Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up."
The decisive point in the life of Moses was his burning bush experience. It is here that we see the grace and mercy of God. Moses was a man who failed. But he was not a failure. Moses was a man who made a mistake. But he wasn’t mistaken. The desert had been good for Moses. It emptied him of pride, as evidenced by his conversation with God. Sometimes desert experiences do that to a person.
…without deserts, we wouldn’t appreciate gardens…without rainy days, we wouldn’t appreciate sunshine…
Was it cruel of God to put Moses through the desert for 40 years? Is it cruel for God to force us to bear the pain of the consequences that we make in life? From the life of Moses we see that God allows people to go through personal heartache while they are seemingly being applauded by the crowds. While we are often blinded by the magnificence of Moses’ character and all he achieved, we often overlook the personal toll he inflicted on himself, and the pain that brought to those nearest to him.
1. Note the conversation that Moses had with the Lord at the burning bush. How had Moses changed since the days of dwelling in Pharaoh’s palace? (Ex. 3; Heb. 11:24-25)
2. Note the account in Exodus 4:1-9 and discuss how this episode was a display of God's grace toward Moses.
In Exodus 4:14 it states that God's anger burned against Moses. God had every right to destroy Moses on the spot for such rebellion and insolence. After all, God had done this many times before for even less offensive acts of rebellion (Gen. 7:21; 38:7, 10). That God didn't destroy Moses is further evidence of His grace and mercy toward him.
It’s important to appreciate that the miraculous ministry of Moses was based upon a Word from God. In fact, every miraculous deed that Moses performed was in result to his obedience to a Word from God.
3. How is the ministry of Christ similar to that of Moses in this respect? (John 5:19; 8:28)
What Moses discovered, and Christ perfectly expressed, was that we live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). We are to live dependently upon God (John 15:5). Moses was able to persuade his countrymen that God had really sent him since he was able to perform miracles. But his battle with Pharaoh's magicians is interesting.
4. The magicians of Pharaoh were able to imitate all of the miracles that Moses did except one. Which one was that, and why do you think this was so? (Ex. 7:9-12; 19-22; 8:6-7; 17-19; 21; 9:8-11; 18-19; 10:4; 12:29)
While Moses was administering these miraculous plagues upon Egypt, Pharaoh was increasingly hardening his heart toward God. God knew that he would. This is a reminder to us of the tragedy of misuse of human free will. Pharaoh willingly chose to harden his heart. Therefore the expression God hardened Pharaoh’s heart needs to be understood in the light of Pharaoh’s decision to rebel against God. When God came near to Pharaoh, Pharaoh hardened his heart. In this sense, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Interestingly, each of the plagues targeted objects of Egyptian worship.
THE PERSONAL COST
Moses saw and experienced the miraculous power of God. But he still craved one more experience from God.
5. According to Exodus 33:15-18, what was it that Moses craved? How does this speak to us about our Christian experience?
While Moses was up Mount Sinai for nearly three months (2 x 40 days), things were brewing negatively for him in his own family. In Exodus 18:1-5 he rendezvoused with Jethro (his father-in-law) who accompanied Moses’ wife and his two sons as they went out to meet him. In the previous chapter we read about the difficult time Moses was having keeping the people happy and satisfied. Again God confirmed Moses’ leadership with miraculous provision of water, food, and provisions. And in chapter 17 we see that God used His miraculous power through Moses to defeat the Amalekites.
When Zipporah was returned to Moses, there is a strong hint that things were not well between Moses and her. We have a glimpse of one of their early arguments recorded in Exodus 4:25. The expression in Exodus 18:2 suggests that Moses divorced Zipporah (note the expression in Deut. 24:1-4). When Jethro returned with her in Exodus 18:5 it may have been an attempt to restore their marriage.
6. But what do we notice by Numbers 12:1, and why do you think Aaron and Miriam felt this way?
It just goes to show that as great as Moses was, he had problems just like the rest of us. In many respects he had more as we shall see in our next study.
7. What lessons can we draw from the life of Moses for ourselves?