Summary: This sermon is an introduction to a study of the life of Moses. It is based on Charles Swindoll's book on Moses from his character series.


A. A young girl asked her father, “Do all fairy tales begin with “Once Upon A Time?”

1. “No,” he replied, “A whole lot of them begin with ‘If elected I promise…’ ”

B. “Once upon a time” is a wonderful, classic phrase that has been used in storytelling, in the English language, in some form since at least 1380 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary).

1. It became a widely accepted convention for opening oral narratives by around 1600.

2. These stories often then end with “...and they all lived happily ever after.”

3. There are a couple of modern variants of the phrase – I think you will recognize them.

4. Don McLean's 1971 hit song “American Pie” begins with the phrase “A long, long time ago...”

a. “So bye-bye, miss american pie. Drove my chevy to the levee, But the levee was dry.”

5. All six of the Star Wars films begin with the phrase “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...”

C. Today, we begin a sermon series in which we will retell the story of God and His people during the time of Moses.

1. Unlike the fairy tales we love, this story is a true one.

2. All of the people, places, and events are and were real.

3. As we embark on this study of the life of Moses, I want us to begin with the goal of becoming God’s followers and leaders just like Moses.

4. I hope we will learn from him the important lessons that God wants to teach us.

5. I trust that we will learn as much from his failures as we learn from his victories.

D. What are the first thoughts or images that come to mind when I mention Moses?

1. I hope it isn’t Moses Malone, who is a Hall of Fame basketball player and one of the NBA's 50 greatest players of all time.

2. When I say Moses, you more likely think of Charlton Heston in the award-winning film, The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

3. Today’s generation is more likely to think of the rendition of Moses in the animated film called The Prince of Egypt.

E. Unfortunately, both of those films present the story of Moses in a less than realistic and truthful fashion.

1. The most reliable source about the life of Moses is the Bible, and it is to the Bible that we will turn for our study.

2. As we examine the story of Moses that comes from Scripture, we will find that we can relate to this man who faced the kinds of struggles we face, but didn’t always handle them correctly.

3. Nevertheless, we will see that in spite of his sins and shortcomings, Moses became useful in God’s hands for God’s sovereign purposes, in keeping with God’s perfect timing and plan.

4. Over and over, we will find ourselves nodding with understanding, thinking, “been there, done that.”

5. Time and again we will be inspired by the life of an ordinary human being who, by God’s matchless grace and power, was able to accomplish some pretty remarkable things.

6. I believe that God is still looking for men, women and children who will believe in Him and become a mighty tool in His hand.

I. The Story

A. The story of Moses is told in the book of Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament.

1. The very title of that book should tip us off to the fact that great and climactic events are in the works.

2. The word “Exodus” means “departure, going out,” and that certainly describes the major theme of the book.

3. The book of Exodus records the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, where they had lived for more than 400 years.

4. They had entered the land of Egypt as a small family, and they departed as a huge nation.

5. The book of Exodus actually continues the story that began in the book of Genesis.

6. Exodus picks up where Genesis leaves off, some 350 years later.

B. The connection between these two books is the fascinating story of a man named Joseph.

1. The main character toward the end of Genesis is Joseph.

2. You remember his story, don’t you? We preached through his story last summer.

3. He was the second youngest of 12 brothers, and was hated and mistreated by them, and sold by them as a slave to a passing caravan bound for Egypt.

4. Nevertheless, through time and a chain of incredible events, God greatly honored Joseph and promoted him from the pit to the pinnacle – second in command in all of Egypt.

5. All this occurred just in time, because God informed Joseph of a terrible famine that was going to sweep all the world.

6. Joseph had 7 years to prepare for it, and the famine was going to last 7 years.

7. It was the famine that forced Joseph to be reunited with his family.

8. They came to Egypt for food, and ended up moving there.

C. If we hope to appreciate the Exodus, we must first understand how the Israelites ended up in that foreign land in the first place.

1. God had promised Abraham and his descendants that they would possess the land of Canaan - that rich land just East of the Mediterranean Sea.

2. But before they became the great nation that would possess Canaan, God moved them to Egypt.

D. Things started out very good for them when they first arrived in Egypt.

1. Pharaoh welcomed them with open arms.

2. The Bible says: Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6 and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.” (Gen. 47:5-6)

3. They were given choice real estate – prime property – and good jobs.

4. That generous offer reveals just how highly Pharaoh regarded Joseph.

E. For about 70 years after their radical relocation, life rolled along like the lazy Nile River.

1. The Bible says: Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. (Gen. 50:22-23)

2. The very last verse of Genesis reads: So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Gen. 50:26)

3. Joseph’s passing marked the beginning of the end of the good life for the Jews in Egypt.

4. With Joseph no longer on the scene to represent and put in a good word for his family, the Egyptian attitude toward these foreigners soured.

5. As we know all too well from our world’s bloody history, mounting suspicion toward a people group is only a step away from prejudice, which is only a step away from persecution, which is only a step away from genocide.

F. So, where did this prejudice toward the Jews come from? I think we can identify at least two sources.

1. When Joseph’s family first came to Egypt, he warned them about a significant cultural difference there in Egypt.

a. Joseph told them, “Whatever you do, guys, don’t tell Pharaoh you’re shepherds. Keep that part under your hats. Just tell him you’re keepers of livestock.”

b. The Egyptians considered themselves very sophisticated and truthfully, Egyptian culture had risen to a high water mark.

c. To the Egyptians, the shepherds were the “low-life’s.

d. Unfortunately, Joseph’s relatives were shepherds in a land that hated shepherds.

2. The first chapter of Exodus reveals the other reason the Jews became so undesirable to the Egyptians.

a. The Bible says: Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. 8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Ex. 1:6-8)

b. So the day came when a new Pharaoh came into power who didn’t know Joseph nor what Joseph had done for Egypt.

c. After several centuries past, the name of Joseph became virtually unknown. No one remembered the famine and Joseph’s masterful leadership during it.

d. That goes to show you how quickly each of us are forgotten after we are gone.

e. Thankfully, God will never forget us or the good we have done in His name.

f. So this new Pharaoh despised the growing Hebrew population and knew that something must be done.

G. The Bible says: 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly. (Ex. 1:9-14)

1. Do those ominous words remind you of something else that happened to the Jews later in history?

2. Those words remind me of the misfortunes of the Jewish people in the land of Germany in the dark days prior to World War II.

3. Things for them changed so drastically under a hateful new ruler named Adolph Hitler.

4. Not only were the Jews murdered and huddled into death camps, they were also forced into cruel corporate slavery and were literally worked to death.

5. What happened in Egypt seems a strange foreshadowing of what was going to take place in the Holocaust.

H. Back there in Egypt, all of a sudden a devastating new policy came into effect and life would never be the same.

1. Out went their lives of ease and prosperity.

2. In came taskmasters and the whip.

3. Before anyone could figure out what had gone wrong and what they might do, the taskmasters appeared on the scene, like an angry troop of German SS officers.

4. The Hebrews were forced to make bricks under the snarl of slave drivers and the crack of the whip.

I. And so it might have remained until the Hebrews were ground into the Egyptian dust, but the Bible says: During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Ex. 2:23-25)

1. God heard their cry. God had not been sleeping. He was aware of their suffering.

2. God well remembered His promise to Abraham.

3. Way back, centuries before Exodus chapter 1, God spoke to Abraham and gave him this prophesy about what was to come: 13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Gen. 15:13-14)

4. Through Moses we will see that prophesy be fulfilled.

5. They had become strangers in that foreign land and they had become enslaved and mistreated.

6. God’s hand-picked deliverer was about to come on the scene and deal with both the Israelites and Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

J. Return with me to Exodus 1 for a moment.

1. The more the Egyptians persecuted the Hebrews, the more the Hebrews multiplied.

2. So when Pharaoh’s “work-‘em-to-death” tactic didn’t work, he unleashed an even darker plan.

3. Again, we are reminded of the Nazi tactics in the 20th century.

4. When Pharaoh saw that he harsh conditions of slavery didn’t achieve his ends, he turned to infanticide and then to murder.

5. The Bible says: 15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (Ex. 1:15-16)

a. Pharaoh’s murderous plan sounds a lot like the present practice known as “partial birth abortion.”

6. But the Hebrew midwives refused to cooperate.

7. The Bible says: 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Ex. 1:22)

8. Thankfully, those courageous women and Moses’ own parents were not afraid of the king’s edict (Heb. 11:23).

9. They feared God more than they feared the laws of the king.

10. Praise God for courageous people of faith both back then and today!

II. The Application

A. As we ponder this introduction to the life of Moses, let’s consider three truths that Swindoll points out in his book on the life of Moses - these are truths we will repeatedly encounter during our study.

B. First, We can be assured that hard times don’t erase God’s promises.

1. The Jewish people found themselves in terrible straits, but God had promised to deliver them.

2. When times grow hard it is easy to leap to the conclusion that God has forgotten His promises.

3. The story of the Israelites and Moses will show us that when God makes a promise, He never fails to keep it.

C. Second, We can be assured that harsh treatment doesn’t escape God’s notice.

1. In Exodus chapter three, God later said to Moses: 7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians...(Ex. 3:7-8)

2. When we go through our greatest trials and darkest periods, it is easy to become discouraged and to begin to wonder if God is aware of our situation and to wonder if He cares.

3. This is one of Satan’s most effective tools and it’s one of Satan’s greatest lies.

4. Truth is – God is always aware and He cares deeply.

5. And as we will see later in the story, He will do whatever it takes to rescue His people.

6. It may be by calling you home to heaven, or it may be by splitting the ocean and letting you walk on dry ground.

7. God’s deliverance may not arrive on our timetable or in the manner we expect, but it will arrive at the right time and in the right way.

D. Finally, We can be assured that heavy tests don’t eclipse God’s concern.

1. No matter how hard the test nor how well we endure it, God loves us and wants to help us.

2. Perhaps you are going through an especially hard test right now.

3. Perhaps the future stretching out before you may seem gloomy or threatening.

4. Please know that God is concerned and know that God is with you.

5. God will never leave us nor forsake us. He is right beside us as we pass through the fire.

6. Hudson Talyor, who spent 50 years as a missionary in China in the 19th century, wrote: “It doesn’t matter how great the pressure is; what really matters is where the pressure lies. Whether it comes between you and God or presses you nearer His heart.”

E. I hope that these truths are encouraging to each of us today.

1. Whether we are in the midst of our darkest days, or our dark days are behind us, or ahead of us, we need to cling to these truths:

a. Hard times don’t erase God’s promises

b. Harsh treatment doesn’t escape God’s notice

c. Heavy tests don’t eclipse God’s concern

2. We desperately need God every moment of our lives, but we are more acutely aware of our need for the Lord during our must difficult and dark times.

3. On Thursday, my Bible reading took me to this comforting passage from Psalm 57:

1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,

for in you my soul takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings

until the disaster has passed.

2 I cry out to God Most High,

to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.

3 He sends from heaven and saves me,

rebuking those who hotly pursue me;

God sends his love and his faithfulness.

4. May we take refuge under the shadow of God’s wings as He fulfills His purposes and sends His love and faithfulness.

F. The story of Moses is one that we can study and be inspired by, but it is completed. In contrast to that the story of God continues to be written through our lives.

1. May we continue to become the followers and leaders of the Lord that are used for His purposes and glory – Both in the good time and the bad.


Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication, by Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, 1999