The Earlier Days of Moses.

Exodus 2 — 4.

1867 353 There are two scenes in the early life of Moses which may afford us profitable admonition.

In Exodus ii. we see him under all external disadvantages. His soul has no help from without. He is in Pharaoh's court, and, as the apostle says, in the midst of the pleasures of sin."

He is, however, as true a Nazarite there as Daniel was in the court of Babylon. The scene around casts him on his resources in God. He has to drink all alone and in secret of the waters at the fountain, for the land is dry and thirsty with no grateful streams at all. But he flourishes, he is strong in faith, and stands in victory over the world.

This victory at first displays itself in him by his telling the courtiers not to treat him as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. (Heb. xi. 24.) This is an exceedingly beautiful notice of his faith. It lets us very much into the intimacies of his mind and daily walk among men. He was not ashamed to own his origin and early history, the loathing of his person, as it were, in the day that he was born, and that all his goodly estate was through the adoption of a foundling by the king's daughter. And this passage from Hebrews gives us to say that he may have checked the servants and officers of the palace in their disposition to flatter him with his titles and distinctions. This was indeed beautiful. This was above nature. This was victory over "the pride of life." This was a lovely instance of self-emptying, of making oneself of no reputation. This was precious moral virtue in the soul of one who is said to have "esteemed the reproach of Christ."

Then he went out from the palace, and looked, amid the brick-kilns, on the burthens of his brethren. (Exodus ii. 11.) This was the second stage in his life of devotedness and single-heartedness, while he was yet in Egypt, and all external things were against him. "It came into his heart," we are told, to do this. (Acts vii. 23.) And it is well, and the fruit is pleasant, when affection is the parent of service.

Such was the man Moses in the midst of Egypt and Egypt's temptations and hindrances. The place was barren of all help for a soul that walked with God. Moses flourished there. In affection and in service, in sympathy with the saints, and in triumph over the world, his standing and his course were beautiful. But, in process of time he is driven thence, and the outward scene entirely changes. In Exodus iii. we find him in the bosom of a happy godly household. He has his venerable father-in-law, a worshipper of God, his wife and his children, and he tends a flock at the borders of the mount of God. This was retirement in Midian to Moses, the contrast of the late scenery around him in Egypt. It was rather the Church than the world. He was now helped from without.

This is what we all experience at this time. Our external condition is for us. We are in the bosom of a family at the mount of God. We have got into brotherhood. But all this is not necessarily good. It is either good for us or evil for us, according as it is used by us. Such atmosphere is either healthful or relaxing, according as we walk in it.

Moses so used it as to find it relaxing. He is not the man in Exodus iii. that he had been in Exodus ii. The contrast is very exact. He is invited to look on the afflictions of his brethren a second time. But he is full of reserve and reluctance, hard to be moved. And why this? His brethren are the same, his own flesh and blood still, his father's children; and their burthens and griefs are just as heavy and sharp as ever. And besides, he has greater encouragement to work now than he had then; he has the sympathy of the Lord now with those afflictions of Israel, expressed too, or conveyed to him, in the affecting vision of the burning bush. And he is invited into this holy service by the voice of the Lord from the midst of it.

Why, then, this reserve or reluctance? The atmosphere of Midian had proved relaxing. Egypt had presented external difficulties, and he was wakeful, spiritual, and energetic in the midst of them; Midian had afforded external religious advantages, and he had, insensibly perhaps, become easy and slumbering over an unfed lamp. The shifts and reasonings of unbelief, as well as the patient and unupbraiding grace of God may be strikingly marked in the communion of the Lord and His servant. The first argument of the reluctant heart of Moses is drawn from himself. "Who am I," says he, "that I should go unto Pharaoh?" The insignificance and feebleness of his person, he assumes, must plead to have him excused.

God answers this without a rebuke, but tells him that he may forget himself altogether, for that He will be with him.

Unbelief then draws its plea from the Lord assuming, as it were, that there had been some indistinctness in the present divine manifestation. "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." Gideon was in this mind in Judges vi. 17; and the Baptist, in his measure, in Matthew xi. 3.

But the Lord answers this likewise without a rebuke, brightly revealing to His servant all the strength and goodness that awaited him in the path He was now setting before him.

Moses is still slow of heart, and in the shifts of unbelief draws his third objection from the people, saying to the Lord, "They will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice."

Still does the Lord wait, unupbraiding and giving signs and wonders, which will constrain the people to receive him.

Can Moses be reluctant still? Yes. Unbelief has resources still. He insinuates that all his present communion with the Lord had not profited him, but left him just the man it had found him. "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken to thy servant."

Can the Lord be unupbraiding still? Yes. This personal slight and indignity, as we may call it, awakens no rebuke. "I will be with thy mouth" is the divine answer.

But now unbelief has no more arguments. The weapons of its warfare have been foiled, the arrows of its quiver all spent. Naked, undisguised, unsheltered, inexcusable unbelief — the deep departure of the heart from the service of God — stands open in its shame. "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send." Then, but not till then, the anger of the Lord was kindled; and Moses may learn, in Aaron sharing the burthen and the honour with him, what unbelief had cost him.