Summary: Moses, Pt. 2 of 15

WHAT’S THE RUSH? (EX 2:11-25)

People value quickness, service, and convenience, and smart businesses know how to capitalize on and profit from that need.

Customers can get their photographs done in an hour, shoppers can use the express lane for 10 items or less, and subscribers can receive up-to-the-minute stock quotes, sports score, and breaking news with new technology. Some enterprising eateries or restaurants even guarantee their customers a free lunch if they do not get their order by a specific time. For example, Black Angus had offered free lunch to those who were not served in 10 minutes, and Domino’s Pizza had dangled free food for pizza delivered past 30 minutes.

Waiting is the pits for me. For me, most games - NBA, NCAA or NFL – can be reduced to the last two minutes. Meeting at a bookstore is preferable, so that I could read or browse around if my friends are late.

Moses grew to be a promising prince, but he was not yet ready to command a following - Egyptians, Jews, or both. He was prejudiced, impulsive and violent. He made a mistake in his early life and paid dearly for it the next 40 years of his life in exile, leaving his people, the Egyptian palace, and a promising future. However, the long wait was anything but a big waste. Moses learned to live life outside his comfort zone, to relate to others, and to respond to God’s orders.

It’s been said that we do not always get what we want when we pray. God answers us in three ways - yes, no, and wait. Why wait? What are its reasons, benefits, and rewards?


11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?" 14 The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known." (Ex 2:11-14)

During the Los Angeles riots, an NBC radio reporter (Steve Futterman) who was covering the Los Angeles riot asked looters emerging from a store what goods they were taking from stores. He asked a looter, "What did you take?" The man, caught like a deer in headlights in his futile attempt to dodge the reporter, the question, and the camera, replied, "Nothing!"

The same question to a second man resulted in angry cussing. Not giving up, the reporter pursued a third man. "What did you take?" he asked the third man." The looter replied, “I got some gospel music. I love Jesus.” (Los Angeles Times, 10/4/92)

Moses the Hebrew learned that negative aspiration, ambition and aggression were unacceptable - murder was not an option. Moses’ behavior was exposed, denounced, and penalized.

There is no wrong way to do the right thing, the end does not justify the means, and quick fixes are no long-term solutions. Ironically, Moses thought that the way to alleviate the Israelites’ burdens (Ex 2:11) was by force. His attempt to return blow for blow blew up in his face. The word for “beating” that a Egyptian gave to a Hebrew (Ex 2:11) was the same word for what Moses meted out to another Egyptian that killed the Egyptian (Ex 2:12).

When Moses next met two Hebrew men who were in an intense struggle, the one in the wrong (v 13) had the audacity to question and challenging Moses’ authority! The power of Moses the prince over others was toothless. His question was answered with two questions: "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" (Ex 2:14)!

Leading by power is unacceptable, leading by persuasion is commendable, but leading by permission is superior. The Hebrew slave gave Moses an earful on the freedom of slaves. Slave-owners could rebuke, arrest, and even kill their slaves, but they could never tell their slaves how to think, what to believe, and what is right. Slave-owners could only control their slaves’ body, but not their mind. They could determine slaves’ freedom, but not their freedom to think. Power makes people obey, listen or fear you, but persuasion changes the way people think, feel, or say, and only with permission can the final changes be applied.

Moses was used to doing things without permission. He killed the Egyptian because he thought he could as an Egyptian prince or because he thought he should as a loyal Hebrew, but as a fellow Hebrew, an equal, he fell short because he did not seek another’s permission. A slave must endure things done to him, but a free man can only tolerate things done with him or by him. Moses’ effort to arbitrate, control, and right the situation would be praiseworthy if he had others’ permission.


15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. (Ex 2:15-17)

A Jewish story tells of the education of Moses as a shepherd: One day, while Moses was grazing his flock, he noticed a little goat had strayed away, so he ran after it for fear that it would get lost and die of hunger and thirst in the wilderness.

Suddenly, from a distance, Moses saw the little goat stop and drink eagerly from a spring. Then he understood that the little animal was thirsty and for that reason had left the flock. When Moses came nigh it he said, "My dear little goatkin! Had I known that you were only thirsty I would not have run after you."

When the little goat had quenched its thirst, Moses placed it upon his shoulders and carried it all the way back to the flock. "The little goat is weak and young," he thought compassionately, "therefore I must carry it."

When God saw what Moses had done He was greatly pleased and said to him, "Deep is your compassion, O Moses! Because of your kindness to this little animal you will be the leader of My people Israel, and are destined to serve as their devoted shepherd.” (Treasury of Jewish Folklore 457-58, ed. By Nathan Ausubel (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1948)

In the face of two questions or challenges by a fellow Hebrew, Moses was overwhelmed with fear, escaped the country, and changed his identity. But in the wilderness of Midian his real training and education began, as a shepherd, servant, and stranger.

Moses’ best education was not in the palace of Egypt, but in the fields of Midian. He received his degree in the school of shepherding, in gathering, guarding, and guiding flocks of defenseless, dirty, and dumb sheep. In time, he learned the nature, the habits, and the peculiarities of sheep, and learned to embrace, love, and nurture these dependent animals. Even at 40, Moses was not too old or too late to change.

The former prince also learned to serve instead of being served, far from his privileged background and position. He also learned the value of working hard, braving the heat, doing the chores, and getting things done. On top of that, Moses had mastered the art of defending helpless people (Ex 2:17), surviving waterless spots, and tending powerless animals. No request, reward, or reminder from others was necessary for him. Dr. Howard Whaley remarked on Moses: "Somebody has said that he had a bigger head earlier than he does now, but then he had a bigger heart after God spoke to him than he had previously."

Finally, with fatherhood Moses asserted, “I have become an alien in a foreign land”

(Ex 2:22). The education of Moses as a foreigner, a wanderer and a stranger bode well for him in the future. His alien mentality would help him to survive the forty years’ wilderness wanderings. Later Moses had no problems coping with the desert, because he had lived in tents, sat by wells, and learned to cope with being alone, afraid, or away.


21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, "I have become an alien in a foreign land." 23 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 2:21-25)

Experience takes time. As the wise-guy, smart-alecky Calvin told Hobbes in the living room, in front of the television set: "I don’t like real experience. It’s too hard to figure out! You never know what’s going on! You don’t have any control over events! I prefer to have life filtered through television. That way you know events have been packaged for your convenience! I like a narrative imposed on life, so everything logically proceeds to a tidy conclusion. And if you don’t like what’s happening, "Click," you change the channel and there’s something different! That’s how real life should be." (LA Times 10/4/92).

I looked up a typical week in the job marketplace and discovered the high regard our society has for experience:

Hotel: Front Office Manager. Minimum 1 year experience with proven results.

Computer- Re-engineering: Masters & 3+ years consulting experience with original design.

Management- Customer Service Manager. Min 5 years successful customer service management experience

Administrator - 8 years minimum experience in residential facility for the elderly.

Verse 23 puts the waiting period of Moses in the proper perspective. It says, “During that long period.” In Hebrew, it means great or many days.

Why did God spend decades to train Moses, even when the Israelites were suffering, groaning, and crying out to God for as long as 430 years before God took them out of Egypt (Ex 12:40)? Wasn’t it urgent for God to act and return Moses to Egypt as soon as possible? Urgent, no. Rather, it was rather important for Moses to acquire the necessary experience.

Moses needed to learn how to live practically, patiently, and passionately again. To his credit, Moses was a success in the practical realm of family life. As a whole, he was a proven husband, father, son-in-law and brother-in-law. He had no major complain (2:21) about marrying into the family, and he survived six sisters-in-law and a father-in-law who was a priest (Ex 2:16), an achiever, a live-in (2:21), and a talker (18:19). A friend jokingly said that a man cannot marry a girl who has all these three conditions: she is richer, taller, and more intelligent! Two was OK, he said.

Moses also learned the patience of dwelling as an alien in a foreign land. He remained 40 years in the wilderness of Midian (Acts 7:30) in preparation for the forty years he will spend in Sinai. God has a reason and an occasion for everything. Forty years was time enough for Moses to get over the past, get rid of his baggage, and get on with his life.

Conclusion: Are you still stalling in your growth? Where are you stuck? Are there things in your life hindering your personal growth, your relationship to God and others? Do you have a crummy attitude when you have to wait and when things are delayed? Seek to trust God, still yourself, and appreciate people, life, and things. Do not allow annoying people, disturbing circumstances, and urgent tasks control you. Like Moses, maybe some of us need to lie flat on our face for a while before we can stand tall.

Victor Yap (Chinese sermons)