In a Flame of Fire
November 16th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-16-58 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled In A Flame Of Fire. In our following through the life of Moses, going through the Old Testament, last Sunday morning we spoke of the offer of Moses as a prince in Egypt to deliver Israel by the strength of his own right hand. He had thought that the children of bondage would receive him with great acclamation, proclaim him their true leader and emancipator, but to his great astonishment and sorrow, they refused him. They did not understand that he had proposed to be their deliverer. In Acts 7:23 and following:
And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren . . .
And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
They rejected him:
And when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well
Weary, heartbroken, discouraged, it was all over as far as Moses was concerned. “Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh” [Exodus 2:15].
There are so many explanations, probing, trying to find the story of Moses as it fit into the hieroglyphic, archaeological discoveries in that hermetically sealed land of the sand and the dune in Egypt. I have not been able to find that they have ever yet discovered any definite reference to Moses. If they have, I have not come across it; and I have searched and read and probed, and yet, in so many instances, will you find men, writing from those archaeological discoveries, saying that this is the reign and this is the thing that has happened. I wanted this morning just to take a moment to show you a very typical explanation.
The archaeologist who is now writing this says that the Pharaoh Thutmose II had no son. He had no heir. And the daughter, who had no brother, the daughter of the Pharaoh, who was heir apparent to the throne, was born in 1539 BC, and that Moses was born in 1525 BC. When Moses was born, the daughter of Pharaoh, the princess and heir apparent to the throne, was about fifteen years old. She adopted Moses as her son and named him “Thutmose Meshu.” Now Meshu, as we learned a few Sundays ago, is the ancient Egyptian word for “born of.” And she went back to an original meaning of Meshu , which originally meant to “draw out” and finally came to mean “be born of.” So she gave him the name in its original significance, Meshu, which in our English Bible here becomes Moses. So she named him Thutmose Meshu [Exodus 2:5-10].
Now when this girl, this princess, this heir apparent, after she had adopted Moses, about five years after that, that would be when she was about twenty years of age, her father died, and she ascended the throne with the name of Hatshepsut, Queen Hatshepsut, and Queen Hatshepsut built a beautiful palace in the Valley of the Kings. Now when she became a queen ruling over the domain of the Nile, she married a kinsman who became the prince consort—like Queen Victoria married Prince Albert—she married a kinsman who became her consort.
But, according to this archaeologist, she greatly loved, and doted upon, and had illimitable confidence in her son Meshu Thutmose, Moses. She entrusted to Moses the expedition against the Ethiopians which preserved and guarded her kingdom in his victory. She appointed her son Moses over all of the public works of the land, and it was under the direction of Moses that these great cities of Pithom and Raamses were built, which are mentioned in the first chapter of the Book of Exodus [Exodus 1:11].
Now this archaeologist says, it was while Moses was on an inspection tour of the building of the great canals and the cities of guardian and granary, it was while Moses was on one of those great inspection tours in the land of Egypt, that the Queen Hatshepsut suddenly died. And when she died, her consort immediately proclaimed himself Pharaoh of Egypt and took the title of Thutmose III. And the reason he succeeded in it was, he used this murder charge against Moses to drive him out of the land of Egypt [Exodus 2:11-15]. That’s the archaeologist’s explanation of why Moses fled before the face of Pharaoh.
Well, it’s logical; be easy to see how a Thutmose like that could rally the army and the patriotic sentiment of the people around himself when it became known that Moses was siding with the slaves and that he had slain one of their own Egyptian officers. Now, that’s just typical; I do not know whether a syllable of that is true or not, but that is just typical of an archaeologist’s explanation of why it was that Moses was driven out of the land of Egypt. Whether that is true, or something else is true, is immaterial.
It was a providence of God that it happened, for had Moses ascended the throne of the Pharaohs, we would have known him as just another Egyptian mummy in a Cairo museum. You can see them there by the rows and by the dozens; this is the great King Thutmose and this is the great King Rameses. And for the rows you can see them and Moses, Thutmose Meshu I, would have been just another one of those Egyptian mummies. But in the providence of God, the Lord had some greater and finer thing for him. You remember that the next time a great sorrow and despair and disappointment overwhelms your life: “Our times are in His hand, who saith, ’A whole I plan.’” [From “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” by Robert Browning, 1864] We don’t know. He didn’t know. And he was driven out of the land of Egypt, and fled from the face of Pharaoh [Exodus 2:15].
God had a training for that man. He wasn’t ready when he offered himself as the emancipator and deliverer of his people. He had even then much, much, much to learn. This man must be trained in the silence of the deserts for yet another forty years [Acts 7:30]. So, Moses flees in discouragement, in despair. He crosses the burning sands of the Sinaitic Peninsula. He treads the mountain passes of the great Horeb range and finally sits down by a well, weary, discouraged—his whole life’s ambition fallen into shreds and into pieces. He sits down wearily by a well in the land of Midian [Exodus 2:15]. This man, who was trained to rule on the throne of the Pharaohs, there in that desert country becomes nurse maid to the lambs as they were dropped in the spring; think of it [Exodus 3:1].
Now before we go on, I want to point out to you there are several things in the New Testament that make me think that Simon Peter was a tremendously large man physically, a big fisherman. Takes all six of those disciples to bring that net of fish to the land, but when they get it to the land and the Lord has spoken to Simon Peter and Peter has spoken to the Lord, Peter goes down there by himself and pulls the thing up to land just by himself, what all six of those others had been struggling with—now, little things like that [John 21:8-11].
Now I want to show you why I think Moses was a tremendously vigorous, strong man physically, not only because when God buried him at the age of one hundred twenty, his eye was not dim nor was his physical strength abated [Deuteronomy 34:7], but you look at this: first of all right here, he killed that Egyptian with one stroke [Exodus 2:12]. He must have been a tremendous man; I would suppose that Egyptian taskmaster had some kind of a defensive weapon in his hand. He had a whip, he had a club, he had something by which he was flailing the life out of that Hebrew, and yet, Moses walks up to the man, and in his impetuous anger, he smites him and fells him with one blow.
All right, here’s another one. Now, the priest of Midian, Jethro—the priestly name Reuel, “friend of God,” his actual name—the priest of Midian, Reuel, Jethro, had seven daughters, and they came to draw water, and they filled the trough with water for their father’s flock, and the shepherds came and insolently drove them away. That seemed to have been a usual thing because, when Moses helped them and they came home early, their father said, “How is it that you are come so soon today?” And they said that an Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds [Exodus 2:16-19].
In other words, it was a common thing, and those seven daughters of Jethro, of Reuel, drew the water to water their flocks, and those insolent shepherds everyday then took the water those girls had drawn and watered their own flocks. Then after they had their flocks watered, they went away, then the girls had to draw more water for their own sheep. Now, you look at this: and while this Egyptian was seated by the well, those girls came with their father’s flocks and drew the water, and the shepherds came as they had always come, and in their contumatish contumely, they drove them away. But Moses stood up—one man, one Egyptian—against all those surly shepherds, one man stood up, and he flailed the tar out of them. He knocked their heads together; he mashed their noses in the mud; just that one man! [Exodus 2:16-17].
Well, it made an impression upon those girls. I guess it would on any of us. They never had seen anything like that before. And so when they came home, why, the father said, “How is it? Why, you are already here so early?” And they said, “An Egyptian” [Exodus 2:18-19]. Shows you how Moses had learned the manners of the court and the style and language of the people. He didn’t impress them as being a Hebrew or a Midianite or a Semitic; he looked like an Egyptian, talked acted like . . . “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds,” plural, that one man, “And also he drew water enough for us, and watered the flock” [Exodus 2:19], that tremendous man.
And a kindness like that in the land of Midian was not to go unrequited, and the father said, “Where is the man? You go call him” [Exodus 2:20]. And the courtesy and graciousness of this prince of Egypt found an open door into the home of the priest of Midian, and he dwelt there, and Jethro gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses for wife [Exodus 2:21]; and so he took over—now you watch this—he took over the work of the girls [Exodus 3:1].
They, the seven daughters of Midian had kept their father’s flocks [Exodus 2:16], they were shepherdesses, and Moses took over the crook, the shepherd’s staff from those women. For the Bible says: Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian” [Exodus 3:1] And there you have it, the great prince of Egypt, trained to rule on the throne [Hebrews 11:24-27], now ministering to the sheep in the desert [Exodus 3:1]; a work that the girls of Jethro had been doing in the days past [Exodus 2:16]. “So Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God even to Horeb” [Exodus 3:1].
Now look—Oh look! There are days that come unannounced, no angels faces are seen over the battlements of glory, no seraphic voices are heard announcing the hour. And yet in these after years when we look back over these times, we say, “That was the great change, the turning point in my life,” yet you never realized it. So this day of all days, it arose, the sun, over the eastern horizon as it always had, the dull haze over the limitless expanse of sand, those interminable eastern deserts, and it ascended up and up over the craggy mountain range so seamed and scarred with the centuries, and rose to meridian strength, just like everyday had been for forty years—and apparently like everyday would be for forty more—until Moses had died and been buried in a nameless obscure grave.
There he stands, as he had stood for forty years tending the sheep [Acts 7:30], the sunrise in the morning, slowly make its way across the horizon and sink in the west, looking over his little flocks—sheep, browsing on the scant herbage or panting under the shadow of a great rock—just like every other day had been. Then suddenly, suddenly, a bush, a common bush, began to flame with the presence of deity, and out of the heart of fire, the voice of God broke the silence of the ages, and in a double crescendo the voice of the Lord God said, “Moses, Moses!” [Exodus 3:1-4].
If I had time here, I’d like to expatiate and we will sometime take a special moment for it. “And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire, and God called unto him out of the midst of the bush” [Exodus 3:2]; do you see anything there? Who is this? “The Angel of the Lord” [Exodus 3:2], which in the next verse is called “God” [Exodus 3:3], and whose name we will find out in a moment is Yahweh, Jehovah, “I Am” [Exodus 3:14]. Who is that? Who is this Angel of the Lord called God, whose name is Jehovah? I know Him. I meet Him in the New Testament, incarnate in the New Covenant, and they named Him Jesus” [Matthew 1:20-23]. But in the Old Book, He is called Yahweh, Jehovah, “the Angel of the Lord,” God Almighty [Exodus 3:2]. In the midst of the fire comes the voice of the Angel of the Lord, “Moses, Moses!” [Exodus 3:4].
And here is one of the most remarkable utterances in the Bible—in this one single utterance, God sums up the past and the present and the future—and He says to Moses, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” the past [Exodus 3:6]. Then He sums up the present, and the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt” [Exodus 3:7]. Then He speaks of the future, “Come now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt” [Exodus 3:10]. How much in so few words!
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing if all the ministers of God had that kind of a charge? No longer self-appointed organizers and administrators, but men who have a commission, men who are under orders from God, doing what God has commanded them to do, ministers of the Lord, “Come now, and I will send thee” [Exodus 3:10].
Now, I want you to look at what forty years had done to this man, what forty years had done to Moses. Back yonder, forty years before, in the impetuousness of youth, in the inexperience of young manhood, by the might of his own strong arm, Moses fought to deliver the people by his own strength and power, “For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that by his hand God would deliver them: but they understood not” [Acts 7:25]. That was forty years before, he was ready, he was eager, he was a volunteer. And in the impetuousness of young manhood, he went out to deliver the children of Israel. Now you look at him forty years later. And Moses said unto God, “Who am I, who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” [Exodus 3:11]. What a difference!
I see that difference all the time, all the time in the lives of young students. Here is a young precocious scholar, and at the end of his doctor’s work or at the end of his master’s work, he has the feeling and the persuasion that he has mastered the whole field that is assigned him into what he has begun to study. And he steps out of the medical college or he steps out of the graduate school or he steps out of the university, and he has that beautiful persuasion he knows everything and has an answer for every problem. He’s mastered the field. I want you to look at that same fellow twenty years later, thirty years later, and he hasn’t ceased to study. He has been studying in his field ever since. Yet twenty years later, thirty years later, if you talk to him, he will say, “I have come to the conclusion, I don’t think I know anything about the subject, I don’t think I know anything about it.”
How many times have I seen that in the attitude and spirit of a young preacher? My, when he gets out of college, when he is just out of the seminary, he just knows everything! He’s got an answer for every problem. My, how much does he know! Then, when he gets the age of Dr. Fowler, he doesn’t know anything, doesn’t know a thing in the world.
That’s why Moses had to stay in the desert forty years [Acts 7:30]. God couldn’t use Moses to reveal to him the great commandments and laws and words of God, as long as Moses was full of his own words and his own wisdom. It took forty years in the desert to get him to the place where Moses could say to God, “Lord, Lord who am I? Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh? [Exodus 3:11]. I’m not the sand in the desert; I’m not the dust that blows; I’m not the shadow of a rock in a weary place, Lord, I am nothing. Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?” Ah, what a difference, what a difference!
Now in just the few minutes remaining, may I go through these excuses that Moses said, and maybe next time we will take one of them and expatiate on it, especially the name of God. So Moses begins to give excuses why he ought not to be the one to go. And after that first one, “Lord who am I?” [Exodus 3:11], why, he named a second one.
. . . when I come unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me; and they say, What is His name? What shall I say?
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM, Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM THAT I AM . . . thou shall say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
That’s the unity of God against all the multiplicity of gods in Egypt and all the world. That’s the unchangeableness of God who lives in the eternal present. That is the all self-sufficiency of God who is His own and alone equivalent. You can’t say anything else, God is God. “I AM THAT I AM” [Ephesians 3:14], and the point of the word, the conversation here, that is the redemptive name of God, and we know it as Jesus [John 8:58], “Go down there into the land of Egypt, and tell them that the great delivering God has sent me” [Exodus 3:14].
Now that’s not a new name in the sense that this is the first time it was ever revealed. Jehovah, the name Yahweh, was in the name of his mother [Exodus 6:20]; Jochebed means “Jehovah my glory.” But this is the first time that the Lord God is revealed as the redemptive God of Israel [Exodus 3:14]. His name has a new meaning. It has a new connotation. It has a new message of saviorhood, and deliverance, redemption, “Go back and tell them that the redeeming God, the delivering God, the saving God hath sent thee whose name is Yahweh, I Am; this is my memorial unto all generations” [Exodus 3:15]. And this One who is talking to Moses here is the same One that talked to us in the mount [Mark 9:7], the same One that commissioned us in the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20]. This is the Angel of Jehovah who is speaking out of the flame of fire [Exodus 3:2-10]. This is the Lord Jesus incarnate, here His pre-incarnate state, the great God that delivers.
Then Moses answered and said . . . they will not believe me, nor will they hearken unto my voice . . .
And the Lord said unto him, What is in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
. . . Cast it on the ground . . . And it became a serpent; and Moses fled before it.
That rod became a serpent [Exodus 4:3]—the Egyptians among other things worship the serpent, and it represented the power of Egypt—and Moses fled before it, he had. And the Lord said unto Moses, “Put forth thy hand, and take it by the tail.” And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand [Exodus 4:4]. That is God’s way of saying to Moses, “Moses, if you will fearlessly obey the words that I speak and be obedient to My commandments, you do not have anything to fear in the land of Egypt, seize it, lay hand upon it.”
Could I pause for a minute there? That rod, the shepherd’s crook, oh, what a history it has! Stretched out over the Red Sea, it parted the waters [Exodus 14:16, 21-22]; stretched back over the sea, they came together [Exodus 14:27-28]. Smiting the flinty rock, waters poured out in the desert [Exodus 17:5-6]; held out over the army of Israel, they won a victory over the host of Amalek [Exodus 17:9-13]. The rod of God, it came to be known. Do you ever notice how God uses common ordinary things? A ram’s horn is blown, and the walls of Jericho fall down [Joshua 6:4, 20]. Shamgar uses an ox goad for a great victory over the uncircumcised, blaspheming Philistines [Judges 3:31]. A barley loaf falls down a mountain, rolls down and overcomes the tents of the Midianites [Judges 7:13-14]. A shepherd’s sling is used to find a victory over Goliath [1 Samuel 17:48-49]. Why, that’s the way God does; an earthen pitcher [Judges 7:16-20], these are the instruments of the Lord.
“Put now thine hand into thy bosom.” And he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, his hand became leprous as snow. And God said, “Put thine hand again into thy bosom.” And he did, and he drew it out, and it was like his other flesh [Exodus 4:6-7]. That’s a picture of God’s power to heal and to cleanse [Jeremiah 30:17]. And then a third one: “When you go down into the land of Egypt and they hesitate and stagger before the word and commandment and promise of God, take water out of the river, pour it on the land; and the water shall become blood upon the dry land” [Exodus 4:8-9], full of ominous signs against Egypt. And Moses said unto Lord, “O Lord, I am not eloquent” [Exodus 4:10]. And there, because he hesitates, he fell into one of the most disastrous alignments [Exodus 4:14].
We always do that: when we hesitate before God, when we know what God wants us to do and we hesitate before it, always things hurtful follow. “Then I will give you Aaron” [Exodus 4:14-16], and Aaron was the one that fashioned the golden calf [Exodus 32:1-4]. And Aaron was the one that wrought folly in Egypt, and Aaron was a thorn in the side of God’s man, “I will send Aaron to be thy mouthpiece” [Exodus 4:15-16]. And finally Moses says, “O my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou will send” [Exodus 4:13]. O Lord, if it has to be, do what seemeth good in Thy sight. So, we have Moses, trained now forty years in the desert [Acts 7:30], the humblest and meekest of men [Numbers 1:3], leaning on the strong arm of the Lord, going down into the land of Egypt [Exodus 4:19-20]. One man, just one man, against the greatest empire of the ancient age, to deliver a whole nation of slaves; what an assignment! [Exodus 3:9-10]. But this man now is leaning on the strong arm of God, and it’s God who makes the difference.
Now we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody you to give your heart to the Lord, to put your life in the church, a family or one somebody, while we sing the song and make the appeal, if God bid you come, would you? On the first note of the first stanza, come, and stand by me. While all of us stand and sing together.
IN A FLAME OF FIRE
I. Flight from Pharoah
II. God’s providence in it
III. Human strength vs God
IV. Call in the desert
V. Forty years in the desert – preparation, humility
1. Who sends me? I AM
2. Power? Leprous hand
3. Proof of authority? Water to blood on dry land
4. Eloquence; Aaron