Stephen the Christian Protomartyr: 5. Moses in Midian

Acts 7:29‑35  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Moses then was rejected like the Messiah, rejected by his own people, God's people, for whose sake he had given up his earthly ease, honor, and prospects. His faith was thoroughly of and in God, yet to be vindicated in due time. But the energy that slew the Egyptian evil-doer was before the season, and gave occasion to the heartless Israelite to repel his gracious intervention and expose him to the vengeance of the oppressor. Moses must flee from his beloved but unworthy brethren, and wait on God's time and word in a strange land. He could not yet say, like the perfect Messiah, “Waiting I waited for Jehovah.”
“And Moses fled at this saying, and became a sojourner in the land of Midian where he begat two sons. And when forty years were fulfilled, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai, in the flame of fire of a bush. And Moses as he saw wondered at the vision; and as he went up to consider, there came Jehovah's voice, I [am] the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. And Moses, all a trembling, durst not consider. And Jehovah said to him, Loose the sandal of thy feet, for the place on which thou standest is holy ground. I surely saw the ill-usage of my people that [is] in Egypt, and heard their groaning, and came down to take them out. And now come, I will send thee unto Egypt. This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who established thee a ruler and judge? him God sent a ruler and a deliverer (or, redeemer) with the angel's hand that appeared to him in the bush” (vers. 29-35).
The second period of forty years is full of spiritual instruction for us. Moses must learn the nothingness for God of that long span of his early life when trained in all wisdom of the Egyptians. Might in his words and deeds of that sort had no worth in his eyes, that no flesh should boast before God; that according as it is written, He that boasteth, let him boast in Jehovah. It is what answers to the Christian principle, My grace sufficeth thee; for power is perfected in weakness, as its exercise must take its start from the word of the Lord, as one is guided by the Spirit. Thus is it obedience, without which is nothing that glorifies God. This is all the more striking, because in Egypt it was during the earlier period that we read of that distinctive faith, which, as it flowed from God, also delighted Him, of which, we have the record in 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). Yet the spiritual dealing that follows is as invaluable for the soul in His service, as the blessing that lays the foundation for it is indispensable. Natural energy, which is man's glory, must be judged in and by the saint to God's glory. Then ensues true practical dependence on God, and the felt need of His direction. Even thus, when the call comes to act for God, what hesitation, and even shrinking, and sense of difficulty to the verge of unbelief! What a contrast with his self-confidence in the earlier days!
But it was not only the wilderness as the scene of continuous trial, nor the quiet seclusion with God which the lowly life of a shepherd furnished, to unlearn as it were what Egypt had taught, nor the long daily proof to humble and prove what was in the heart (so blessed to Moses who bowed, and so fatal afterward to Israel who did not bow). Moses had God's manifestation in the way most suited to the work given Him to do, in a flame of fire out of a bush that burned but was not being consumed. It was holy ground: Moses was told to unloose his sandals from off his feet, and heard the divine voice say, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. It was for the fathers' sakes to whom He had pledged His promise and whose God He was. But He had also heard His people's cry under bitter oppression, and came down to deliver them. They then groaned and sighed by reason of the bondage; but they had not the faith to cry to Him. Yet their cry came up to God; and God heard their groaning, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, which they had forgotten, long sunk in the darkness and idolatries of their cruel masters. But God looked on the sons of Israel and acknowledged them, and called His servant Moses, at this point of their depression, to the great work of crushing the pride of Egypt, and pouring contempt on their gods in the redemption of His people.
But more we may note in passing: observe the force of his quoting the call to unloose his sandal. Holy ground is where God manifests Himself. It was not merely Jerusalem. So Jehovah decided with Moses in Midian; so afterward with Joshua when he crossed the Jordan. Their idolizing the courts of the sanctuary was out of season. But religious pride is like other pride, and often lifts its head higher in abject poverty. And the case of the Jews who charged Stephen falsely with blasphemous words against the holy place was yet more desperate and unfounded. For they had rejected their own Messiah, and God had raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand, far above every principality and authority and power and lordship, and every name named not only in this age but also in that to come, and subjected all things under His feet, and gave Him as Head over all things to the church. Hence the center of divine glory and attraction is no longer on earth but in heaven. What had holiness relatively once has lost it by unbelieving contempt of the Lord of glory, whom both the Jews and the world's princes crucified. The only holy place God owns now, or faith too accepts, is above where Christ is. But though Stephen does not argue here but simply cites the scripture they all acknowledged, they are thus each way shown without excuse in their petty and malevolent jealousy. God's words exposed and refuted any such charge of blasphemy.
Jehovah must take the initiative. It must be manifestly His work, as Moses had learned. And he became a type of a greater than Moses, as Joseph too before him, in being rejected by and separated from his brethren so dear to him, before God used him to become their ruler and deliverer. In very deed for this was the cruelest and haughtiest of Pharaohs raised up to show him His power, and that Jehovah's name might be declared in all the earth. Instead of energy to go forward, Moses was hesitating and diffident in the extreme, and the people hearkened not for anguish of spirit and from hard service. It was Jehovah that set out in tender words and with all assurance His undertaking Israel's cause, not only to deliver them from their sorrow under Egypt's oppression, but to bring them up out of that land. unto a good and spacious land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
No doubt another reason was before His all-embracing mind Gross evil enveloped that goodly land: abominable idolatry with its debasing immorality. Jehovah would judge the iniquity of the Amorites, while he made Israel to take possession of the land, which had been so plainly marked out from Abraham's day for his descendants. But the O.T. yields ample evidence that Joseph and Moses were but types, and that all that Israel have yet enjoyed is but provisional, and, as far as the people and kings were concerned, an utter short-coming till He come who, fulfilling these types and many more, will bring in the blessing for Israel, no less than accomplish the judgment on their enemies. Then too shall be the higher glories of the heavenly things, and the vaster reconciliation of all things, over which Christ is the appointed Head, who will share all with the glorified heirs of God and joint-heirs with Himself.