Moses, the Man of God
October 12th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
MOSES, THE MAN OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 1:6-22; 2:1-10
10-12-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. That beautiful song that you have just heard is dedicated to one of the number in this teenage choir, a beautiful girl, sixteen years old, whom we buried this last week; and it was a sweet and beautiful song.
We begin this morning one of the new departures in the Scriptures. We stand at the foot of one of the great, vast expansive high mountains in the work and providence of the Lord. The last message brought at this eight-fifteen o’clock service concerned the death of Joseph and the gathering clouds that are a harbinger of the terrible and gathering storm [Genesis 50:24-26]. Now this morning, we begin in the Book of Exodus. And we have portrayed here the life and work of the greatest man who ever lived. There was only one who has ever lived greater than he, and that is the One of whom Moses spake: the God Man Christ Jesus. But as of men, speaking of men, we speak now of the greatest man who ever lived. Between the bulrushes on the Nile [Exodus 2:3], and an unmarked grave on Mt. Nebo [Deuteronomy 34:5-6], stands the portrait of this man of God. He lived so nobly and so worthily that only angel hands were worthy the task of wrapping his body in a shroud and of laying it to sleep in death.
Now in order that we might have the background of the sermon this morning, I’m going to read the first chapter and a part of the second chapter of the Book of Exodus. Beginning at the sixth verse of chapter 1:
And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor:
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.
And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:
And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?
And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.
Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses.
And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
And when she could not hide him longer, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with the slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.
And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.
Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.
And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: for she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
That will be our introduction to this mighty man of God, Moses.
The impossibles combined in this man Moses, the incomparable prophet leader of Israel. As a general of war, he stands peerless. The global wars of Alexander the Great, the Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, are hardly to be compared with the marvelous, miraculous strategy by which this man Moses delivered these slaves out of bondage and to the shores, to the coasts, to the borders of the Promised Land. Can you imagine, two to three or more million people, facing a trek through the wilderness, the sands of an almost illimitable, burning, blistering desert? How would you prepare enough food? How would you take along enough water? And they cannot live off of the desert. If they go the short way into Canaan, it leads them into the arms of the fierce and warlike Philistines; and these slaves have never seen war, nor would they know how to fight in a battle [Exodus 13:17-18]. Yet, Moses, this general, facing a task that no council of war in this earth would even begin to think of as being possible, stands up, and with great faith and mighty courage, deigns to lead those millions of slaves into the blistering, burning, hot sands of the desert and to deliver them in triumph to a promised land. Why it is almost impossible to conceive, much less to see executed before our very eyes. Then how would you speak of Moses in terms that are not superlative as you describe the great lawgiver of the world? All of the systems of jurisprudence and all of the basic fundamental laws of modern civilization are built upon the legislation delivered to the people of Israel by the hands of this man Moses. Then how could you speak of him as a writer and as an author, except in superlative terms? The writings of Moses are sublime, filled with lofty grandeur beyond any literature in the world, outside of the sacred record itself.
Let me give you a comparison, and if you have opportunity, follow it through. I’d like for you some time to read Moses as he describes the creation of the world here in the first chapters of Genesis [Genesis 1-2]. Then after you have read Moses, take Milton’s Paradise Lost, and read this sublime Miltonic verse, as he describes the creation of the world; and compare the two. There is no greater literature, no greater verse, with greater majesty and dignity than the sublime verse of Milton. And yet it is as nothing compared to the sublimity and the grandeur of the writing of this man Moses. He has no peer. He is incomparable.
Then what could I say of Moses as a religious leader? These three thousand five hundred years, there are learned and scholarly Jews. As I read from the pen of one recently, who says, "The greatest Jew who ever lived is not Jesus; it is Moses, the man of God." To us that comparison is impossible, it is unthinkable; but it goes to show, and how poignantly does it point it out, that this man Moses, in the minds of the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob for these thousands of years, look upon him as a greater than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
So I repeat, when we stand at this new departure and look out on the vast horizon of the years through which God is leading His people, there looms a mountain above all the other mountains of men that have ever lived; and that towering peak is this man Moses.
He belonged to an alien race. There in the land of Egypt, about three hundred years before, his forefathers had come out of Canaan in Palestine to settle in the land of Egypt.
Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.
And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
That’s the beginning of the introduction to the life of Moses in the Book of Exodus. He belonged to an alien race, who, as I said, about three hundred years before had immigrated down into the land of Egypt. The thing that made that so wonderfully and miraculously possible was this: Egypt had been invaded by a family, a tribe of Semites, Semitic people of the same blood and lineage and kinship of Abraham himself. They were called the Hyksos. They were shepherd kings. They overran Egypt, and a Hyksos king, a shepherd king, a Semite of the same blood of Abraham was Pharaoh, was king over Egypt. He reigned upon an unstable throne, being an alien himself. So when Joseph came and was presented before that Hyksos shepherd Semitic king, and he saw that Joseph was of the same blood, of the same Semitic background, the Pharaoh saw an opportunity to strengthen his hand and to strengthen the stability of his throne. So when Joseph made the suggestion that his family be settled in the land of Egypt, this Hyksos shepherd king immediately saw an opportunity not only to stabilize his throne, but to defend his land. So they were settled [Genesis 47:11]. Now look at this: they were settled in the northeastern part of the Egyptian kingdom. They did not fear an invasion from the west; that’s the Sahara desert, on and on and on to the shores of the Atlantic. They did have some fear from the south from Upper Egypt, from Nubia; and that’ll appear later on the life of Moses. But the great source of fear for any invasion of Egypt was where the Suez Canal is, in the northeastern part of the kingdom. Those Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hittites, and Grecians, and Persians, and all through the ages, every time Egypt has been invaded, those invaders have come from the north, poured down from that northeastern sector between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. So, do you see that when this Hyksos king settled these Semitic friends, he placed them in the northeastern part of his kingdom? They were there as blood brothers to him, and he could count on their loyalty and their faithfulness in the defense of his kingdom against any invasion from the north, from the Hittite, from the Chaldean, from the Babylonian, from the Assyrian, from the Persian, from all of those families and nations who lived up there to the north and to the east. Now that was a wonderful arrangement for the Hyksos king who was of the same blood and lineage as Joseph, alien people, both of them alien, and knit together by a blood tie.
Now you look what happens, "And it came to pass that there arose up a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph" [Exodus 1:8]. There came a rebellion; and the Hyksos shepherd Semitic kings were overthrown; and Egyptian kings now rule over the land of Egypt. And when this new king arose, he looked out over his kingdom and behold, in the most strategic place in it, and in the most fertile region of it, was this alien people, this alien family, these Semites, these Hebrews. And the Scriptures here said:
And he was afraid, saying, If there cometh a war, these shall join our enemies. They’re Semitic tribes and friends of Chaldea and Babylonia and all of those families in Palestine. These aliens who are of the same blood, Semitic blood, will join with our enemies; and they are placed right there, where they could open the doors, and the hordes from the north and the east will pour into our kingdom and overrun our people.
And the Pharaoh was afraid. Now do you see that? The thing that made for the strength and stability of the kingdom of the Hyksos, blood relations of the Hebrews, was the thing that made for fear and for foreboding in the heart of the Egyptian Pharaoh, the founder of a new dynasty. That’s what the Scriptures mean when it says, "And there arose a king in Egypt who knew not Joseph" [Exodus 1:8].
So, when the new Egyptian king, the founder of a new dynasty, looked out over his kingdom and saw those Semitic people flourishing there in the land of Goshen, in the northeastern part of his empire, where they could open the gates to any invader from the north, he said to his council, "Look, we must do something about the strength and the numbers of these Hebrews, lest they rise up and join our enemies, and destroy our land." So he made the edict, he made the promulgation that they were to be worn down. And the way they were to be worn down was this: they were to be driven into the very earth itself, ground down by hard labor and heavy tasks. Can you imagine therefore the surprise that came to the shepherds of Goshen, when they were constricted from their flocks and from their herds and from their fields, and were driven into the brick kilns and into the brick fields of the Egyptians [Exodus 1:9-11], when they were taken out of their own service, and the support of their own families, and as Josephus describes, they were made to dig canals, and drainage ditches, and irrigation ditches, and to pump water for the irrigation of the land of the Egyptians? And it says, "All of the work whereby they served, the Egyptians made them do it with rigor" [Exodus 1:13]; and that is twice repeated. Naked, under that boiling hot sun, with the lash and the scorpion, and the whip, and the rod of the taskmaster above that slaving Hebrew, coming home in the evening many times with his body torn with the wounds of the heavy lash, they died under the terrible rigorous burdens the Egyptians placed upon them. Josephus, for example, describes one of those kings as having destroyed over one hundred twenty thousand of his subjects because of the terrible rigor of the taskmasters, the burden laid upon them. It says here that they built two cities for Pharaoh; they’re called "treasure houses" here, "treasure cities"; it means "store cities" and "garrison cities," Pithom and Raamses [Exodus 1:11]. So the people are ground to death underneath the iron heel of a despot who has committed himself openly to a program of extermination [Exodus 1:10].
Now, an unusual thing happens: the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew [Exodus 1:12]. This man Moses not only belonged to an alien race, not only belonged to an oppressed race, but this man Moses was born at a particular time of terrible trouble. And it came about like this: when Pharaoh looked out over his kingdom and he saw that even though the tale of bricks was heavy, and the great irrigation ditches were being dug, and the people were being lashed under the heavy scorpions and rods of the taskmaster, they continued to grow, and continued to multiply [Exodus 1:12]; and in a spasm of anger and disappointment that his promulgated program of oppression had not decimated their numbers, he gave forth an edict, that of all things was heartless and cruel. He said, "Every male child that is born is to be thrown to the crocodiles in the river" [Exodus 1:22].
Now there was a family: Amram a Levite, Jochebed a Levite, and they had two children; one named Miriam, the first Mary of the Bible. She was a girl about thirteen or fourteen years of age. They had a little son about three years of age named Aaron. Apparently when Aaron was born, the first little son in that family was born, the only edict of the Pharaoh was the grinding of the people under the heavy cord and whip of the taskmaster [Exodus 1:11]. But that spasm of fear and of cruelty and of disappointment, which must have lasted just for a little while, that spasm came just at the time that this little family, Amram and Jochebed, were expecting another little child [Exodus 2:1-2]. And can you imagine the dread and the darkness in that home when the child was to be born under the edict of the Pharaoh that every male child is to be thrown in the river to the crocodiles? [Exodus 1:22]. Usually the coming of a child is marked with great anticipation and gladness and joy, expectancy, but not now. There are tears in the land of Goshen. There is grief in the homes of the Israelites. And instead of joyful gladness and expectancy, there is foreboding and dread.
Did you ever notice – could I parenthesize here just for a moment? – did you ever notice in the work of God, how many, many times that God does not draw near until the darkest, darkest hour? Did you ever notice that? How many times that’s true? God speaks to Gideon only when the people are wasted, and they’re starving, and famine is rampant, and Gideon is winnowing in a hidden place in the mountains, in a den somewhere, a little wheat that he might not perish. The Lord drew near and spake to Gideon in that dark hour [Judges 6:11-14]. Did you ever notice, reading in the Scriptures, it’s when that scaffold is raised for the hanging of Mordecai by Haman, that God saves and delivers His people? [Esther 5:14-9:16]. Did you ever notice this man Daniel went down into the lions’ den, expecting to be devoured by those ferocious beasts, it was only then that God delivered him from the lions’ mouths? [Daniel 6:20-22]. He let the three Hebrew children be thrown into the fiery furnace; then He walked with them in the flame in the fire [Daniel 3:24-28]. Simon Peter is to be executed, and the morning of his execution is dawning when the angel delivers him [Acts 12:7-10]. All hope for life is given up by the apostle Paul and his fellow men in that dark and terrible storm, when there stands by him in the darkness of that night, the angel of the Lord, whose he is, and whom he serves [Acts 27:23-25]. And it was on the lonely isle of Patmos, exposed to die, that John the sainted apostle saw the heavens open and the Son of God, whose face was like the sun in its strength, and His voice as the sound of many waters [Revelation 1:9-16]. Why, bless your heart, it just looks as though God seeks to lead His children into the valley that, in their helplessness, they might learn to lean upon His heavy arm.
Speaking this last week to the father of this precious child, I began to quote for him a song. And he took it from my lips and finished the quotation himself:
Sometimes on the mount, where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along
Sometimes through the valley, in the darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along
Some through the fire, some through the flood,
Some through the water, but all through the blood
Some through great sorrow, but God gives us song
In the night season, and all the day long
["God Leads His Children"; James Cleveland]
So they expect this little child to be born. And when it is born, if it’s a male child, it’s to be thrown to the crocodiles in the river [Exodus 1:22]. Now a marvelous thing, and in these last minutes, just listen the best you can with your heart. He was a child of faith. "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was an asteios child" [Hebrews 11:23]. Over here in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, and the twentieth verse, "Because he was asteios to theo, he was beautiful to God, fair to God" [Acts 7:20]. And the same word is used there, "because they saw he was a fair, beautiful to God child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment" [Hebrews 11:23]. What does that mean? "By faith, they were not afraid of the king’s commandment." They trusted God, and they believed in God; they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. God would take care of that child. So, this woman, this mother, led by the Spirit of the Lord, took the papyrus reeds of the river, and wove them into an ark, into a cradle, into a basket, and daubed with bitumen and made it impervious to water; and with many a kiss – can you just see that mother? – and with many a kiss, laid the little baby, now three months old, so beautiful and fair, in the little ark, and closed the covering, and with her own hands took it down to the water’s edge, and placed it there in the flags along the brink of the river [Exodus 2:2-3].
She did not know what would become of the child. She stationed the child’s sister to see what would be done [Exodus 2:4]. But she believed by faith, she believed that if deliverance did not come from Pharaoh, God would deliver that child in some other as yet unknown way. The day had come for the fulfillment of the great promise of God to Abraham, in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, "My people shall come out" [Genesis 15:14]. And after the centuries of servitude, that time had come. Josephus says that an angel of the Lord revealed to Amram that this child should be the deliverer of his people. Whether Josephus has that correct or not, no one could ever know; but by faith that mother and that father believed that God would take care of that child. So in the little ark, they placed the little baby among the flags that grew on the brink of the river and looked to heaven to take care [Exodus 2:3].
The stars might fall in their courses, and the sun might forget to shine, and the great pyramids might be hurled into the broad bosom of the Nile River, but that God would forget His promise and His people was impossible. Can you wonder then why this man should be the man of God with the faith and commitment of a father and a mother such as Moses had in Amram and Jochebed?
Now we stand and sing our hymn. Somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the church; one somebody you, or a family you, would you come and stand by me? In the balcony around, on this lower floor, on the first note of this first stanza, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come," while we stand and while we sing.