Last Sunday night I was considering some aspects of the life of Moses and especially concerning his flight from Egypt. Since we had one of our frequent power outages then, I had some time to consider it. What I find interesting is that in this story is a key to seeing how God judges our own actions at times. There are three basic accounts of this period of Moses' life found in Exodus 2, Hebrews 11, and in Acts 7. I would like to compare them now and see what we can learn from them.
One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, "Why do you strike your companion?" He answered, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, and thought, "Surely the thing is known." When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well (Exo. 2:11-15).
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).
At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. "When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, 'Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?' But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons (Acts 7:20-29).
Looking at these two passages together we see some apparent differences. At first glance it appears that Moses fled Egypt out of fear and yet Hebrews says he did it out of faith not fearing. How could it be said to be by faith? I think the key lies in the fact that the path was begun in faith. Clearly it was only faith that would enable Moses to abandon all his privileges and go down to his own people, and identify with them even in slavery. This is more than mere patriotism, because his people were not just any nation, but were heirs of Abraham's promise. It took something extraordinary for him to be willing to do this. We call that something faith.
It was faith that caused him to go down to his brethren. However, it was a mistaken belief that caused him to kill the Egyptian. He was zealous for his people and angry at the wrong he saw done. In the back of his mind was the knowledge that he would deliver Israel and he thought this was the best mode of bringing it about. In this he was bitterly disappointed. He did not receive a medal of commendation from his people, perhaps not even a thank you from the one he rescued, but what he did receive was rejection, "Who made you a ruler…" At this rejection he was afraid and he fled. In a certain sense he was afraid of Pharaoh, and certainly that was his initial reaction, but Hebrews tells us that he left by faith, not fearing the king's wrath. The way I see it is that God is showing the deepest motive in Moses in Hebrews. He had abandoned a life of ease and comfort and came to the aid of his brethren because of faith. There was a mistaken zeal and misunderstanding of God's way mixed in with it, but it was still faith. Thus his flight was brought about by faith even though the immediate cause might have seemed to have been fear. God looks at things differently than we do. Later it became apparent that forty more years were required to complete the time God had promised to Abraham that the children of Israel would be in Egypt (Gen. 15:13; Exo. 12:41).
This has bearing on our lives today. There are times when we must make a major decision, sometimes a decision which will affect the rest of our lives. We pray about it, and we act according to what we believe God is requiring of us. The consequences can be hard sometimes. I am certain Moses was very discouraged when he sat down at the well. His bid to become deliverer of his people had been cast down, trampled on, and torn to shreds. Yet God saw faith. The very fact that he had tried to deliver Israel showed a hold on the promises of God, even if it was premature.
Another example of this sort of faith is seen in the life of the Apostle Paul. There is much debate as to whether Paul actually should have gone to Jerusalem. He felt bound in heart to go, his friends opposed it, and a prophet told him what would happen if he did. True prophecy will at times say what will happen in a given course, but that does not mean of itself that the course is wrong. Paul was determined to go. Scripture seems somewhat ambiguous as to whether he actually should have. This is actually comforting in a way, because there are times when we may make a choice to do what we believe is pleasing to God. Unfortunately, we may miss it. Sometimes we can look it over and wonder if we made the right choice, and others may wonder the same as they did with Paul. Paul's choice was not made for wrong motives though, he sincerely was going to Jerusalem to proclaim Christ. It was not out of selfish-ambition or other wrong motive that he went. So when he was in prison Christ appeared to him and encouraged him (Acts 23:11). In the end whether it was best for him to go to Jerusalem or not is a moot point since God used this imprisonment to fulfill the purpose He had for Paul when He called him, and Paul could write at the end of his life that he had finished his course. May God grant that the same may be said of us! Amen.