Publication: Pastoral Letter, April 2016
Late one cold and icy evening, a woman was driving home with her baby daughter strapped in her car seat. For some reason, the woman missed a bridge and the car tumbled down a slope into the shallow, frigid stream below. The mother was killed. It was 14 hours later, the next morning, before the police found the mangled car upside down in the water. As they approached the car, they heard a woman’s voice crying out for help.
The four officers rushed to the car and turned it onto its side. They saw the infant hanging upside from her car seat with the frigid water rushing just beneath her head. They saw the deceased woman who had been dead for hours. After rescuing the baby, they searched the car and nearby area for the woman who had cried for help. They could find no one. They had all heard the voice, and after searching, concluded that it must have been an angel. The baby lives; a book has been written that describes the impact upon one of the officers whose life was changed.
3500 YEARS EARLIER
Many centuries before the baby girl was drawn from the water, another baby was drawn from the water, and that child grew up to make an impact upon history. This is a condensed version of his story: His forefathers had entered Egypt, with the family and servants numbering 70 people. As the years passed, their number grew and multiplied to many thousands. New kings came upon the Egyptian throne, and the people who had entered Egypt, the Israelites, came to be viewed as a possible threat; so much so that the king began to oppress and enslave them. But the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied.
Finally the king decreed that all Israelite baby boys be put to death by drowning in the river. The Israelite midwives disobeyed the order. One of the newborn baby boys was hidden by his mother for three months, but when she could hide him no longer, she used a basket to make a small ark and set it afloat on the river under the watchful eye of his older sister.
Soon, the princess came to the river to bathe and heard the baby cry. Inside the basket she saw the child and looked upon it with favor. She named him “Moses” because he was “drawn from the water.” His name was prophetic; he would later draw the entire nation of Israel through the water.
Moses’ older sister had watched the princess take her baby brother from the water; she ran to ask the princess if she would like to find a nursing mother for the child. The princess agreed and so it was that Moses’ own mother was able to nurse him in his early life before returning him to the palace. The princess even paid the mother to do so.
FORTY YEARS LATER
Moses is now forty years old having grown up in the palace with all of its luxury and enjoying the benefits of the finest education. He understood the ways of Egypt, knew the king and the idolatry that corrupted the nation. In addition, he never forgot his own history and the God of his people. But the conditions of Israel had now gotten much worse.
One day he decided to visit the area where his people lived, and in the course of his journey, he saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew. He was enraged; looking around, he saw no one else,so he killed the Egyptian. Later he saw two Hebrews in a dispute and tried to arbitrate. One of them said, “Who made you ruler over us? Will you kill me too?” Moses became a hunted man and a fugitive, so he fled east to Midian, into the desert.
The contrast between the palace and wilderness could not have been greater: extreme temperatures, sparse vegetation, searching for his own food, and wondering if he would be found or killed. He had to learn a completely new way to live.
In the course of time, he met and married Zipporah, daughter of a Midianite priest. Then came their son Gershom, whose name meant, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”. For the next 40 years, Moses became a lowly shepherd doing the same humble tasks day-in and day-out.
One can only imagine his thoughts, “Is this all there is? Is this my life ’til I die?” His past seemed to have betrayed his once great promise. A great education and all the learning of Egypt seemed now only a waste. There are many people wandering in some wilderness with similar questions and wondering, “Is this all there is? Does my life have any real meaning?”
Moses spent 40 more years in what seemed a wasted life. Now he was 80 years old, and one day, he was on the “backside of the desert” approaching Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. Only then there were no signs saying, “You are approaching the mountain of God.” It just seemed to be another mountain.
As the sheep grazed on the slopes of the mountain, Moses noticed a bush that was ablaze. In itself, that may not have been so unusual, because in hot, dry desert heat, a bush might simply explode in flames. What was unusual, it kept on burning and was not consumed. Moses began to walk toward the bush and then heard, “Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground!” He covered his face in the fear of God. (See Exodus 3.)
Looking once again, he saw in the midst of the flames an angel. Then Moses heard, “I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” This was no ordinary angel; I believe he saw Jesus. The “Angel” continued to speak, “I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, I have heard their cry, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them into a large land that flows with milk and honey….”
Moses’ life had been suddenly interrupted by the presence and Word of God (see Malachi 3:1; Acts 2:2). The Word of God was good news to Moses but what the Lord said next was startling; “I will send you.” The good news got personal.
Moses stood shaken and stammering before the fiery bush, “Who will I say sent me? Who am I to do this?” The Lord replied, “Tell them ‘I AM’ sent you, that is my name forever.”
When the Lord calls us, we have all kinds of questions, just as Moses did: “Who am I?” “How can I do that?” “I am too old” or “too young” or “too something.” But the question is not who am I? It is, Who is God? He is still the I AM (see Hebrews 13:8).
Moses’ life finally made sense; it came together that moment at the burning bush. The 40 years in Egypt and now 40 years in the wilderness were all preparation. Meeting the Lord brings meaning to what once seemed senseless. The past, present, and future became purposeful. He began his ministry at 80 but preparation started even before his birth.
The Moses that was drawn from the waters would liberate an entire nation and draw it through the waters of the Red Sea and lead them to the very place where he met God at the burning bush. Only then, the entire mountain would be touched by the fire and glory of God (see Exodus 24:17; Hebrews 12:18).
1 CORINTHIANS 10
The Apostle Paul tells us that Moses and the journey of Israel are examples to us. Israel is the Old Covenant model of New Covenant essence. Israel at its best and worst teach us the ways of God and man. Israel was redeemed by blood (see Exodus 12). It was baptized in the cloud and in the sea. The Exodus was a journey to the promises.
I want to mention just 3 more lessons that Moses’ story gives to us:
• If you have been baptized, you have been “drawn from the water.” Baptism is a picture of death, burial, and resurrection. It is a cleansing from dead works; it is rising from death to new life, a life that is a journey to the promises of God. Prior to baptism, we are self-governing wanderers; rising from the water, we enter the government (Kingdom) of our Redeemer who wants to take us to “His place.”
• It was meeting Jesus that gave our lives meaning and mission. Our past, our present, and our future come together. Even the wilderness hard times had purpose. Without meeting Jesus, we would still be wanderers and wondering why life happened to us at all. Had there been no burning bush, the Moses we now know would never have existed. Not only do we know him but he has become a model to us and to great people like the Apostle Paul. Even Jesus speaks of Moses. I think that Jesus had a meeting with Moses at that bush.
• A final lesson: You don’t have to be perfect to be used by God, you just have to be willing. Moses was not perfect. He had a bad temper that kept him from concluding the journey. He had killed a man; he sometimes argued with God; he took too much upon himself. But it was God’s idea to call him, and in spite of Moses objections, he was willing.
Too many people build their pedestals so high that they can never reach them. Remember, God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!
THE REDEEMING MISSION
We will never be another Moses but we can be somebody’s “Moses.” We can lead someone or many through the waters into a journey to the promises of God. Consider now that a person is afflicted, oppressed, enslaved, or bearing a heavy load–perhaps their own guilt. It is not enough that we have met the Lord ourselves and found meaning to our lives; God has a mission for us that will require all that our past has taught. Remember, the One who sent us will be there with us and He is still the same today!
I hope you will be with us in Gatlinburg at our annual CSM Leadership Conference, May 11-13. Our theme this year is “UNSHAKEN!” Given all of the shaking that is going on all around us, we believe this theme is timely, inspiring, and practical. Among our featured guest speakers will be Russian evangelist and author JOSEPH BONDARENKO (KGB’s MOST WANTED) and TAKOOSH HOVSEPIAN, wife of martyred Iranian Christian Pastor Haik Hovsepian. Registration is still open, but deadlines are fast approaching! Please visit us at www.csmpublishing.org to register or call (251) 633-7900. We will have tremendous times of fellowship and worship together in a beautiful mountain setting.
Please continue to remember us in your financial giving this month, and in your prayers. See the enclosed card for more information. We are so thankful for your friendship and we pray God’s blessings for you and yours!
Scripture References: Exodus 3; Hebrews 13:8, Exodus 24:17; Hebrews 12:18; 1 Corinthians 10; Exodus 12