Summary: Moses was a mortal, a mediator, a mentor and a man of God.
A cartoon showed Moses coming down from the top of Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets in his hands. He’s giving a report to the children of Israel and says, “It was hard bargaining — we get the milk and honey, but the anti-adultery clause stays in.” That is seen as bad news for many people in our society. Many today see the Ten Commandments, or commandments of any kind for that matter, as obsolete. Ted Turner, creator of Cable News Network, told members of the National Newspaper Association in Atlanta that the biblical Ten Commandments do not relate to current global problems, such as overpopulation and the arms race. “We’re living with outmoded rules,” he said. “The rules we’re living under is the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody here even pays much attention to them, because they are too old. When Moses went up on the mountain, there were no nuclear weapons, there was no poverty. Today, the commandments wouldn’t go over. Nobody around likes to be commanded. Commandments are out.”
Actually, the commandments were out even in Moses’ day. It wasn’t long after he had told the people what the commandments were that they broke the commandment on adultery. Moses came down from Mt. Sinai and gave the people the commandments in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, but in chapter 31 Moses went back up Mt. Sinai to receive the commandments of God in writing. But before he could make it down the people had broken the first two commandments by worshiping other gods and making idols of them. They broke the seventh commandment by engaging in sexual revelry.
Leading the Israelites was a difficult job. There was a lot of whining and complaining. The people grumbled and even tried to kill Moses. They blamed him for everything, and he did not always handle everything well. He was the man in the muddle. He was in the middle of a confusing relationship between God and his people. This morning we want to look at the life of Moses and the lessons we can learn from his life. The first point I would like to make is that: Moses was a mortal. Moses was not a righteous man in the first part of his life. He lived for forty years as a prince of Egypt. He lived an indulgent lifestyle. But God began to move his heart for his people. He realized he was a Hebrew and not an Egyptian. Perhaps his adoptive mother, the daughter of Pharaoh, told him. One day he saw an Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew. He quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching an then killed the Egyptian. He was a murderer, and when his crime became known he had to run away from Egypt.
He lived for the next forty years in Midian, a country adjacent to Egypt. Here is where God began to deal with him in earnest. As Moses was tending his sheep, God spoke to him from the burning bush. He called him to lead his people out of Egypt. God promised Moses that he would be with him and give him the power and ability to do what he was calling him to do. But Moses protested to God the whole way. First, he said that the Hebrews would no longer recognize the God of their fathers since they had been in slavery so long. Then he complained that the people would not believe that the Lord had appeared to him. Then he told God that he was not a good public speaker, and to stand in front of Pharaoh and his court was not his cup of tea. Finally, he simply pled with God to send someone else. He was full of doubt about himself and he even doubted God’s ability to carry this out — even when he was face to face with God and saw the miracle of the burning bush.
Moses was a mortal, he was a hot tempered man. His tempter led him to kill the Egyptian. His temper flared when the people began to grumble and complain. Once, when God told him to speak to a rock so that water would come out and refresh the people in the desert, Moses pounded on the rock in frustration at the constant complaining of the people. He even failed to mention that God was the source of the water for the people. Listen to the Bible as it describes the scene: “[Moses] and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them’” (Numbers 20:10-12). We see Moses at his best and at his worst as he responds to the challenges of leading the people of Israel. He made a serious mistake, but it proved that he was mortal.