The rods of Moses and the Magicians turned into Serpents, as in Exodus 7:10-12 Illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible; illustrated by Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, and published by P. de Hondt in The Hague; image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries - Wikimedia

by Brian Shilhavy 

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)

The record of the life of Moses in the Bible is a story that tells us about the successes and failures of the man Moses. Few have walked this earth and experienced such contrasting experiences of despair and joy.

As I have written in other articles, we are all created for a purpose, and we find that purpose for our lives by developing a relationship with God, listening to his voice, and following his plan for our lives. Moses was a prophet, but he was unique among all other prophets in his age, and in the ages to come before Jesus came to earth, in that he regularly talked directly with God:

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. (Numbers 12:6-8)

Moses carried on conversations with God, apparently in his Hebrew dialect. The task God was giving to Moses was so fantastic, so significant, that God had to make sure there was no doubt in Moses’ mind that it was him who was speaking to him, and telling him what his purpose in life was.

Moses was a Hebrew born in Egypt during a time when all the Hebrew baby boys were commanded to be put to death. Moses’ mother hid him and he was found by the king of Egypt’s daughter. So he was raised by a princess.

When he became an adult, however, he saw how his people were mistreated as slaves, and apparently God put it in his heart to be the deliverer of his people. Unfortunately, he tried to do this in his own way, and ended up murdering an Egyptian who was beating one of the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, heard about it and tried to kill Moses, but Moses ran away into the desert to hide. He lived there for 40 years as a shepherd, got married, and raised a family.

Then one day, God appeared to him in a burning bush that never burned up, and started talking to him. He told Moses to go back to Egypt and deliver his people from their bondage as slaves. He made it clear to Moses that he would be with him and that he would show his power to Pharaoh. Moses did everything he could to try and convince God that he had the wrong man, but God was not persuaded. This was God’s purpose and plan for Moses, and when your Creator talks to you face to face in your own language, there can be no doubt!

So Moses goes to Egypt along with his brother Aaron to confront the king and watch God make a fool of Pharaoh, and bring about a great deliverance for his people. He told his people the news, performed a couple of miracles and they cheered him on. Everything was going well. God spoke to Moses. Moses listened. Moses obeyed. Moses followed the plan perfectly.

But then his world fell apart.

I am convinced that Moses’ first encounter with Pharaoh as recorded in Exodus chapter 5 was probably the lowest point of his life. He did everything God asked him to do, but it only infuriated Pharaoh, and in turn he made life even more difficult for the Hebrews, increasing their labor and hardship. The Hebrews wanted nothing to do with Moses after that (I am sure some wanted to kill him), and Pharaoh had basically laughed at Moses and mocked him and his God.

Moses did everything right, but everything turned out wrong! The result was loneliness, anger, and despair.

Scripture does not tell us how long the interval was between Moses’ first and second encounter with Pharaoh. His subsequent meetings with Pharaoh were much more successful. It could have been days, weeks, months, or even longer before he dared to go back to Pharaoh a second time in obedience to God. We do see that the conversation between Moses and God continued during this time, as Moses expressed his anger and complained to God: Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23)

Since Moses himself is the one who recorded these events, there is probably a lot he left out in his writings of this time period, since it was such a depressing time for him. I imagine his complaining and anger towards God were much more involved than what is recorded here! He would naturally be brief in his record of those dark days, and instead emphasize the victories that followed in his writings. After such humiliation and disgrace, I am sure there were many other conversations with God, and there are 39 verses written before the next encounter with Pharaoh happened, suggesting that this was the longest interval between Moses’ encounters with Pharaoh. It was undoubtedly one of the darkest periods of his life, if not the darkest. He was alone and rejected by his people, and even his wife (who was a Midianite, a descendant of Ishmael and not a Hebrew) had abandoned him on the way to Egypt, returning to her father with their children.

But God had not abandoned him, and he kept talking to him. Moses listened. He didn’t have too many other choices.

Most of us know the rest of the story, and how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and inflicted many plagues on him and his country, until they lost everything. The Hebrews plundered their wealth and left their life of slavery in Egypt to journey to the Promised Land. God did just what he said he would do, and Moses became one of the most famous people in all human history. Imagine how the course of human history would have changed if Moses had given up after that first encounter with Pharaoh, where Pharaoh mocked him and then punished his people in return by making their lives more miserable. It would have been easy for Moses to give up after his first defeat. After all, his family was back in Midian, his home of 40 years, and how were they supposed to get along without him? He could have come up with some very good reasons to quit and go back home. And who would have blamed him? Everyone would probably have been happy to see him leave at that point! They were undoubtedly saying things to him like: “Nice try Moses, but go back to the desert where you belong! You’re only making things worse here!”

But that wasn’t God’s plan, and Moses chose to keep listening to God and to keep doing what he told him to do, even in the face of complete opposition and humiliation.

There are some incredible lessons for us to learn from Moses’ life, and his conversations with God. When we listen to God and obey his plan for our life, there is no guarantee that things are always going to go well.

In fact, we may experience some of the most difficult times in our life just after making a decision to obey God and to take a step in faith. We may find depressing times in our life where everyone has abandoned us.

During those times, it is crucial to follow Moses’ example, and to not turn away from God in anger during those times. Being angry and expressing our anger to God is OK, but we need to keep talking to God and keep listening to him, so we can believe and trust that there is master plan that will all work out in the end.

That’s what faith is. Faith is trusting in God not only when things are going well, but when life is darkest. It is easy to trust God when things are going well and we are seeing God work and do incredible things in our life. But faith is what is needed when we sink to the lowest pits of despair. Blaming God will do no good in such situations. We need to express to him our feelings, but then we need to listen to his response. He won’t disappoint us like others in our life will.

Are you going through difficulties today? Are you turning towards God in your situation, or away from him? Are you listening to him, or avoiding him? One way leads to despair and sickness, the other way leads to healing and restoration by strengthening our faith.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:6-9)

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