Humbly Exalted

When the child grew older she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "Because I drew him from the water." In those days, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and observed their hard labor, and he saw an Egyptian man attacking a Hebrew man, one of his own people. He looked this way and that and saw that no one was there, and then he attacked the Egyptian and concealed the body in the sand. When he went out the next day, there were two Hebrew men fighting. So he said to the one who was in the wrong, "Why are you attacking your fellow Hebrew?" The man replied, "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Are you planning to kill me like you killed that Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, thinking, "Surely what I did has become known." When Pharaoh heard about this event, he sought to kill Moses. So Moses fled from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he settled by a certain well. (Exo 2:10-15)

Up, down, up down. That was the life of Moses. First he is born among the lowest class in Egypt, but because of his mother's love (and a little sleight of hand) Moses is raised among the elite of Egypt, eventually living in the household of Pharaoh as a son. Things looked pretty good for Moses, Up on the Top of the World.

But then Moses had to go and do something stupid. He never forgot his beginnings, and no doubt saw himself as the protector of his people, the Hebrews. I think it was already in the heart and mind of Moses that he would be the deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt. Probably, he figured that his connections with the powerful elite would be just the thing needed to get better conditions for his people.  Unfortunately, his temper got the best of him. So, he killed a guy and covered it up. That's pretty bad, but look at the next part. When Moses tries to intervene in a dispute between two Hebrews, one of the men turns to Moses with disdain. "Who made you judge over us?" Yeah, right, Moses! I suspect Moses was already going around acting the part of deliverer on his own initiative. Maybe the text doesn't say that directly, but it's certainly implied. Unfortunately, Moses had to take it on the run, and it sure looks like Moses was wrong to play the hero with his own people.

So, he winds up in the desert, married, taking care of the sheep. That's not exactly the image we would have of a powerful man, called by God to be a deliverer, now is it? Nope. Normally we look for the guy with the money, the prominence, the access to power if we are looking for someone to help us. Moses had all that, but threw it away, so he sure doesn't look like somebody all that important at this point. But wait, there's more...

And now indeed the cry of the Israelites has come to me, and I have also seen how severely the Egyptians oppress them. So now go, and I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt." Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He replied, "Surely I will be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve God on this mountain." (Exo 3:9-12)

Well, now that's strange. (You don't think so?) Moses was previously in just the right position to be the deliverer of Egypt, and you would think that God would have had Moses rise up then and there to get the job done. Instead, it is only after Moses has been run out of Egypt, rejected by his own people, living a simple life in the desert does God decide that Moses will deliver the people of Israel. See what I mean about strange? To our way of thinking, God should have taken advantage of Moses when Moses was in a position to do something. But, now, in the desert, stripped of his wealth and political connections, what can Moses possibly do? Hmmm...

Think of this: Moses had originally tried to make things better for the Israelites through his own power with disastrous results. Had Moses been successful, the Israelites would have been much better off. In fact, I suspect they would have felt nice and comfortable in Egypt and would not have cried out to God for a deliverer. Why would they want to go back to Canaan, with all the competition and inevitable struggles when they had it good in Egypt? Get it? God's plan to deliver the Israelites and make them his oracle of revelation would have never got off the ground if Moses had done things his way.

Only when Moses has given up his own idea about how Israel would be delivered can God go to work and accomplish a miracle of deliverance. That means that Moses had to be humbled. He had to give up all notions of delivering Israel through his own power. By the time Moses encounters the burning bush, he has learned the lesson.

Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" He replied, "Surely I will be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve God on this mountain." (Exo 3:11-12)

On his own, Moses could never get the job done. But God tells him "I will be with you." That's the difference. That's the thing Moses needed to understand. It wasn't Moses that was the deliverer of Israel; it was God. Moses was only the instrument, and to be that instrument of God's provision, Moses first had to be reduced to humility in the desert. Then God could raise him up in power to accomplish God's will.

That's the story repeated many times in the Bible. Abraham, Jacob, Job, David, Jonah, Elijah, and all the other great heroes of the Bible had to go through this process. They had to learn that things would not get done unless they first let go of their own way of doing things and relied solely on God to get the job done. It doesn't seem fair sometimes, to some people, that God requires his servants to be abased to the lowest level first. But that is exactly what God did. He lowered himself to our level through the person of Jesus Christ. He became the perfect, humble servant, willing to die a criminal's death, just for us. That's the model we are given for our own lives.

Few of us have the calling of Moses or David or Elijah. But all have a calling of some sort. It may be that we are to serve the needs of those around us, giving comfort and hope and understanding when needed. Or, it may be that at some point you will be called to stand before crowds of thousands and tell of God's message. The size of the work isn't the point. The point is that we can only accomplish God's will and fulfill our calling when we do it as a humble servant. We have to reach the point that Moses did, where we say, "Who am I to do these things?" Then, and only then, can God get the point across, "You can't, but I can."

So, it comes down to this. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to rush out and do something enormous and prominent so that you can demonstrate your calling by God. Wait. Wait on God to call. Be willing to do the most humble and insignificant things if asked. Like Jesus said,

But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, 'Friend, move up here to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luk 14:10-11)

As with most of the Bible, it is paradoxical when looked at with a worldly view. We are not to exalt ourselves, but because of that will be exalted. If you want to "do something important" for God, don't think that it means getting noticed, gathering a following, or being somehow prominent. Most likely, it means taking out the trash, cleaning up the mess, and generally going unnoticed most of the time. But, if you become humbly faithful in whatever little things God asks you to do, the day will come when He says, "Come up here, good and faithful servant."

And you just never know what you might end up doing.


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