By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mis-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. Hebrews 11, verses 24-26.
Moses isn’t Charlton Heston. Remember “The Ten Commandments?” Cecil B. DeMille’s last picture, which is one of the most famous movies of all time? It’s a tradition in America to show it every year around Easter, and it’s one of the movies I don’t (yet) have on DVD (or should I do Blu-Ray? Get all 2010…). Here’s a true confession: most of what I know about Moses, I learned from watching Charlton Heston. He was manly, gutsy, stoic; if you wanted a statue of Moses, you’d want it to look like Chuck Heston. But Moses isn’t (as my father called him) “the blue eyed Jew.” Or Christian Bale (in the not-as-good re-telling from a few years ago). The movie took a great many liberties with Biblical history, so much so that, when I actually read through Exodus through Deuteronomy, I felt let down. Only after doing further study did I feel impressed, again, by the story of this great man. The mis-understanding was mine, not Moses’.
However, make no mistake about it: no movie star I know of – not even Charlton Heston – would choose to give up Hollywood to be treated like a slave. Moses was brought up in the palace of Pharaoh. He was treated like a grandson, even a son, even though he was the known child of Hebrew slaves. His mother, Pharaoh’s daughter, lavished him in luxury. She raised him to educate him, to teach him how to rule a nation, master a court, prepare for royalty. Born a pauper, Moses grew up into a prince, a prince of Egypt: the heir apparent to rule wealthiest, most splendid and powerful nation on Earth. It wouldn’t have been unprecedented for a Hebrew, a foreigner, to rule as the power behind a throne. After all, Joseph had done so.
Yet when Moses came to a crossroads in his life, he unwittingly chose God. One day, he saw an Egyptian mistreat a Hebrew and he killed the Egyptian. Long before God forbade it, Pharaoh forbade killing as a way to preserve order in society. Moses hid the body, until the next day. He saw two Hebrew men fighting and, when questioning one of them, learned that his crime had become known. The brave prince of Egypt turned quickly into a coward on the run. He fled Egypt and didn’t return for forty years.
During that time, Moses went from prince back to pauper. He became a shepherd in what is possibly now western Saudi Arabia. He actively shunned his past, perhaps out of fear, but perhaps out of humility. Moses fled Egypt at about age forty and he lived in the desert another forty years. He raised a family, worked from his in-laws, and disappeared from public life. What did he do during that time? What did he think? What visions filled his dreams? Surely Moses must have used much of that time to wonder why his life had gone off track. I wonder if he had a crisis of faith, perhaps wrestling with faith for the first time in his life. Eventually, he accepted that his life wasn’t off track but had, instead, traveled on to a different one. He who had been born no ordinary child now lived the most ordinary, unrecognized of lives and what had it all been for?
But God recognized him, and Moses chose to accept the invitation. He saw the burning bush on the mountain and hiked up to see it. From then on, all history changed. Moses definitely did. God shook Moses out of his navel-gazing rural complacence and called him to the task God had prepared for him (and prepared him for). He knew that the generation which had wanted him called to Egyptian justice was dead, but that the mission God had called him to perform might also get him killed. Yet He went. After some grumbling and stalling (in front of God Himself; can you imagine?), Moses went. And then everything changed.
All because Moses looked heavenward. All because Moses believed. Charlton Heston couldn’t have done any better.
For further reading: Acts 7:22, Exodus 2:10-Luke 14:33, Hebrews 10:35, 1 Kings 4:30, Isaiah 19:11.
Lord, thank You for the example of Moses. Thank You for guiding Him, and for delivering Him from the slavery to his past while You delivered Your people from the injustice of real slavery.