The book of Exodus is our picture book of redemption. This is God’s handbook on how he is going to save the world as seen through his saving of the nation of Israel from Egyptian slavery. We have already seen how God is working through this time of darkness and death to protect the savior of Israel, as Moses is rescued by the Hebrew midwives and by the daughter of Pharaoh. Now I want you notice the record of the life of Moses. We learn nothing else about his childhood. Verse 11 begins with Moses grown up now. We will learn later that he is 40 years old at this point. Does this sound familiar to you? What do we see in the record of Jesus? We read about his birth story and then we jump to when Jesus is an adult. Again, the biblical record is showing us that Jesus is the prophet that Moses spoke about who would come and save the world. The events of Moses’ life were a prophetic template for what the Christ would do in his life when he came. As we move through the life of Moses we are going to observe along the way all of the connections to Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer.
Failed Deliverance (2:11-15)
The picture begins with Moses going to his people, which is Israel. He looks and sees their burdens. The Hebrew word does not merely mean looking for information but that Moses was looking with emotion. He was moved to see the burdens of his people. Often we read about Jesus having compassion for the crowds when he looked at the burdens of the people of Israel.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 ESV)
As he looks he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Please notice the emphasis again that this Hebrew is “one of his people.” After looking around, Moses sees no one, kills the Egyptian, and hides his body in the sand. It is important to consider what has just happened. Moses is not simply looking around to make sure no one is looking so he can kill this Egyptian. It is clear from the next verse that he was not by himself because it was known about what he had done. The phrase “looking around and seeing no one” is used in the scriptures to speak of seeing no justice coming.
Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. (Isaiah 59:15–16 ESV)
Moses looked and saw that there was no one, meaning that he saw that there was no justice coming for what was happening. Since there was no one to intercede, his own arm brought salvation to this Hebrew and he killed the Egyptian. What we are seeing is that Moses is ready to step up and be the deliverer for Israel. Remember in Exodus 2:2 that Moses’ parents understood that Moses was special to God and was going to be used by God in a special way (cf. Acts 7:20). Moses has the same understanding, which is confirmed for us in Stephen’s sermon.
“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?’” (Acts 7:23–27 ESV)
Though he was raised in Pharaoh’s house, he goes out to his people, has compassion on them, and begins to deliver them. But notice what happens the next day in Exodus 2:13-14. Moses goes out to his people again and now two of the Hebrews are struggling with each other. So Moses attempts to be their mediator, interceding between the two. But notice the response of these Israelites: “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” We would expect this response from the Egyptians but how shocking that it is his own people that question him. Moses thought his own people would recognize that God was using him to rescue them. From the very start we are noticing that Moses’ role as savior and redeemer is met with opposition. Please think about how the Gospel of John opens as it records the life of Jesus.
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11–13 ESV)
Moses leaves the privileged house of Pharaoh, comes to his own people, and saves them only to be met with rejection and hostility. “Who made you a prince over us?!” Jesus leaves the privileged house of his Father in heaven, comes to his own people, and saves them only to be met with rejection and hostility. “Who made you a ruler over us?!” With this event happening in the life of Moses, Moses will now be regarded as a despised Hebrew rather than a privileged Egyptian.
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. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:24–27 ESV)
So Moses leaves Egypt to live in the wilderness because his people did not receive him. Moses’ fear is not of Pharaoh, according to the writer of Hebrews. His fear is that he thought he was to save Israel and it failed. Moses has been completely rejected by his people.
In The Wilderness (2:16-22)
Moses lives in the land of Midian and sits by a well when seven daughters of a priest of Midian came to draw water. Some shepherds came to drive away the women but Moses stood up and saved them. Not only this, Moses waters the flock of the women, completely unheard of for a man to do that for these women in that culture and time. Moses saves these Gentile women. What will be their response to his deliverance?
In verse 18 we read that the daughters come home and tell the story about how this man had saved them from the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for them. Listen to Reuel’s (their father) response: “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Go get that man! Moses lives there in Midian and marries Reuel’s daughter, Zipporah. Moses only finds acceptance apart from his own people, Israel. Moses marrying a foreign woman (a Gentile) theologically highlights Israel’s rejection of its deliverer. Israel rejects Moses’ deliverance from Egypt while the Midianites accept Moses’ salvation with open arms. Further, Moses is described as a shepherd among the Midianites, which is further seen in Exodus 3:1. Moses’ role as shepherd of the sheep is emphasized depicting that he will lead the flock of Israel. So the picture is that the Savior will be rejected by the people he came to save but will be accepted by those outside of Israel.
Moses names his son Gershom saying, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” Notice the Moses thinks of Egypt, not Midian, as the foreign land. He sees himself as a foreigner in the land of Egypt. Egypt was not his home. Going to Egypt was temporary and he had his eyes on a better land (Hebrews 11:13-16).
God Remembers (2:23-25)
The final verses of this chapter show us what God is doing. The king of Egypt dies and so the time is coming to go back to his people, just as Jesus does once Herod dies in Palestine. The people of Israel are groaning because of their slavery and are crying out for help. God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the people of Israel and God knew. The point is not that God forgot his covenant and needed a reminder. Rather, when you see God remembering it always means an action is about to happen based on what was remembered. God is going to act according to his promise. God is about to provide. God is going to do something in those days that you would not believe (cf. Habakkuk 1:5). The salvation of God is the display of God’s faithfulness to his earlier promise. Salvation and rescue are coming. God saw his people. God sees what is happening in our lives. How amazing it is to know that God sees us. God knows our circumstances and considers what he will do. Finally, God knew. God knows what he is going to do. God knows all the ramifications and will act based on his infinite, wise knowledge.
Portrait of the Redeemer
I want us to notice the pictures given to us about what the Redeemer will do when he arrives by looking at the life of Moses. Moses is pictured as a protector and rescuer for the people of Israel (2:11) and the people of Midian (2:17).
When Christ comes he is going to rescue all people. Moses is pictured as a shepherd (2:17-19; 3:1). He will be one who is designated by God to lead his people and care for his people.
Moses is also pictured as an outcast (2:14-15,22). He was despised and rejected by his own people, just as Isaiah predicts will happen to Christ when he came (Isaiah 53:3) and as the gospel accounts record did happen.
It is this final picture that weighs heavy on the minds of the writers of the New Testament. Listen to what Stephen preaches as he ties together the rejection of Moses to the rejection of Jesus.
This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt…. (Acts 7:37–39 ESV)
“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.” (Acts 7:51–53 ESV)
Just like you rejected Moses, you have rejected Jesus. You have followed the pattern that Moses said would happen. Just as Moses was rejected by his people in his day when he came out to them, was moved with compassion and rescued them, so Jesus was rejected by his people when he came to them, was moved with compassion, and rescued them.
What is the message to us? The gospel message has come to us. What shall we do?
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:1–6 ESV)
Let us not give up and reject the message that comes from Christ! Let us hold on to the confession that we have proclaimed about Christ and see him as our protector, shepherd, savior, and redeemer. If we will hold fast to the Lord and listen to all the words of Jesus, God says that we are family in Christ. We are in his house. We are his children. What hope we have because we have been rescued by Jesus! Do not reject the Rescuer! Fight sin. Resist temptation. Remain firm in trials. Do not receive the grace of God in vain. Do not neglect such a great salvation that is offered to us.