The Faithful Servant
“Moses verily was faithful in all His house [‘God’s house,’ R. V. margin] as a servant.” —Hebrews 3:5
We need not trace the steps of Moses as he returned to the land of Egypt, further than to note one incident on the journey thither.
God seems to have given no definite directions as to His will concerning his wife and little ones, in the path that lay before him. We only read that he took his family with him on the journey. Perhaps as a “matter of course”! But God will not have His will taken for granted; and He has to let us find out, sometimes rather sorely, that we never sought His mind about a particular step. So quickly and so instinctively do we run our own way. The life of real dependence upon God every moment is not an easy one to learn. He could have said to Moses, “Go, take thy family, and return to Egypt”—but He did not.
The Lord permitted Moses to start on his journey, together with his family, but when they rested at an inn, we are told, “the Lord met him,” and “sought to kill him” (Exodus 4:24). He had evidently failed in obedience to God’s commands concerning circumcision, and had done so through the objections of Zipporah his wife. But the faithful God could not overlook one single deviation from His will, and lays His hand upon him so unmistakably that his wife was forced to recognize the cause, and yield the disputed point, and his life was spared.
This sharp discipline seems to have shown Moses that he must go alone into Egypt, for Zipporah evidently could not enter into the solemn conflict which lay before him with the powers of this world, behind whom were the powers of darkness. The bitter words she used showed clearly how she might embarrass him in his mission to Israel; so he sends his family back to the care of Jethro for a time; and forward to the unknown goes the lonely man.
One step at a time! sufficient for the day. Moses did not think of all this when he stood before the Lord. Aaron now meets him on the way, sent by God, and together they go to the elders of Israel, and begin their mission. “And the people believed!” and God so bare witness to all that He had promised, that they not only believed, but “bowed their heads and worshipped.”
Passing over the details of the wondrous story of how God wrought out His deliverance for Israel, let us briefly consider the main characteristics of Moses’ walk with God from this time forward.
1. His absolute, implicit obedience to God.
He did exactly what God told him to do, and no more. Back and fore to God he went, sorely tried with the first results of his mission until at last the conflict of faith grew too keen for him to bear, and he said, “Lord…why is it that Thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all” (Exodus 5:22-23).
It was a severe test, and if he had not behind him such an interview with God, such an unqualified, unmistakable commission, such a knowledge of His will, his heart would have failed him. But Moses is going on from “faith to faith,” and faith grows by testing. Only thus can it be developed and matured, until it can believe against hope, and cry in the face of every obstacle, “It shall be done.”
God now gives him a fresh and more explicit message for the oppressed people, with seven “I wills” enclosed in the Alpha and Omega of “I am Jehovah” (Exodus 6:6-8). He was known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as “El-Shaddai,” the Pourer-forth of blessing, but now He will reveal Himself to Israel as Jehovah, the Righteous God Who must judge sin, because He is the just and Holy One.
Back to the stricken Israelites Moses goes with this Magna Charta of promised deliverance, but the people were in such anguish that they could not listen, they were too overwhelmed with their sorrow to pay attention. What can be done now? How can souls be lifted up when they are too crushed to heed? Surely God had let it go too far! Moses’ heart must have been wrung with anguish. To be sent of God to deliver, and to be the very means of plunging the souls he had come to help into deeper suffering – it needed faith to trust through this. Even the same faith that Jesus had in His Father, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, and yet abode two days in the place where He was.
It is in truth the “fellowship of His sufferings” when we must stand back and wait for His hour to come; wait for His permission to move, or to speak; wait and watch the fiery furnace grow still more heated, knowing that the sufferers reproach you for carrying a message from God which spoke of deliverance, but which instead has apparently only placed them in the fires. Ah, this is sorrow indeed. But only thus can we learn fellowship with the afflictions of Christ, as with Him we wait and watch; like Him to be deeply moved and sore troubled, as He was over the tomb of Lazarus, even though we know that the stricken one shall yet hear His voice, and come forth to a new life in the power of His resurrection.
Moses suffered for these afflicted souls as he had never done in early days, when, moved and stirred by looking on their burdens until his fiery indignation burst out, he smote the Egyptian.
This deep, silent man had now a capacity for suffering that he had not then. Oh, the anguish in his voice as he cried to his Lord, “Neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all.” The cruel bondage of oppressed Israel had clouded his heart, and when the Lord bids him go again to Pharaoh, he is depressed and disheartened, and replies, “Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me?” (Exodus 6:12).
Jehovah takes no notice of this passing cloud; but simply bids him go to Pharaoh, and says that He will make him as “God” to him, with Aaron as his prophet. That is, that he shall be clothed with all the power and authority of God, and stand in His stead before the heathen king.
After this we get the constant refrain, “as the Lord commanded them, so did they” (Exodus 7:6). Step by step they had but to obey; and we watch these two men quietly, faithfully following each direction given them by God. How their faith increased as God bore witness to each step! The first manifestation of His power was the turning of the rod into a serpent, as Moses had seen it done once before, and then from this point, from faith to faith, the wonders grew.
What could not God do with that little rod? It was the medium of power in the first three judgments God sent upon Pharaoh. Then Moses is bidden simply to say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and God bare witness to the word without using the rod. Had Moses begun to lean upon it at all?
God will not have us lean upon even the things He has given us, or used in the past; and it needs His ceaseless watching to keep us from clinging to, or resting upon, anything outside of Himself and His bare word. It will be so to the very end, and this accounts for many of His strange dealings with us. The things He gives must be returned, and given and returned again, so that we may be kept free and pliable for Him to do with us as He wills.
We must also be freed from rigid conceptions of His method of working. He used the “rod” in the first miracles, then He shows Moses that He can also work without the “rod,” for nothing is necessary to Him. The next miracles were performed by the word of the Lord through Moses. The swarms of flies came after the word, “Thus saith the Lord…Tomorrow shall this sign be.” Again in the plague of murrain, Moses said, “Thus saith the Lord…There shall be a very grievous murrain” (Exodus 9:3)—and it was so.
Again, God changes His methods: the sixth plague was brought about in a different way; and the rod was used again. All this taught Moses to be very pliable in the hand of God, and very obedient. It taught him to go forward just one step at a time, and to have no preconceptions as to how God would work that day.
2. His uncompromising faithfulness.
It was absolutely necessary that he should not depart one iota from what God had said. Pharaoh parleyed and sought to compromise as the judgments fell upon him, but Moses must not swerve. Had he yielded one degree he would have failed the Lord, and frustrated His purposed deliverance for Israel. He did not dare to act for one moment as an independent agent on God’s behalf.
“Sacrifice to your God in the land,” said Pharaoh, and Moses might say, “Why not in the land? This is a great concession, we cannot expect more.” But no, God had said three days’ journey out of Egypt, and three days’ journey it must be.
“Go now, ye that are men,” again said Pharaoh. No, God had said “all.” Then “Go…only let your flocks and your herds be stayed.” No, “there shall not an hoof be left behind,” said the uncompromising servant of God, who was faithful to Him that appointed him.
Never, never, until we, too, are faithful, and implicitly obedient to every word that God has said, shall we be led on to know “face to face” friendship with Him.
It is not a light thing to be called “a friend of God”! It doubtless cost Abraham many tears, and hours of conflict as “against hope” he “believed in hope” that God would fulfill His word. It cost Moses much to stand unflinchingly true to God in the face of Israel’s sufferings and Pharaoh’s parleying.
Face to face friendship with God in its fullest meaning is only given when the loyalty of the soul has been proved beyond question, and faith has survived every test.
3. His ceaseless recognition of God’s responsibility.
It has been said that perfect obedience brings perfect rest, if we have confidence in the one we are obeying. This is true, and is the reason why we should learn to know our God, so as to be sure that we know His will, and that we are under His entire control.
Moses knew the God he was obeying, and therefore he did not carry any of the responsibility, nor question the issue of the conflict in which he was engaged with the rulers of this world. “Moses cried to the Lord” we read again and again, and as a result he so spake that Pharaoh knew he had to deal with God, not Moses.
Would that we had learnt thus to be God’s ambassadors, and to be so self-effaced while delivering the message, that the souls to whom we are sent know they have to deal with God, and not with His messengers. Alas! it is to be feared that many of us have scarcely learnt the first elements of spiritual service. We are so occupied with our little part that we get between God and the souls He sends us to. Even more, we fear to say “Thus saith the Lord,” because we have not learnt how to know His mind.
Pharaoh knew, too, that when Moses “cried to the Lord” the thing was done! “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have.” There could be no questioning in the mind of Moses as to whether or not his prayers were in the will of God. “O God, if it be Thy will, remove this plague,” would not do in such circumstances. Moses was not told, in so many words, to pray for the removal of the judgment, yet we read that he said to Pharaoh, “I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease,” and—“the thunders and hail ceased!” (Exodus 9:29, 33).
Ignorance of God and of His heart and His written Word, lie at the bottom of much aimless prayer. How can we say “if it be Thy will,” when He has plainly revealed His will as to much that we ask for? We need but to point Him to His Word, and say reverently, and with the boldness of faith, “Do as Thou hast said.” He has yet to teach many of us, His children, the “prayer of faith,” which hath whatsoever it saith, because it asks in accordance with the will of God. We ourselves know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Holy Spirit can give us that intuitive knowledge of His mind which comes from a close walk with Him.
As we read on in the record of the marvelous life of obedience and faith which sprang from that interview with God on Mount Horeb, the words “Moses cried to the Lord” meet us at every turn. When the people he had brought out through such suffering and conflict turned upon him, his resource was God. Boldly the faithful servant is permitted to speak to Jehovah, as again and again he throws back upon Him the responsibility of the fretful Hebrews.
4. His fearlessness.
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). We are expressly told that the fearlessness of Moses sprang from faith, and the brief passage in Hebrews throws light on his whole history. Every step forward was the result of a faith that grew day by day as he endured its testing, and endured because he saw Him Who is only visible to faith. “For he that cometh to God must believe that HE is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Moses forsook Egypt by faith—faith that God would see the thing through; faith that God would shield from the wrath of the king, and protect, and provide for, the great host of undisciplined, helpless souls He was leading out into the unknown wilderness.
God was becoming to Moses a greater reality than the “things that are seen,” and bolder and bolder became his walk of faith, until the unseen grew more real and tangible to him than the visible. How could he fear the “wrath of the king,” when he walked in fearless fellowship with the King of kings?
“By faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them” (Hebrews 11:28, R.V.). It was the faith of Moses that was the link with God’s power on behalf of Israel. God had said that if the lamb was killed and the blood sprinkled, the destroyer should not touch. Moses believed God, and “according to his faith” it was unto them. He had no fear when God’s judgments were abroad, because they were sheltered under the blood of the slain lamb.
How wonderful his faith was! It was even greater than Abraham’s. He had faith, first for himself and then for Isaac: but Moses had faith for the deliverance of a nation.
“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were swallowed up” (Hebrews 11:29, R.V.). Moses had no fear of danger in passing through the Red Sea, for he obeyed God, and wielded the rod of His power, stretching out his hand over the sea. Faith that God would bear witness wrought with his act, and by faith the work was made perfect, or was brought to full fruition. The waters were divided, and Israel passed through as on dry land. They went through dangers that proved disastrous to the Egyptians who assayed to follow.
Ah! is it not so today? Faith can fearlessly walk a path that would be death without the word of the Living God, The Egyptians copied the walk of faith, and were drowned. No copy of living faith will stand the hour of testing. Let even the children of God take heed. Let them see that they do not assay to follow in the steps of others, without the command of God, and the assurance of His presence in the way, or they needs must fail.
Oh faith! thou art in truth the proving of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Lord, increase our faith!
Lastly, let us note briefly the humility of Moses, as strikingly shown in his attitude to Jethro, when he came to him in the wilderness with Zipporah and his two sons. Moses tells him what God had wrought, and Jethro rejoices. As he finds Moses engaged alone in seeking to meet the needs of the people, he suggests a plan whereby the work could be divided with others, adding, “If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure” (Exodus 18:23).
Moses did not reject the counsel of Jethro because he had personally been guided by God hitherto, and the way in which he received the suggestion teaches us that the soul who has the most deeply learnt to know God, is ready to give others an attentive and respectful hearing.
We see, too, how real a link Jethro was in the chain of events that led Moses nearer and nearer to the Mount of “face to face” communion. How disorganized the camp would have been, when Moses had gone forty days aside with God, but for the wise advice of Jethro and the teachable spirit of Moses, the faithful servant of God.