The old man walked slowly to the edge of the wide Jordan River. It was dusk and the air was chill. The silence was a blessing. It gave the old man time to think. Men as old as he needed time to think - there was so much to think about. As he gazed out across the water his mind wandered back. It had all begun by a river way back in Egypt.
A faint smile crossed his lips as he remembered how the Egyptians had been tricked. He still found it amazing that as a baby he'd been hidden in a basket in some long reeds at beside the Nile River to avoid being killed. More amazing that the Pharaoh's daughter should find him and lift him to safety, his own mother being called to nurse him and paid to do so. The Pharaoh's daughter had named him Moses.
As a young man he'd been incensed by the way his own Hebrew people were harshly treated as slaves. He had to do something. Moses recalled how, when he thought no one was watching, he had killed an Egyptian who was beating one of his own people. He had buried the body in the sand. How afraid he had been when he realized that what he had done had become known and that even his fellow Hebrews would not accept him.
When the Pharaoh found out, he tried to kill Moses. Moses fled for his life to the plains of Midian. The rescue of seven daughters from some rough shepherds led to a new home, marriage and eventually a son.
Such a long time ago, yet Moses could remember God's first call to him as if it had been yesterday. He'd been out on the far side of the desert watching his father-in-law Jethro's sheep, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush that did not burn up. It certainly got his attention - especially when God spoke directly to him - 'Moses! Moses!'
God went on, 'I have seen the misery of my people and have heard them crying out as their slave drivers beat them. I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of Egypt into a good and spacious land.' That was certainly good news, but the next thing God said stopped Moses in his tracks - 'Moses go - I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt!'
Very quickly Moses came up with all kinds of reasons why this plan wouldn't work:
Who am I?
I'm not up to that!
Why should they listen to me?
I don't have any authority!
I'm not their ruler.
What if they don't believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you!
Why should the people trust me?
I'm not a good speaker.
O Lord, please send someone else!
But for all Moses' doubts and questions God had an answer:
I will be with you.
Who gave man his mouth?
Who makes him deaf or mute?
Who gives him sight or makes him blind?
Is it not I the Lord? Now go!
The aging Moses had certainly needed lots of reassurance and God had given him a big dose - the power to perform miraculous signs. How he had run when his staff had turned into a snake - his old legs had moved VERY fast! God even made sure that Moses knew that the Egyptians who had wanted to kill him were dead.
Moses went to his father-in-law Jethro - 'Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if they are still alive.' And so back to Egypt Moses had gone, with his brother Aaron. They gathered together all the elders of the Israelites. They believed what Moses said and worshipped the Lord, so off Moses went to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh wasn't so receptive. When he heard the Lord's message, 'Let my people go!' he treated the Israelite slaves even more cruelly - so badly in fact that they blamed Moses.
Moses asked God a new series of questions:
Why have you brought trouble upon this people?
Is this why you sent me?
God answered Moses again:
I will bring you out
I will free you
I will redeem you
I will give you the land I swore to give to Abraham
Moses needed to hear these promises from God for he had to go back to speak to Pharaoh again and again. In fact ten times he went to tell the Pharaoh, 'Let God's people go!' Each time Pharaoh said 'NO!' God would send a terrible plague on the Egyptians - a whole series of disasters - water instead of blood, frogs, flies, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death - it was dreadful. The Israelites watched and were finally convinced that God wanted to deliver them. They became sure that Moses was the leader they were to follow and that God had given Moses new courage and new authority.
Just as God had said, they saw his 'mighty acts of judgment'. The climax came with the Passover, when God delivered the Israelite families from the death of their first-born and killed the first-born in every Egyptian family from the Pharaoh to their animals.
The Pharaoh and the Egyptians were terrified that they would all die. They begged the Israelites to leave the country, along with all the flocks and herds they would need for the journey ahead. Their anxious slave masters even loaded them with clothing, gold and silver.
On the 430th anniversary of the day the Israelites had entered Egypt, Moses led them out of slavery and out of Egypt. But God did not leave them to find their own way. He carefully guided them day and night along the edge of the desert until he told Moses that they should camp by the Red Sea. Then he told Moses to expect to see the Pharaoh and his army chasing after the Israelites to bring them back.
"The Egyptians - all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen and troops - pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea. As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, 'What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, leave us alone, let us serve the Egyptians.'
Moses answered the people, '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. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.'"
The Lord commanded Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites could go through the water on dry ground - and that's exactly what happened. As the Egyptians, their chariots and their horsemen followed the Israelites, their chariot wheels came off and the soldiers were thrown into confusion. As Moses stretched out his hand a second time the water flowed back and washed the entire army, along with the Pharaoh, into the sea and not one of them survived. When the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
Moses quietly hummed the song that Miriam had written: 'The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvationI will exalt youin your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.'
Yes thought Moses, that's exactly what God had done. He had been with them all through those long years in the desert. He had brought his people to this new land, which he had promised. Moses looked out at the spread of tents and campfires along the Jordan's side, then he slowly stooped to scoop a passing leaf from the river. He held it in his trembling hand.
'We must always remember that God has delivered us. He has delivered even me.' A smile crept across his lips as he thought my name Moses means to draw out. The Lord has certainly done that !
(c)Don Stott, http://eliab.com