Moses, a baby marked out for death, instead grew up as royalty under the care of those who once sought to kill him. He was given a stellar education, position, power, and all the pleasures of Pharaoh’s house. Still, Moses never forgot that he had been born a Hebrew. Nothing he gained from his adoptive Egyptian family was enough to cause him to forget who he was, who they were, or where he came from.
One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. ~Exodus 2:11-12
Moses observes an act of injustice against a Hebrew slave. All allegiance to Egypt disappears in an instant. Moses chose to forsake all he’d been given by Egypt in order to side with his own people. Hebrews 11:24 calls his alliance with God’s people “faith.”
Although Moses’ delivering his Hebrew brother from an abusive Egyptian foreshadows the great deliverance God would bring about through him later, it is clear that Moses’ impulsive act was actually a sinful result of righteous anger. In an effort to stop abuse, Moses became an abuser – an not just an abuser, a murderous abuser.
It is good that Moses grew up and matured. It is good that Moses considered the burdens of God’s people. It is good that Moses recognized evil and injustice. It is good that Moses had righteous indignation over the mistreatment of his brother. Moses likely had the right motives. He had the right perspective. He even had the right beliefs. But Moses sinned. He murdered a man. He acted unjustly on his quest to bring about justice. He is a prime example of doing the right thing in the wrong way. His sin led to fear, hiding, forty years of delay, and isolation from the very purpose he was raised up to accomplish.
For a moment, let’s consider what might have been different if Moses hadn’t sinned in his anger on his mission for justice. Is there anything Moses could have done aside from killing the abusive Egyptian man?
Perhaps he could have implored Pharaoh for justice on behalf of the Hebrews. He could have had the abusive ruler dismissed. Maybe he could have tried to use the position and power he had to bring about positive change in Egypt or prayed earnestly before taking such rash, irreversible action. Would his innocence have stopped the mouth of his Hebrew accuser who asked, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?…” rather than repenting when Moses confronted him? Surely he would have had more credibility in the eyes of both his Egyptian counterparts as well as his Hebrew brothers and sisters.
I digress. Who really knows what atrocities could have been avoided if Moses hadn’t sinned so grievously in this case. All we know is that he did – and we do, too, at times. What we do know is that Moses’ sin delayed him. He spent forty years in the desert. It caused a long period of isolation from everyone and everything he knew. That’s what sin does – even to those who begin with righteous anger, right beliefs, right perspective, and right motives. It drives us away from the people and places we are called to love and serve. We end up in the wilderness at the the mercy of God alone…
And maybe, just maybe, that’s not such a bad place to be when you’ve got some long, hard lessons to learn about doing things God’s way.
God redeemed Moses in that wilderness. He gave him a family and some necessary training. When the time came, God restored Moses and brought him back to Egypt for the very purpose he’d raised him up there for – deliverance.
When I think about Moses the murderer, I think about myself – a great sinner with a greater God. There’s no telling what good purposes I’ve missed and delayed because of my sinful reactions to other people’s sinful actions, but I know that the God I know is the same God Moses knew. The God who preserved baby Moses at birth preserved me at birth. The God who gave Moses severe, unique, and serious life circumstances as prerequisites to his calling is the same God who gave me severe, unique, and serious life circumstances as prerequisites to my calling. The one who allowed Moses to sin greatly, be restored fully, and become a real help and encouragement to his people is the same God who allowed me to sin greatly, be restored fully, and, I pray one day, will allow me to become a real help and encouragement to his people. The same God who gave Moses a beautiful, undeserved family out of the blue clear sky gave me a beautiful, undeserved family out of the blue clear sky.
How unworthy we are! Moses and I, that is. How good our God is to save us, grow us, forgive us, teach us, redeem us, and use us despite our great folly and faulty foundations!
Seeing Moses as a murderer is what led me to choose to study Exodus. There is hope in the ministry for people who fail royally – even if we’re not royal-ty like Moses. When I see Moses, I see hope – and rightly so – Moses the deliverer is a picture of Christ our deliverer.