Story Twenty-One

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 4
IT must have been a great change in the life of Mṓ s̝es̝, after he had spent forty years in the palace as a prince, to go out into the wilderness of Mĭd́ ĭ-an, and live there as a shepherd. He saw no more the crowded cities, the pyramids, the temples of Ḗ ġy̆pt, and the great river Nile. For forty years Mṓ s̝es̝ wandered about the land of Mĭd́ ĭ-an with his flocks, living alone, often sleeping at night on the ground, and looking up by day to the great mountains. He wore the rough skin mantle of a shepherd; and in his hand was the long shepherd's staff. On his feet were sandals which he wore instead of shoes. But when he stood before an altar to worship God he took off his sandals. For when we take off our hats, as in church or a place where God is worshipped, the people of those lands take off their shoes, as a sign of reverence in a sacred place.
Mṓ s̝es̝ was a great man, one of the greatest men that ever lived. But he did not think himself great or wise. He was contented with the work that he was doing; and sought no higher place. But God had a work for Mṓ s̝es̝ to do, and all through those years in the wilderness God was preparing him for that work.
All through those years, while Mṓ s̝es̝ was feeding his flock in Mĭd́ ĭ-an, the people of Ĭś̝ ra-el were still bearing heavy burdens and working as slaves in Ḗ ġy̆pt, making brick and building cities. The king who had begun the hard treatment of the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes died, but another king took his place, and was just as cruel. He was called by the same name, Phā́ raōh, for this was the name given to all the kings of Ḗ ġy̆pt.
One day, Mṓ s̝es̝ was feeding his flock on a mountain, called Mount Hṓ reb. This mountain was also called Mount Sī́ nāi, and is spoken of by both names in the Bible. On the mountain Mṓ s̝es̝ saw a bush which seemed to be on fire. He watched to see it burn up, but it was not destroyed, though it kept burning on and on. And Mṓ s̝es̝ said to himself:
"I will go and look at this strange thing, a bush on fire, yet not burning up.”
As Mṓ s̝es̝ was going toward the bush, he heard a voice coming out of the bush, calling him by name, "Mṓ s̞es̞, Mṓ s̝es̝!" He listened, and said, "Here I am.”
The voice said, "Mṓ s̞es̞, do not come near; but take off your shoes from your feet, for you are standing on holy ground.”
So Mṓ s̝es̝ took off his shoes, and came near to the burning bush. And the voice came from the bush, saying:
"I am the God of your father, the God of Ā́ bră-hăm, and of Ī́ s̝aac, and of Jā́ cob. I have seen the wrongs and the cruelty that my people have suffered in É̄ ġy̆pt, and I have heard their cry on account of their task-masters. And I am coming to set them free from the land of the Ē-ġy̆ṕ tians̞, and to bring them up to their own land, the land of Cā́ năan, a good land, and large. Come, now, and I will send you to Phā́ raōh, the king of Ḗ ġy̆pt, and you shall lead out my people from Ḗ ġy̆pt.”
Mṓ s̝es̝ knew what a great work this would be, to lead the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes out of Ḗ ġy̆pt, from the power of its king. He dreaded to take up such a task; and he said to the Lord:
"O Lord, who am I, a shepherd here in the wilderness, to do this great work, to go to Phā́ raōh, and to bring the people out o É̄ ġy̆pt? It is too great a work for me.”
And God said to Mṓ s̝es̝:
"Surely I will be with you, and will help you to do this great work. I will give you a sign of my presence with you. When you have led my people out of É̄ ġy̆pt, you shall bring them to this mountain, and they shall worship me here. And then yet shall know that I have been with you.”
And Mṓ s̝es̝ said to God:
"When I go to the children of Ĭś̝ ra-el in Ḗ ġy̆pt, and tell then] that the God of their fathers has sent me, they will say to me, `Who is this God? What is his name?' For they have suffered so much, and have sunk so low, that I fear they have forgotten their God.”
You remember that Mṓ s̝es̝ had been out of Ḗ ġy̆pt and afar from his people for forty years, a long time, and in that time he did not know whether they had continued the worship of God.
And God said to Mṓ s̝es̝:
"My name is 'I AM,' the One who is always living.’ Do you go to your people and say to them, 'I AM hath sent me to you.' Do not be afraid; go to your people, and say to them what I have said to you, and they will listen to you and believe. And you shall take the elders of your tribes, the leading men among them, and shall go to King Phā́ raōh, and shall say to him, 'Let my people go, that they may worship me in the wilderness.' At first he will not let you go; but afterward, I will show my power in Ḗ ġy̆pt, and then he will let you go out of the land.”
But Mṓ s̝es̝ wished some sign, which he could give to his people, and to the Ē-ġy̆ṕ tians̝, to show them that God had sent him. He asked God to give him some sign. And God said to him:
"What is that which you have in your hand?" Mṓ s̝es̝ said, "It is a rod, my shepherd's staff, which I use to guide the sheep." And God said, "Throw it on the ground." Then Mṓ s̝es̝ threw it down, and instantly it was turned into a snake. Mṓ s̝es̝ was afraid of it, and began to run from it.
And God said, "Do not fear it, but take hold of it by the tail." Moses did so, and at once it became again a rod in his hand.
And God said again, to Mṓ s̝es̝, "Put your hand into your bosom, under your garment, and take it out again.”
Then Mṓ s̝es̝ put his hand under his garment, and when he took it out it had changed, and was now as white as snow, and covered with a scaly crust, like the hand of a leper. He looked at it with fear and horror. But God said to him again:
"Put your hand into your bosom once more." Mṓ s̝es̝ did so, and when he took it out, his hand was like the other, with a pure skin, no longer like a leper's hand.
And God said to Mṓ s̝es̝, "When you go to speak my words, if they will not believe you, show them the first sign, and let your rod become a snake, and then a rod again. And if they still refuse to believe your words, show them the second sign; turn your hand into a leper's hand, and then bring it back as it was before. And if they still will not believe, then take some water from the river, and it shall turn to blood. Fear not, go and speak my words to your own people and to the Ē-ġy̆ṕ tians̝.”
But Mṓ s̝es̝ was still unwilling to go, not because he was afraid, but because he did not feel himself to be fit for such a great task. And he said to the Lord:
"O Lord, thou knowest that I am not a good speaker; I am slow of speech, and cannot talk before men.”
And God said, "Am not I the Lord, who made man's mouth? Go, and I will be with your lips, and will teach you what to say.”
But Mṓ s̝es̝ still hesitated, and he said, "O Lord, choose come other man for this great work; I am not able to do it.”
And God said, "You have a brother, whose name is Aâŕ on. He can speak well. Even now he is coming to see you in the wilderness. Let him help you, and speak for you. Let him do the speaking, and do you show the signs which I have given you.”
At last Mṓ s̝es̝ yielded to God's call. He went from Mount Sī́nāi with his flocks, and took them home to Jĕth́ rō his father-in-law; and then he went toward Ḗ ġy̆pt, and on the way he met his brother coming to see him. Then the two brothers, Mṓ s̝es̝ and Aâŕon, came to the elders of Ĭś̝ ra-el in the land of Gṓ shen. They told the people what God had said, and they wrought before them the signs which God had given.
And the people said, "God has seen all our troubles, and at last he is coming to set us free." And they were glad, and gave thanks to God who had not forgotten them; for God never forgets those who call upon him.