Stephen the Christian Protomartyr: 4. Appeal to Moses Next

Acts 7:17‑28  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Still more prolonged is the use made of this even fuller type of Messiah. This we may examine according to the three divisions of his life; each of forty years, in Egypt, in Midian, and in the wilderness.
“But as the time of the promise drew near which God assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, until there arose a different king over Egypt who knew not Joseph. He dealt subtly with our race, and evil-entreated the fathers, to make their babes outcast that they might not live. At which season Moses was born and was fair exceedingly [unto God]; and he was nourished three months in his father's house. And when he was cast out; the daughter of Pharaoh took him up and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was instructed in every wisdom of Egyptians; and he was mighty in his words and works. And when a space of forty years was being filled to him, it came up on his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one wronged. he defended and avenged him that was oppressed, smiting the Egyptian. And he thought that his brethren would understand that God by his hand was giving them deliverance; but they understood not. And the next day he appeared to them when contending, and urged them unto peace, saying, Ye are brethren: why do ye wrong one another? But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who established thee ruler and judge over us? Dost thou wish to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?” (Vers. 17-28.)
The time of promised deliverance drew near, but it was not yet come. A different king over Egypt arose, who knew not Joseph, and looked askance at the growth and rapid increase of the Israelites. The providence of God raised up a fitting instrument for His merciful purpose. But even Moses must learn dependence on Him, and that neither the advantage of his person, nor the training in Egypt's wisdom, nor the court influence of Pharaoh's daughter, could avail to effect that purpose to His glory. Yet who was ever more strikingly marked out by divine providence, and who had better human means and opportunities? Though an outcast for death, he nevertheless was nourished by the princess royal as her own son. Not only instructed in all that Egypt could teach, but mighty in his words and works, who so proper as he by the favor of the king to lead God's people peacefully, out of Egypt and their frontier sojourn to the promised land? But no: this would have been man's method and the world's wisdom to the praise of Moses' genius and prudence, and in no way a foreshadow of Christ.
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ: as Joseph was a witness of it even in Canaan, so was Moses now in Egypt. “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be evil-entreated with the people of God than have temporary enjoyment of sin, accounting the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked off unto the recompence” (Heb. 11:24-2624By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24‑26)). Thus grace wrought in practical righteousness; it ought ever to do so in the believer, as it perfectly and ever shone in Christ. It was in Moses the eminent proof of his faith, relinquishing advisedly every gain which providence had given him of a circumstantial kind, that no flesh should glory, but that he who glories might glory in Jehovah. Nor was it only that he turned his back on the world's power, splendor, and pleasures, for Jehovah, leaving any charge of ingratitude to the royal preserver and munificent patron of his life up to mature manhood. He chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, His poor faulty people in their present low and degraded estate, rather than enjoy what was sinful and ungodly. He appreciated the actual bond of God to His people, and unreservedly acted on it in faith. Grace enabled him not only to see but to do the truth.
The reasoning of prudence would have kept him where providence cast his lot without will of his own. Faith pierces through all such pleas or excuses, because it follows God's love to His own, even in their abasement; as Christ did thoroughly, who never yielded to premature energy, but waited in patience, suffering meanwhile to the uttermost. Any other principle however it be disguised is worldliness; and Moses is a blessed sample of fidelity, whatever mistake may have mixed up with it. The word to the Christian is plain: “not minding high things, but going along with the lowly.” It is the very reverse of “condescending” to them; for this retains pride of place while affording countenance. Compare our Lord's words in Matt. 20:25-2825But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25‑28). “Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Thus holiness to God is ever separateness from evil, but also identification in heart and way with His people. But faith is now tried, and its path never long runs smooth. And here we are shown that Moses, when about forty years old, had it on his heart to visit his brethren the sons of Israel; and seeing one wronged, he defended and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian. Hating unrighteousness, he punished the oppressor of his brother, heedless of the consequence. But the following day his love met a rude repulse, and this not from an Egyptian but from an Israelite, whose wrong was now worse; for he rejected the intervention of Moses to make peace, when he spoke to their heart of their unworthy contention. He that did the wrong to his neighbor—it is ever so—resented the love that sought their good, and thrust Moses away. He did worse still. “Who,” said he, “made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?”
The time of deliverance was not yet. Moses so far was mistaken. He had not yet fully judged himself; he unconsciously was off his guard in using his might in words and deeds. The people must be brought down lower must cry to God under their bitter burdens, the Egyptians be forced to wish Israel good, and proud Pharaoh be crushed to nothing under God's mighty hand. Moses thought that his brethren would understand that God by his hand was giving them deliverance. But they understood not. And this is a far more searching trial than any fear of Egyptian anger. The Lord, who never failed, as Moses and others, suffered incomparably more than all for His people's unbelief, yea from His apostles' inability to understand Him, till He died and rose and sent His Spirit from heaven to lead them into all the truth. Man despised Him, and the nation abhorred. “We hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”
The saddest and most painful thing was His brethren's alienation. In this Joseph and Moses were types of Him; but each in a somewhat distinct way, the better to foreshow Him. Joseph was separated from his hating brothers, to rise through a humiliation still deeper where he was as a man that has no help, cast away among the dead and remembered no more. From all this he rose at once to be the highest next to him on the throne, quite outside Israel over the Gentiles. Moses was forced to flee from his brethren who would have valued his turning to account the world's influence, and cared not for his going down in love to share their affliction. But his heart was ever with them in his separation from them, and awaited the time to return for their deliverance from Egypt. Nor can any fact more clearly mark the difference than that he called his son Gershom, “a stranger"; while Joseph called his eldest Manasseh, “forgotten.” For such he was, in no way settled down in Midian; but his affections were with his poor brethren, and he looked for the day when by his hand deliverance would come for them.
In Joseph's name for his eldest we have the other side of what was so fully verified in Christ; for God had made him forget all his toil, and all his father's house; as the second was named Ephraim, or fruitful, in the land of his affliction. But Gershom expressed that Moses was a stranger in a strange land, and Eliezer's name only comes in later, My God a help, when Moses under Jehovah's power had delivered the people. So carefully does the inspiring Spirit deign to keep us even in typical shadows from the narrowness of the human mind or will, and lead us on to delight in the largeness of divine grace in our Lord Jesus.