambassadors and representatives we are, and to recall his promise, “Surely I will be with thee.” This means eventual victory, though, perhaps, through devious ways that we know not, and expect not, which nevertheless will ultimately prove to have been advantageous to us and to our Master’s glory.
“This shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee.” No doubt Moses thought now of his failure to interest his people when he went to them still covered with the honors of the schools and the army, and in the prime of life; and perhaps he now contrasted his present condition as a shepherd, forgotten by many who knew him in Egypt, without renown, without favor before the court, without influence or prestige; and no doubt he said within himself, If I could make no impression before, how could I hope now to accomplish as much? But, “This shall be the token unto thee,” to prove “that I have sent thee.” He was to know that when God sent it meant that the right time had come, and that all of God’s good purposes would be accomplished. He was to know that without the Lord he could do nothing; that with the Lord he could do all things. And so all of the people of God, who would be useful and used in his service, must learn this lesson: “Without me ye can do nothing.” Then God gave Moses the absolute assurance that he and his people should come forth out of Egypt, and should worship in the very mountain in which now he beheld the burning bush, and talked with the angel of the Lord.
By various signs God established the faith of his servant. The burning bush itself was one of these demonstrations of divine power. Another demonstration was the casting of his rod upon the ground, and its becoming a serpent, a symbol of evil, and the divine power exercised again by which the serpent was turned again into a staff, representing God’s power to turn evil things into good things through the operation of faith. Again, his hand was thrust into his bosom, and taken out was found to be leprous, and being thrust in again and taken out was found to be restored to health. In sending out his people in the present time, his ambassadors, the body of Christ, to service (services that are much inferior in many respects, yet superior in some regards), the Lord does not give us these visible demonstrations of his power, but we may be sure that none are sent unless first they are given some testimonies on a higher spiritual plane. They must behold the Lord as the great light; they must realize that his justice is as a consuming fire as respects everything sinful, everything evil, but that through Christ he has mercy upon our imperfections, and grants us to see his light and to enjoy it without being consumed thereby.
Only after such lessons have been learned in the school of experience under our great Teacher and Pattern, Jesus, are we ready for the Lord’s service in various ways, as he may be pleased to indicate them and to send us and use us. Let us learn thoroughly the lesson that our undertakings, even for the Lord and in the interest of his people, can only prosper in the Lord’s time, and when we are sent of him; but that nevertheless every effort we may put forth, even in our ignorance, if done in meekness, humility, and with a respect for the recompense of reward, will surely be owned of the Lord, and blessed of him to our good and to our development for future service, even as in Moses’ case.
— November 15, 1901 —