Exodus 2:1-25 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.
16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
This morning we return to the book of Exodus, where we will see God quietly and patiently working for the good of his people. In June, I preached through the first chapter; this morning, we will look at the second. In the first chapter of Exodus we saw the people of Israel enslaved and oppressed in Egypt. They had arrived there during Joseph’s power and influence and were saved from the famine ravaging the world at the time. Yet when the Pharaoh died, a new Pharaoh arose who “did not know Joseph”. (Ex. 1:8) This Pharaoh feared the Hebrews who had “multiplied and grew exceedingly strong.” (Ex. 1:7) Rather than seeking to understand the cause of their flourishing, he enslaved them and sought to destroy the male children.
The Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s demand to kill the baby boys. It seems only the midwives were living by faith. God blessed the Hebrew midwives who “feared God” and so he “gave them families”—the very thing that Pharaoh had sought to destroy. (Ex. 1:21) The very last verse in the chapter is chilling: “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Ex. 1:22)
This was the situation when “a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman.” (Ex. 2:1) I know some of you got married during the many and varied COVID restrictions and had to deal with a great deal of uncertainty not only in how to plan a wedding when churches, restaurants, and all manner of public spaces were closed or had incredibly restrictive policies on how many people could fit into their spaces. But imagine being in your prime childrearing years at a time when the threat of death hung over the birth of every baby boy in an entire nation! This was the prospect that Moses’ father and mother faced. It was a time of crisis for the people of God.
One of the main things I want you to consider this morning is the many choices presented to the characters we encounter in this chapter. Who are the heroes in this chapter and why? What is heroic about them? Which character is most like you in this chapter? And don’t flatter yourself—be honest. Let God’s Word have its full effect on you.
This second chapter shows God quietly and patiently working to prepare a servant fit for the service of Yahweh. By the end of the chapter, after Pharaoh died, “the people of Israel…cried out for help,” and we see that God has been preparing his servant Moses the entire time to liberate His people from bondage in Egypt. In this, we are to see that God is always at work, anticipating our needs, even before we speak them.
There are three main sections to the chapter. First, in verses 1-10 we see the birth and salvation of Moses. In verses 11-22 we see Moses flee Egypt to Midian. And finally, in verses 23-25 we see that God has remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The structure of the chapter is laid out such that the three main sections foreshadow Israel’s future story. Moses is saved from Pharaoh after passing through the Nile River, as Israel will later be saved when they pass through the Red Sea1. Moses wanders in the wilderness for forty years (Acts 7:23), marries, and has a child there. Israel, too, will wander in the wilderness for forty years, marry, and have children there before going into the promised land. And in the final section, we see that God has always been and will always be near, watching his people, listening to them, and eager to fulfill his covenant promises. As we work through this chapter we’ll see more of how and why God does this.
Moses’ Birth and Salvation
Moses was born during societal upheaval, ethnic fear, and animosity. Pharaoh had “commanded all his people” to cast “Every son that is born to the Hebrews…into the Nile.” Moses was the youngest of three children. His parents’ names are not mentioned in this chapter, we learn them in Exodus 6:20. His father was Amram, and his mother, Jochebed. Aaron was three years older than Moses (Ex. 7:7). Miriam, presumably the sister mentioned in verse 4, would have been the oldest, though her age, or how much older she was, is not mentioned. They were presumably born before Pharaoh’s murderous edict.
It is interesting that rather than being given the names of Moses’s parents—we are instead told that they were both of the house of Levi. Levi is the tribe that will later become the priestly tribe serving God at the Tabernacle. This genealogical detail will be important later when Moses and his brother Aaron begin the Levitical priesthood.
When the Levite woman bears a son—we know from the previous chapter that the Egyptians had been commanded by the king of Egypt to throw him into the Nile River to die. The writer of Hebrews comments upon and commends the actions of Moses’s parents in Hebrews 11:23. He writes, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” By the time he is three months old, his mother can no longer hide him. What should she do? How could she protect his life against those who desired to take it?
Oddly enough, his mother seems to have prepared a plan. “When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.” (Ex. 2:3) This seems like a very strange plan. What did she expect to happen? How would putting him into a basket in the river affect salvation for her son? Note that she placed the basket “among the reeds by the river bank.” This means the basket is close enough to shore to easily retrieve it while the reeds shelter and camouflage it—they also keep the basket from floating downriver.
The ESV obscures what I believe to be the primary clue the text offers us as to why she did this. Most of the older translations translated basket in the ESV as ark. I believe we are meant to see the connection back to Noah’s ark. For Moses’s mother, who we know from Hebrews, hid Moses by faith, and intentionally chose to place her son, whose life was threatened by the water, into an ark and back into the water. Moses’s mother entrusted the life of her son to the LORD by re-enacting the story of Noah. She knew God had brought “eight persons…safely through the water” (1 Pet. 3:20) and asked God to do it again with her son. She couldn’t alter the threat posed by the water, but she could entrust him into a vessel God had used before to protect his beloved through the water.
God did in fact spare her son—in a remarkable way. His sister, who we will later learn to be Miriam, “stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.” When the daughter of Pharoah “came down to bathe at the river,” we would expect her to obey her father’s command to drown Moses in the river. But instead—she rescues him. While seemingly one of the greatest threats to Moses’ life, she is, in fact, ideally suited to spare his life. For who else could get away with disobeying the Pharoah than his own daughter?
The daughter of Pharoah “saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews children.'” Pharaoh’s daughter surprisingly shows pity—something her father, the king, would not do. We know little else of her motivation, but thank God for her pity!
Moses’s sister, who had stayed nearby, sprang into action to offer a nurse for her brother. Moses’s salvation is now all but accomplished. The water of the Nile River, which Pharaoh intended to kill him, was used as the means of his salvation! Peter talks this way of Noah’s ark in 1 Peter 3:20, where he compares how Noah and his family were “safely brought through water” in the ark to baptism. Paul uses similar language in 1 Corinthians 10, regarding Israel’s passing “through the sea”—referring to the miraculous parting of the Red Sea—where Israel passed safely through it, but the same waters were the death of the Egyptians in pursuit. This is no coincidence. God was instructing Israel that he would also save them, like he had saved Moses, through the very waters Pharaoh meant to entrap and kill them.
Even more than Moses’s salvation from death—he was brought into the household of Pharaoh. His mother received wages from the household of Pharoah for nursing her own child, while he was raised as the son of an Egyptian princess.
Have you noticed how prominent a role women played in saving Moses?2 There are three women—Moses’s mother, sister, and adoptive mother who act to save his life. Again, this is interesting in a couple of ways. First, as we saw in the first chapter, the male ruler of Egypt felt threatened by the male children of the Hebrews, but it was the women who resisted him and spared the sons. This happens again in chapter two, this time with Moses’s own family—and Pharaoh’s own daughter that spare this son that becomes the Pharaoh’s real threat. The text doesn’t tell us this explicitly, but one cannot help but wonder if the Hebrew midwives’ brave defiance of Pharaoh emboldened Moses’s parents to disobey.
Women take note of this. Women are often found to be the ones protecting children from being murdered by tyrants in the Bible. Women, not just mothers, are shown protecting innocent human life. Consider also Johesheba, who saved King Joash from being murdered by his grandmother, Athaliah, in 2 Kings 10. She, his aunt, risked her life to spare him and protected the lineage of King David and, ultimately, Jesus. Do not lightly dismiss your opportunities to influence the lives of children. We do not know the roles God has assigned to little children—but our influence is profound. Seize the opportunity to nourish and protect life—this is one of the most powerful gifts that God has entrusted to women.
The daughter of Pharaoh exercised her authority as the adoptive mother and named him Moses, “‘Because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.'” But interestingly, that is not what the name means in Hebrew. The NET Bible has a helpful note about the name “Moses.” It states, speaking to Pharoah’s daughter,
“The implication for the Israelites is something to this effect: “You called him ‘born one’ in your language and after your custom, but in our language that name means ‘drawing out’—which is what was to become of him. You drew him out of the water, but he would draw us out of Egypt through the water.” So the circumstances of the story show Moses to be a man of destiny, and this naming episode summarizes how divine providence was at work in Israel. To the Israelites the name forever commemorated the portent of this event in the early life of the great deliverer (see Isa 63:11).”3
This section ends with rich irony. Moses was saved out of the waters meant to destroy him by Pharaoh’s own daughter and has now infiltrated the household of Pharaoh; he has been given a name pointing toward his future deliverance of the Hebrews—the very thing Pharaoh had feared when he had commanded all Hebrew boys to be cast into the Nile. This name, given by Pharaoh’s daughter—which she thought made him her son, had a Hebrew meaning that showed that he, in fact, belonged to God—as His deliverer. As Psalm 2 says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord holds them in derision.” (Ps. 2:4)
The next section—Moses’s desert wandering, begins when Moses is forty years old. We learn his age from Acts 7:23. He is now a mature man—a prince and ruler of the royal house of Pharaoh. Yet the text tells us that he did not identify with Egypt and the house of Pharaoh—but his people were the Hebrews, enslaved by the Egyptians. Hebrews 11 tells us more: “By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Heb. 11:24-27)
There is more in Acts 7 about Moses’s visitation of his people. Acts 7:23-29 read:
“ “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.  And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.  He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.  And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’  But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?  Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’  At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.”
This comes from Stephen’s sermon before the Pharisees, who are about to stone him to death. He concludes his sermon:
 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,  you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Stephen’s sermon against the Pharisees in Acts 7, along with the passage in Hebrews 11 makes it very clear that Moses was acting, by faith, the part of a deliverer to the Israelites. But like the Pharisees of Stephen’s day, the Israelites preferred to be ruled by the Egyptians rather than Moses—just as the Pharisees preferred to be ruled by the Romans rather than Jesus. The Pharisees could not abide hearing that truth spoken, and they murdered Stephen.
Moses, as a type of Christ, “looked on” the burdens of “his people” and sought to deliver them. The same Hebrew word is used for the Egyptian “beating” the Hebrew, as Moses, who “struck down” the Egyptian. This appears to be the kind of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” justice that is commended later in Exodus 21:24. As Stephen says of Moses in Acts 7:24, “he defended the oppressed man and avenged him. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand…”
Yet some commentators will here condemn Moses’s action, arguing that “Moses was trying to save God’s people by his own works rather than letting God save them by his grace.”4 This does seem a plausible explanation, but without a condemnation in the Bible, I’m not convinced this is the right way to understand this event. I prefer withholding judgment against Moses, as Scripture seems to, and placing the weight of judgment upon the Israelites, whose hearts were hardened against God’s appointed savior.
The outcome of this event, I believe, further cements this interpretation. The next day, when he went out, he tried to intervene between two Hebrews “struggling together,” and he intervened on behalf of the one being wronged. He asked “the man in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your companion?'” This man understood the situation clearly and asks Moses, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” Moses was acting on behalf of his people, and this bitter Hebrew understood it clearly and rejected his authority. He, like all Israel was not yet ready to submit to God’s savior, Moses. It is, as Stephen said of the Israelites in Acts 7:51, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”
God had prepared a deliverer for Israel, but they were hard of heart and had not yet become willing to turn to God in their affliction. They would need to wait another forty years—a new generation would have to arise to call out to Yahweh, just as that generation would later wander in the desert for forty years because of their unbelief, and it would be their children that would enter the land.
There is much for us to consider here. For which of us is not stubborn-hearted? How long do we endure God’s discipline before we turn to Him to be relieved? This passage is meant for our instruction—and we are to see ourselves in these hard-hearted and unbelieving Israelites. They were suffering under the hand of God’s judgment yet were unwilling to turn to Him to be healed and saved.
Is this not the very situation we find ourselves in today? Look around you—God-haters rule us. Children, by the millions, are slaughtered in so-called doctors’ offices around the nation. Many of those children that survive the abortionists find themselves willingly going to so-called doctors’ offices to be mutilated and sterilized in the name of “gender-affirming care”. Those who survive all of this find themselves shackled to the debts of their fathers and grandfathers. Yet we do not cry out to God for deliverance. Like the Israelites of old, we prefer the heavy burden of Pharaoh and the fleeting pleasures of sin rather than the easy yoke and light burden of Christ—having confessed and repented of our sin.
So Moses now goes into exile—much like his great-grandfather, Jacob. In Genesis 29, Jacob flees the threat of death and goes to his family in the East. There, he meets Rachel at a well, marries her, becomes a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock, and has children. Toward the end of his exile, “the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.'” (Gen. 31:3)
So, too, will Moses flee the threat of death and go to family in the east—for the Midianites were sons of Abraham and his second wife, Keturah, after Sarah had died. While in Midian, Moses meets Zipporah at a well, marries her, becomes a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock (Ex. 3:1), and has children in exile. We will see in the next two chapters that God will tell Moses to return to his people in Egypt and promises, “I will be with you…” (Ex. 3:12)
When Jacob arrived at the well, he met other shepherds awaiting more flocks. When Rachel comes with her sheep, Jacob “rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.” However the events in Exodus are slightly different, showing Moses as a savior. Moses finds Zipporah and her six sisters already at the well, about to water their flock. But other shepherds then “came and drove them away.” Moses acted the part of the savior—”stood up and saved them, and watered their flock.” Moses is still God’s appointed savior—ready to save God’s people.
Notice, too, that Reuel is mystified why his daughters didn’t bring their savior home to him. When they come without him, he asks them, “…where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Reuel then allies himself with Moses, God’s savior, gives him his daughter Zipporah as wife, and she gives birth to a son. This contrasts with the Hebrews in Egypt, who rejected God’s savior, Moses. It is, instead, Abraham’s uncovenanted line of children that respond rightly to Yahweh’s savior. Remember, this is the pattern we saw in Acts 7, where Stephen condemns the Pharisees for rejecting their Savior, and in the book of Acts, the gospel finds greater fruit among the Gentiles than the Jews. (Acts 18:6)
Moses will spend the next forty years living as a shepherd—a vocation that will serve him well, for he will shepherd Israel for the last forty years of his life—bringing them out of Egypt and then into the wilderness, where they will wander until a new generation of Israelites is prepared to go in and conquer the land. It was naturally quite a change from the palaces of Egypt, which Moses had been accustomed to, but Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Heb. 11:26)
These parallels are no accident—the Bible is full of these patterns for a reason. These patterns build our faith—for through them, God’s people can see where they are in God’s story—what kind of character they are; they can trust that God will work as He has in the past and look forward to the fulfillment of His word. God wants us to see that as the saints of old lived lives of faith, guided by God’s Word, that we too ought too, and can, by the power of His Spirit.
God was preparing a new nation with Jacob, whom he would rename Israel. With Moses, God is preparing a savior for his people, Israel, whom he is preparing as a nation, to give them a land of their own. The emphasis in Exodus is that God will save his people, Israel, but we see that the Gentiles will not be forgotten. The time will come for them to be folded in—which is one of the primary emphases in Acts and throughout the New Testament. We, ourselves, are part of that covenant fulfillment, that through Abraham, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)
God Remembered His Covenant
This brings us to the third and final section of the chapter, where God remembered His covenant. Exodus doesn’t tell us this—but we are told in Joshua 24:14 and Ezekiel 23:19 that the people of Israel had fallen into idolatry during their sojourn in Egypt. They hadn’t simply fallen out of favor with the new Pharaoh who began persecuting them but were suffering the judgment of God because of their false worship. That is the background to the book that is otherwise implied by their suffering at the hands of Pharaoh.
Through most of the first two chapters of Exodus, we find few godly Hebrews—only the two midwives and Moses’s family. But despite all their suffering and hardship, not only do the people not call out to Yahweh for deliverance, but they reject his appointed deliverer. Only after another generation of enslavement do the Israelites cry out for help.
In verse 23, Moses makes a point of connecting the death of “the king of Egypt” and the people of Israel groaning and crying out to God. This is an interesting connection. In the beginning of Exodus, it is the death of one king that leads to “a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph,” that enslaved Israel. The final plague in Exodus 12, the death of the firstborn sons, is connected with the exodus from Egypt. (Ex. 12:29-32). The death of the Egyptians in the Nile, in chapter 14, is connected with God saving Israel. (Ex. 14:30) Similar death and liberation themes will then continue throughout the first five books of the Bible—the sacrificial system itself will be built around the death of animals to symbolically liberate the people from their sin. The death of the high priest will liberate the manslayer from cities of refuge. At the end of Deuteronomy, it is only after the death of Aaron the High Priest and the death of Moses that the people can then enter into the promised land.
There seems to be at least a symbolic connection between the death of the king of Egypt and the people of Israel crying to God for help. At last, the people seem to be ready for a savior. God has, of course, been near them the whole time. He has, in fact, already prepared his savior for them. For the entirety of their enslavement, God has been patiently working to preserve a godly seed through the labors of five women: two faithful midwives, Shiphrah and Puah; Moses’s mother—Jochebed, sister Miriam; and even the daughter of Pharaoh.
God began his redemptive work long before the people cried out to Him. This is how God has always worked. When man fell into sin, God immediately promised a Savior would come. God made a covenant with Abraham that he would raise up offspring after him, which would be a blessing to all the families of the earth. God kept these promises despite the many failures of those within the covenant family—even through the faithlessness of the people of Israel in Egypt.
“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel, and God knew.” What a beautiful and encouraging word! God knows us better than we know ourselves. What an expression of sympathy! As it says in Hebrews 4:15, we have a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been tempted as we are, and yet is without sin.
This is the God whom we serve. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18) “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (Ps. 145:19-20)
As we have seen, this whole chapter shows how God was at work to fulfill his covenant promises to the people of God long before they had cried out for deliverance. God had been working even in the years leading up to Moses’s birth that, like Christ, Moses would have a king seeking to kill him as a threat to his rule. His mother, through an act of faith, appealed to God to save her son through the very waters meant to kill him. When he reached maturity, Moses forsook the “fleeting pleasures of sin”, and chose “to be mistreated with the people of God”.
Moses then fled, like his great-grandfather Jacob, to family far in the east, where he re-enacted Jacob’s exile from the land—just as the nation of Israel will forty years after Moses.
And finally, at the end of the chapter, Israel cries out to the LORD, and he hears them, and knows their affliction. This kind of process will happen throughout the Bible—it is the way God acts. “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
God’s Word is meant to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness., that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:15-16) How will you be instructed, reproved, trained, and equipped? Which character are you like in this chapter?
Are you like Pharaoh—who felt threatened and sought to exert power to preserve his status? Are you willing to use violence, anger, and retribution to enforce your will? Are you quick-tempered and eager to protect what you believe to be yours?
Are you like Moses’s parents, Amram and Jochebed? They felt overwhelmed by their circumstances, but they lived by faith in a time of crisis. Rather than fearing ungodly commands, they feared God and were willing to pay the price. They entrusted their son to God, and God honored their faith.
Are you like Miriam? Do you have the faith of a child? Are you watching out and protecting the weak and vulnerable? Are you eager to serve those whom you love?
Are you like the “man in the wrong” who was beating his fellow slave? This was a hard man who saw the harshness of the world he was born into and sought to keep himself at the top of his social strata. He was willing to use violence against his own people to make the best of his circumstances. He saw submission to the ungodly authorities over him as a way of ‘keeping his head down’ and enduring something he couldn’t change. He saw Moses with envy, as an upstart Hebrew who had gotten a taste of the good life but who was no better than him. He wasn’t going to have any part of whatever Moses was going to do.
Are you like Reuel, the priest of Midian? Are you quick to recognize the blessings of God and to receive them in faith? Have you, like him, allied yourself with the God of Heaven? Have you intertwined your life with His? Do you want this for your children—even if it means giving your daughter to a cause that may lead her far away, where she may be threatened with death? Will you do so because you have the eyes of faith, knowing that God will bless those who follow Him?
Are you like Moses? Are you willing to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus?” (Philippians 3:8) Are you willing to lay down wealth, power, and comfort? Are you willing to hate your father or mother and walk away from all they’ve ever taught and given you, as Moses did with his adoptive mother? (Luke 14:26) Are you willing to bear the reproach of Christ when all your friends and family think you’ve lost your mind? Is the reproach of Christ greater in your mind than the wealth and pleasures of America? Are you willing to leave everything behind to obey God’s call upon your life? Are you willing to die to self to gain an eternal reward? Are you willing to give the prime of your life to menial labor without knowing how God will use it for his kingdom?
These are the kinds of questions we must ask of ourselves when we read a passage like Exodus 2. I suspect you may resonate with parts of or all these characters. But who do you want to be? Who will you choose to be? The choices you make today, tomorrow, and each new day make you into the kind of person you will one day be. Our character is made one small choice at a time. We mustn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that today we can choose like Pharaoh, or the violent, cynical Hebrew, and one day think we’ll have become like Moses. No, we must die to self with each new choice.
But you might be thinking, this sounds like a pretty dreary, unsatisfying life. It sounds like I can’t have any fun, enjoy the fruits of my labor, or enjoy the things of earth. But that is not at all what I mean, nor is that what the Bible demands of us.
Moses enjoyed the best that the world had to offer him for forty years. He was a prince in the house of one of the most powerful men in the world. Yet he was willing to throw it all away in a moment when he felt the pull of God upon his life. He saw God’s people, his own people, afflicted and he chose to be “mistreated” with them rather than continue one more day as “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Do you think he regretted that decision? I suppose there were some days during those forty years in Midian that he did, but God vindicated his choice. He rewarded Moses for his obedience.
Forty or so years later, all the wealth of Egypt was either destroyed through the Ten Plagues or given away to the Israelites before they left Egypt. God was going to judge Egypt and was going to separate the wheat from the chaff. Rich, powerful Egypt was about to be overturned, and the lowly, impoverished, and enslaved Israelites would become exalted and enriched. God’s favor was upon them, and in the end, it was better to be an Israelite than an Egyptian.
It is the same for us today. This world, as we know it is passing away, and is being remade into the new heavens and earth. God has already achieved victory over his enemies by His Son, through His suffering, death, and resurrection. In principle, God has already won, and we only have to choose which side we’ll take. God is quietly and patiently working out the fullness of his victory today. He has already met our greatest need in Christ. He has freely offered the forgiveness of our sins, we must only look to Jesus in faith, and trust that He will fulfill His Word.
God’s kingdom is advancing here, in this world. Like Moses then, we must choose sides. Do you prefer the fleeting, passing pleasures of this world, or are you looking to your eternal reward? Do you live like this?
Let God’s Word mold and challenge you. Be reproved by it when you are in sin. Be corrected by it when you wander. Be trained by it in righteousness. “Choose this day whom you will serve”—will it be the triune God of Heaven, or will it be an idol? Let us, in the words of Joshua, say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
1 A House for My Name, Peter Leithart, Canon Press 2000, p. 77
2 Douglas K. Stuart The New American Commentary: Exodus, B&H Publish Group, 2006, p. 85
3 NET Bible 2nd Edition, Note 36, for Exodus 2:10, Accessed in Olive Tree Bible Study App
4 Leland Ryken, Preaching the Word: Exodus, Saved for God’s Glory, Crossway, 2015, p.57