11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”
14 Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!”
15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the men of the Bible. As I ran through my mind the names of the most memorable men, I realized all of them except Jesus had something in common: they weren’t perfect. They were shepherds and warriors, kings and princes, priests and prophets, fishermen and apostles, tax collectors and thieves. And every one of them slipped from the will of God in some way. Perhaps they let their pride or lust take hold and cloud their judgment, or they doubted God or His Son Jesus, or they had a checkered past that surely ought to have landed them in an earthly jail. And yet despite their many issues, God found ways to call those flawed men and to use them, to draw them close to Him so that they could do His will.
Say the name “Moses” to your average nominal Christian, and the first thing that comes to mind would likely be the parting of the Red Sea, or the tablets handed down to Moses on Sinai. You might get a few folks who remember that he was found in the river by Pharaoh’s daughter, and some would remember he was raised as a prince of Egypt.
But how many remember that Moses was a murderer?
It’s not as if the event is avoided in the Bible–nor, for that matter, is it avoided in the well-known film “The Ten Commandments.” But I think many people, if they know of it at all, believe that (A) Moses was justified in killing the Egyptian overseer who had beaten a Hebrew slave, or (B) the event is meant to show us that Moses realizes the Hebrews are his true people, or (C) it’s just a springboard to get Moses away from Egypt.
“You shall not murder.”
Look back at the way Moses killed the man. (v.12) Moses knew that he was about to do something wrong, and he did not want to be seen. After he had killed the Egyptian, then he hid the body, hoping it would not be found. Does that sound like someone who feels justified in killing someone? And when the Hebrew man told Moses that he knew what he did, Moses ran away from both Egypt and his own people. Not exactly the actions of a man who was proud to stand up for his people, were they? As a prince of Egypt, Moses might have gotten away with the murder by saying he killed the man in self-defense, but Moses simply fled. He knew he had done wrong, and he was afraid of the consequences.
Does that sound like the same Moses we see standing before a later Pharaoh saying “Let my people go”? Does that sound like the Charlton Heston version of Moses we envision, majestically standing on the mountain with the tablets of the law, overlooking with scorn and judgment the debauchery going on in the Hebrew camp below? Does that sound like the Moses who spoke the law aloud to the Hebrews, and who in his final speech to them told them to choose between life and death?
Moses was a murderer.
But God used him anyway.
Do you remember why Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land? It was because he had gone against a very specific commandment God had given him. (Numbers 20:1-13) It was NOT because he had killed a man. In His sovereign mercy, God was quite willing to forgive the murder because Moses had a heart for God’s people. Truly, the issue of the murder was never brought up again, and the only thing about which God was concerned was how Moses behaved AFTER he was called to service.
1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
This same Saul became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. This same man who had consented to Stephen’s stoning later was stoned himself and left for dead for preaching the same things as Stephen. This Saul persecuted the church of Christ, but after his calling he spread the gospel of Christ all across the eastern Mediterranean Sea. God might have called Saul to account for his participation in those early persecutions, but instead God put him to work as an evangelist, apostle, healer, and the first theologian. Like Moses before him, Saul’s previous behavior wasn’t exactly exemplar, but God used him anyway.
God will call whom He will, and when He calls and when we have accepted His Son as Savior and Lord, our past sins are wiped clean. That is when our real service for the Lord begins. And as unworthy as we may feel, God still calls us to be active and bold for His people, to stand up before kings and statesmen, to speak His Word with confidence and truth. God doesn’t bring up our past, so why should we?
So many men and women feel as if they are not worthy of God’s service. They remember their past and they run off into the desert like Moses, seeking a new life and a new start somewhere that people don’t know of their past misdeeds. But God knows anyway, and although He is just in bringing every secret thing into judgment, He is also sovereign in allotting His mercy to whom He will. And God so loved us all that He sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment for our sins. That has now freed us to serve God as He so wills, with no need for us to feel guilt or shame over our past. God wants us for what WILL DO, not for what he HAVE DONE.
Reflect on your past, learn from it, but do not dwell in it. Run if you must, but just be aware that God will call you wherever you go. God is calling us all to be bold and brave and single-minded for Him. That will mean forgetting about our guilt and living a saved life of service to His will. Rather than running from our own people, rather than fleeing worldly rulers, God is calling us to stand up for His people and His Word, to face the authorities of this world with the authority given us by Jesus Christ, the true Lord of lords and King of kings. He is calling us to be new men and women, to be regenerated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and to live new lives of bold service for Him. In short, God is calling us the same way He called a murder and fugitive who became a prophet and a leader of God’s own people.
Holy Father God, the fact that You have forgiven my sins and called me to repentance is a miracle in itself. I thank You, Lord, for Your mercy. I admit I have felt unworthy of You, that I have dwelled on my sins too much to hear Your voice calling me to bold service and courageous life for You. Father, mold my heart now, I pray, so that I am reshaped to Your will, to Your purpose. I have fled my past enough, so guide me now, Lord, into the hope and future You would have me live in Your name. Amen.