Moses is an example of what can happen when one person decides to respond to the call of God to live a purpose-driven life. The journey to Canaan started with Moses. In fact, as I reflect on the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, it is clear to me that the path to Canaan begins when we embrace his intention for our life. If you want to make the journey with God to the place that he has for you, reading and understanding the journey from Egypt to Canaan will benefit you tremendously. It begins with a man named Moses who accepted God’s call.
This is the first post in a series titled “A Love That Shows Us The Way”. This series focuses on Moses, his relationship with God, his purpose, the people of Israel, and the promise of freedom from Egypt. This series was inspired by Moses’ emotional breakdown in Numbers 11, where he asked God to kill him. Throughout this series, I will compare the Moses who parted the Red Sea in Exodus 14 with the Moses who asked God to kill him in Numbers 11. By looking at a number of passages in Exodus and Numbers, I hope to better understand what caused Moses to fall apart.
In this post, I will discuss how Moses teaches us that living our purpose requires partnership with God through communication, action, and confidence.
This series is the foundation of my upcoming book: A Love That Shows Us The Way. Also, this post contains many of the foundational truths found in my writings about purpose which are referenced at the bottom of this post.
The Book of Numbers is powerful and has important lessons concerning how God wants to give us what he has ascribed to us.
Moses communicated with God regarding his purpose to gain knowledge and clarity.
In Exodus 3, God appeared to Moses as he was tending his father-in-law’s flocks. God immediately gave Moses his purpose after he appeared to him in the burning bush, saying:
8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
God had a plan for Israel and God’s plan gave Moses – who was 80 years old – a purpose which was to bring God’s people out of Egypt. First, this initial meeting tells me that God works his plans through people and by that I mean that God partners with people who want to bring the kingdom to earth. Second, it tells me that God sees our suffering and when he hears us when we cry out to him, he is concerned about us and wants to sets us free. God has a plan for us that does not involve slavery; he wants us to be free and live in a good place. To God’s purpose for his life, Moses responded:
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses communicated with God, frequently. Moses was transparent and revealed his fears to God, regularly. He was afraid of his inability (Exodus 3:11), he was afraid of God (Exodus 3:13), he was afraid his credibility with his own people (Exodus 4:1), he was afraid of speaking (Ex. 4:10), and he was afraid of doing it alone (Ex. 4:13). When Moses pushed back saying: “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”, God responded by saying I will be with you and I will give you a sign: you’ll worship me at Horeb. When Moses asked God what his name was, God told him his name: I am. God even told Moses what would happen by informing him that Pharaoh would refuse to let the Israelites go and that he would strike the Egyptians with many wonders. When Moses said: “What if they don’t believe me?” God gave him not one but three miracles to perform. God responded to all of these concerns with solutions. God listened, comforted, informed, reprimanded, taught, and gave Moses the confidence to do what he had called him to do.
When we communicate our concerns to God, he gives us the confidence that comes from knowing that he is with us because he wants us to succeed. That’s because God’ purpose for us is a part of his purpose for the kingdom. For every concern that Moses brought to God, God responded with a solution.
As I read Moses’ interactions with God, I see that we can learn about God’s nature when we communicate with him. While he responds to our requests, we are creating a rapport with our maker that demonstrates his methods, goals, and perspective of us and the world. Moses’ story shows us that God wants a relationship with a purpose-driven believer who he can partner with and empower to change. God does not want obedient robots, he wants us to be his children and heirs (Exodus 4: 22).
Moses took action.
Once he understood his purpose, Moses took action. In Exodus 4, Moses returned to Jethro and told him that he was going back to his own people. Meeting Aaron in the desert, he told him of God’s plan. Later, they assembled the elders and told them that God wanted to set them free and the people believed but, as I discussed in yesterday’s post, the people became discouraged because – after Moses went to Pharaoh to demand that he set them free – Pharaoh punished them.
From Exodus 5-11, Moses went to Pharaoh 12 times to tell him what God said. After Pharaoh rejected Moses’ request to let the Israelites go along with their men, women, and flocks, God continued to send Moses to Pharaoh. In Exodus 11:4-9, on his 12th visit to Pharaoh, Moses didn’t ask Pharaoh for anything; instead, he delivered a prophecy that every firstborn in Egypt would die. It reads:
4 So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.”
Then, Exodus 12 tells us that God did exactly what Moses prophesied that he would do. It reads:
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
Moses and God were an incredible force. Moses was powerful and bold in executing God’s instructions. Moses persevered. I read the story in awe. I don’t know if I would have had the conviction to return to Pharaoh twelve times. Each time God did something powerful through Moses. It’s one thing to want to be free but it is another thing to pursue it, day after day. Moses was listening to God’s instructions and he was ready to do his will. In Egypt, Moses was a model of an incredible servant who was ready to act on God’s behalf to accomplish his purpose. He was steady and, once God equipped him, he did not relent in the pursuit of his purpose: bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.
There are two things that I see in Moses’ actions. First, God didn’t give Moses all of the instructions in their first meeting. Looking back to Exodus 4, we see that God only gave Moses three miracles to perform before Pharaoh. After those were performed, God sent plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, a plague on the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and, finally, a plague on the firstborn. This tells me that we must remain in communication with God in order to know the plan every step of the way. Our actions require constant communication with God as he moves through us and responds to the actions of our enemies.
Second, I see that God was confirming his presence and power to Moses, to the Egyptians, and to the Israelites. He wanted them to know that he was the one who was acting. He didn’t want anyone to attribute the signs to anyone else. God wanted the glory. Had it been a one-time thing someone may have said it was chance, luck or happenstance. But 12 times? We have to admit that it was God.
If not for Moses the Israelites would have stayed in Egypt.
After seeing God perform many miracles through him in Egypt, Moses had confidence in himself and in God’s ability to act on his behalf. Confidence is defined as “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances” and “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way”. Moses left Egypt confident.
However, when Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go free after they left, the Egyptians changed their minds and pursued them. In Exodus 14, when everyone else was terrified, Moses stood firm and confident in God. The Israelites’ were terrified when they saw the Egyptians coming. In response to their fear, Moses made a bold and confident declaration in Exodus 14:13. It reads:
13 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Wow. Can you imagine being there to see Moses deliver this word of encouragement? Here, Moses was marching with the Israelites out of Egypt, they turned against him in rebellion, in the backdrop, the chariots and armies of the Egyptians were approaching, and – in the middle of all of this – Moses said: calm down.
He and God were on the same page. God replied just as cool:
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
God had a plan and Moses knew it because he constantly communicated with God and acted in accordance with God’s instructions. God said: Move on, divide the water and cross it. Simple. God said I brought the Egyptians here so that they’ll know who I am. Get going. Moses acted on God’s commands. Because Moses communicated and acted in agreement with God, God gave him the plan. God let him see what he was doing. Not only did God tell him what to do but he also told him what to use, and the impact that it would have on the Egyptians when it was done. God told Moses the who, what, where and why. This is God displaying his love by showing us the way, honoring our communication with knowledge, backing up our actions and building our confidence. Because of his experience with God in Egypt, Moses’ confidence was the difference in setting the Israelites free. Had he not been there, the Israelites would have likely surrendered and gone back to Egypt.
Moses and God built their relationship through a cycle of communication, action, and confidence. In communication, God shared his plans and gave Moses instructions and Moses communicated his concerns. Moses acted and God supported him and displayed his wonders through miracles. Moses grew increasingly confident in God and God grew increasingly confident in Moses. God was building a relationship with Moses so that Moses would feel confident enough to act on a word from him not just in Egypt but in the times to come.
Up Next: Read the following posts in this series: Part II. discipline and Part III. commitment.
For more on purpose, visit the links below.