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Summary: Moses’ great failure actually led to a greater salvation.

Lessons Learned from a Failure

Exodus 2: 11-25

Ever considered starting life as a failure? Of course not, who would? But did you realize that many successful people began as failures. The great Polish pianist, Paderewski, was told by his music teacher that his hands were much too small to master the keyboard. The great tenor, Enrico Caruso, was told by his teacher that his voice sounded like the wind whistling in the window. Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse gear in his first automobile. Robert Frost’s poetry was considered too “vigorous” for The Atlantic Monthly, and it was rejected. Albert Einstein’s Ph.D. dissertation was turned down because it was “fanciful and irrelevant.” Winston Churchill’s teacher wrote on the 16-year-old student’s report card: “A conspicuous lack of success.” Finally, Thomas Edison spent $2,000,000 on an invention that was a total flop. I am certain none of these gentlemen ever considered starting their lives as a failure, but they did, and they overcame their failure to fulfill destinies that changed the world.

If we take today’s Scripture at face value, Moses was a man who started life as a failure. We read in the early verses of Exodus 2 of Moses’ unique birth, and all we know of him after his birth is that Pharaoh’s daughter raised him. A long period of silence exists between verse 10 and verse 11. We are left only to speculate about the life of Moses in these intervening years. If we look to some extra-biblical sources, we can glean a little information, but it, too, is mostly speculation.

Of the biblical record we do have, Dr. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, records from a sermon by the disciple, Stephen that Moses grew up as the Prince of Egypt. He was schooled under the best Egyptian teachers. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Moses learned the best tactics of the military, and was actually a general who led Pharaoh’s armies into battle and victory. Other historians have said that Moses was actually Pharaoh’s first choice to ascend the throne of Egypt at Pharaoh’s death. His was a place of prestige and privilege surrounded by the palace and the pomp and ceremony of royalty.

But that is not where the biblical writer chooses to start. The writer skips that entire royal splendor thing as seemingly unimportant. But then, of course, we remember that tradition tells us (and I believe) that Moses was the author of Exodus. Perhaps Moses, like many other great people, believed that failure eventually proves the greater blessing. But we can only know that after we’ve gone through the failure. So there, in the midst of failure, we pick up the story of our champion Moses.

Exodus 2:11-25

Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his people, the Israelites, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrew slaves. [12] After looking around to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

[13] The next day, as Moses was out visiting his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. "What are you doing, hitting your neighbor like that?" Moses said to the one in the wrong.

[14] "Who do you think you are?" the man replied. "Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Do you plan to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?"

Moses was badly frightened because he realized that everyone knew what he had done. [15] And sure enough, when Pharaoh heard about it, he gave orders to have Moses arrested and killed. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and escaped to the land of Midian.

When Moses arrived in Midian, he sat down beside a well. [16] Now it happened that the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came regularly to this well to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. [17] But other shepherds would often come and chase the girls and their flocks away. This time, however, Moses came to their aid, rescuing the girls from the shepherds. Then he helped them draw water for their flocks.

[18] When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, "How did you get the flocks watered so quickly today?"

[19] "An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds," they told him. "And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks."

[20] "Well, where is he then?" their father asked. "Did you just leave him there? Go and invite him home for a meal!"

[21] Moses was happy to accept the invitation, and he settled down to live with them. In time, Reuel gave Moses one of his daughters, Zipporah, to be his wife. [22] Later they had a baby boy, and Moses named him Gershom, for he said, "I have been a stranger in a foreign land."

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