Exodus 1-4: Do You Prefer Comfort or Greatness?

We all like to be comfortable.  Wouldn’t it be great to be completely healthy, have a house that is paid for, money in the bank, two sets of reliable transportation in the driveway and well adjusted kids?  Most of us, if we are really honest about our lives would like to be, know that we tend to strive to this ideal.  Off and on throughout the course of Moses life, comfort was a big part of his experience.  While living in his comfort zone was what Moses really lived for, it was not what God had intended for him.  God had chosen greatness or spiritual significance for Moses rather than comfort.


We fast forward a few hundred years to a new time in Goshen.  We left off with the family of Jacob prospering.  As we enter the text in this book they are no longer in prosperity but in poverty.  They are no longer living as favored ones but as despised ones. They are no longer living freely off the land but they are enslaved to work on the land.  They have gone from prodding cattle to being prodded like cattle.  We learn that in the intervening years between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses that the Egyptians had forgotten the forbearer of the Hebrews that helped make Egypt great.  Many scholars argue that this may have meant that Moses may have been risen up during a time when foreigners ruled Egypt called the Hyksos.  If this is the case that it was during this period, it would explain why the leaders had forgotten Joseph.  At any rate, a long period of time had elapsed between Josephs day and Moses time and this alone is enough to reasonably why the accomplishments of Joseph would have been fairly irrelevant to the Egyptians in any case.


Before Moses could remember, the world around him was a crazy place.  The river Nile ran red with the blood of little Hebrew babies.  The nation had grown very large since we left them in Genesis and the Pharaoh began to become very concerned about what this might all mean.  Because of this, Pharoah decided that all the boys were to be cast into the Nile in order to guarantee that the nation would not continue to multiply as it had been doing.  Pharoah did this because he feared that the Hebrew nation would one day cause big problems for Egypt and perhaps become freed from servitude. 


The One that Got Away
As we have learned from previous sections in Genesis, it is a pointless exercise to attempt to thwart the Will of God.  God had a plan for Moses and no bit of manipulation by Pharaoh would change this.  Moses was born to a family in the tribe of Levi during this time when Hebrew babies where being thrown into the Nile.  As Moses was put into a basket by his family it drifted down stream and God put a great sense of compassion into the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter.  “When she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.  She opened it and saw the baby.  He was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:5-6).  In spite of Pharaoh’s best efforts, the one child that would actually bring down the Egyptian domination of the Hebrew people survived.  It is grievous to consider all the children who were needlessly killed for the benefit of the Pharaoh’s false sense of security.  It reminds me of the sad practice of abortion today where babies are being killed mainly for convenience and comfort.  It is truly a heartbreaking reality that we could actually treat children in modern society with the same callousness as the Egyptians had with reference to the Hebrews in their day.


Throughout Scripture we notice constantly that God uses ironic situations to demonstrate his amazing power and his ability to accomplish what he sets out to do.  Moses was raised in an environment with the greatest of comforts.  When we think of his upbringing, it is important to recognize that we ought not think about it the way that his life has been portrayed in popular movies.  As far as we know, there was never a plan to make Moses Pharaoh.  In fact, it is likely that he had no shot.  Pharaoh would have had a large harem and from that harem he would have had a whole host of children.  The one who raised him, the daughter of pharaoh would have been one of presumabely many, many grandchildren of the king.  To think that Moses, who was an adopted Hebrew, would have had any chance to be king seems slim and none. 


While Moses would never be king, and this was not God’s intention for his life, he would be given a fine education.  Most likely, he would have learned how the government operated and he probably would have learned how to speak to the pharaoh, etc., In other words, what Moses would have received would have been an excellent education for what he would be eventually used by God to accomplish — to negotiate the release of God’s people.


Moses time under the Pharaoh ended on a day that he watched an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave.  After witnessing this attack, Moses could not control himself and attacked the Egyptian.   Moses went after the Egyptian so violently that he ended up killing the man and this sent Moses on flight out of Egypt.  Here was his life, so full of promise and now seemed to be over.  His life of comfort and security now began to crumble in the aftermath of the Egyptian’s death.


Moses fled to a place called Midian and when he was there he met his wife and began a new family.  One gets the sense in this narrative that Moses actually considered himself, for all practical purposes, an Egyptian.  In fact, when describing Moses some girls who he rescued from some unkind shepherds answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered our flock” (Exodus 2:18b-19).  Not only this makes one wonder if he downplayed his Hebrew identity, but the fact that he did not circumcise his son furthers the theory.  It seems that Moses had decided to carve out a new life for himself and in order to do so decided to leave behind everything he knew before and especially the part about him being a Hebrew. 


The One that Couldn’t Get Away

Moses did a remarkable job rebuilding his life given that he had fled from the world’s most powerful man.  As has been mentioned, he found a wife, began having children and began to grow his own herds of animals.  This new comfortable life that Moses had been carving out for himself came to a screeching halt the day that he drove his animals to the “far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”  It was here that the God of the Universe revealed himself to Moses and graciously shared with Moses that his name is YHWH, meaning “I am.”  God was, in essence, promising Moses that he would be with him wherever he would go. 


As a side note, AW Tozer always makes the interesting observation that often describes himself as like fire.  In this text we notice that God met Moses at the “burning bush.” The bush was not actually on fire but simply appeared to be so because God was present.  When the God of the Bible lives within us, there will be a fire in our hearts for him. When we are not living in right relationship with him, his fire will not burn brightly within us.


My guess is that Moses never returned to Egypt because there were many guilty memories lying back there for him.  He constantly had to live with the truth that he was a murderer and that he was a fugitive.  One wonders if every time he ran into Egyptian troops or Egyptian traders as he went on his routes if he ever worried that one might recognize him.  Moses was wanted for murder and the very household of Pharaoh wanted his head.  I’ll bet that Moses wanted to adopt a low profile and do his best to carve out the most comfortable life possible and avoid being arrested for murder. 


Yet in the midst of this incredible text, God was now calling Moses to a new way of life, a life in which he would be challenged to go back to the place that he feared the most.  To go to the court of the Pharaoh who he had feared would hunt him down and have him killed.  I’m sure that the thought of going back to the place that brought the most fearful for him was his worst nightmare.  This is why, I believe, that Moses kept making up reasons why he could not go back to Egypt and do what God had been asking him to do.  “Thus Moses was by no means a shining model of faith and trust in God, but it is unfair to charge him with being blunt and dictatorial.  However, neither could he have been so certain as to know exactly what would be the response of is brethren in Egypt.  His object was to stall for time.  Thus he did by posing further nuances to what he had already been told – all of which exhibits a certain lack of confidence in God” (Kaiser, EBC, 325).  The obvious reality that we notice from this text is that Moses did not want to go on the mission that God was about to send him.  He had too many skeletons in his closet and to go back. To do so would mean risking everything he had built for himself since he ran away all of those years before.  The truth is that God wanted spiritual significance for Moses while he wanted comfort.  As this story unfolds we will notice that God will win and eventually Moses will be grateful that he did.


How about you?  What would you rather have a life of comfort or a life of significance.  There is no doubt that both of these are possible for many people in many different ways.  It is possible to live a comfortable existence and live within the center of God’s will.  Yet, on the other hand, much of the time God will not allow us to simply live our days out in that state.  At the end of the day, Moses, like Abraham had to step out in faith and trust God and when he did, the whole world was turned around.  God may have such a plan like this for you – are you willing to seek him out and find that out?  A life of spiritual significance that is beyond your wildest dreams may lay in the balance.  I pray that you’ll make the right decision.


2 Responses to “Exodus 1-4: Do You Prefer Comfort or Greatness?”

  1. Chris Smith Says:

    Bruce, would you mind commenting on God telling Moses to say to Pharoah, “Let us take a three day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God”. The reason the Israelites left Egypt wasn’t about a worship service in the desert but about claiming the promised land. God was on the move to get his people out of Egypt and nothing could stop him. So, why the excuse about the sacrifices in the desert?

  2. Bruce Smith Says:

    I think that it was a genuine offer that God knew would be refused. Pharaoh hardened his heart and then God eventually hardened pharaoh’s heart, which ought to be a great lesson to all of us. We must always leave open the possibility that if we harden our hearts against God, God will then make the decision to harden our hearts further. For those of us who know Christ personally, we have the great gift of a new and soft heart given to us as part of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31).

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