Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. [Deuteronomy 34:4-5 (NLT)]
We all know the story: when she could keep him hidden no longer, Moses’s mother put him in a waterproof basket and laid him in the reeds of the Nile where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ sister appeared, offered to find a wet nurse for him, and Moses and his birth mother were briefly reunited. When he was older, the boy was returned to Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him. Logically that would have been when he was weaned (around two or three). Unfortunately, with only eleven verses of Scripture about his childhood, there’s no way of knowing how much contact he had with his birth family or what he knew of his Hebrew heritage. Nevertheless, Moses must have been torn by the knowledge that he was living a privileged life in the palace of the man who was mercilessly oppressing his people. A Hebrew boy being raised as an Egyptian prince, was Moses ever fully accepted by those in Pharaoh’s court? Did he feel he belonged or and was he too much of a Hebrew to be considered an Egyptian?
When he was grown, Moses went out “to visit his own people” but we don’t know why. Was he visiting his birth family, supervising some labor, or merely curious? Scripture only tells us that Moses killed an Egyptian he saw abusing a Hebrew slave. The next day, Moses returned again to his people and saw two Hebrews fighting. When he tried to intervene, he was sarcastically rebuffed: “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?” Apparently, Moses was too much of an Egyptian to be considered a Hebrew by his own people!
To escape Pharaoh’s wrath over the homicide, Moses fled to Midian. The man who was too much a Hebrew to be Egyptian and too Egyptian to be Hebrew was now a stranger in a strange land. Although his unique background was perfect preparation for the task given him, Moses didn’t know that. It’s easy to understand why he was so reluctant when God told him that he’d be the one to lead the Hebrews to freedom. What did Moses know of his people and God’s covenant with Israel? He hadn’t even circumcised his son Gershom!
Part of me finds the story of Moses incredibly sad. Having spent a third of his life as an outsider in Pharaoh’s palace, a third as an exile in Midian, and a third as a nomad in the wilderness, he was a man who never really belonged anywhere. Although he was the one who led his people to their home in Canaan, Moses never stepped into that Promised Land; he only viewed it from a distance. Yet, isn’t this what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he gave his examples of faith in Hebrews 11? He wrote of faithful people like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who, like Moses, only viewed God’s Promised Land from a distance. True faith, however, allows us to see beyond what is right in front of us. We’re all strangers in a strange land because this world is not our home. The Promised Land is not a piece of soil; it is the Kingdom of God and a piece of eternity.
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. … But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. [Hebrews 11:13,16 (NLT)]
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