Moses, The Servant of God.
GOD fits all His instruments. We are His workmanship, created unto good works (Eph. 10); and in all His wondrous dealings, there runs through the process of preparation, one well-defined princlple, as unlike man’s ways of preparing as possible, and as Gods ways ever are. "My ways are not your ways, saith the Lord; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so high are my ways above your ways" (Isa. lv. 8, 9).
Moses was trained from a child in the palace of Egypt’s king. He was learned in all the wisdom of earth’s most learned people. Science, art, philosophy, had accumulated there their treasures; and in all this wlsdom, says the Word of God, was Moses learned. Surely, then, he is fitted for the work. So thought Moses, and so doubtless thought the people. The name and place and authority of a prince were his; and his oppressed brethren might naturally enough expect much from such a man thus gifted, and wlth such resources. We read that when "Moses was full grown, he went unto his brethren." He was not sent. We know the sad story; he failed, and in disappointed rejection, fled to the desert.
Full-grown in everything that earth could give—the prime of life---all Egypt's wisdom—earth’s resources—-no need to lean in conscious weakness on God----"he looked this way and that," everywhere but up. His true education began with his failure. For forty long years, he is a disapointed wanderer in the wilderness; one of earth’s princes with earth’s resources, finding out the emptiness and vanity of it all, and its uselessness for any true and noble work.
He kept a few sheep, and led them to the "back of the desert, even as far as Horeb." What a contrast! The river of Egypt—the Mount of Horeb (dryness). The first part of the wondrous preparation is completed. The son of the king’s daughter, in the vigour of manly prime, has disappeared; and an old man of eighty years, tending a few sheep, with nothing in his hand save a shepherd's staff, stands on the dry hillside of a waste whose very name is barrenness. At his age, the very memory is surely waning, and the powerful intellect, which at forty cherished the wisdom of Egypt, must have lost much of its clearness and force. Yet here stands God’s chosen servant. May it not be said of him also, "When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him"? No power or grace of nature—nothing that man would think worth using, or indeed could use. Such and such only will Jehovah use. Moses has long ceased to trust self or anything which forty years ago he was proud to think belonged to him. All is gone; and with it has gone his dream of delivering Israel.
My brothers, for anything that God has done, or is yet to do by any of us, it is ever thus. For true service, this part of the education must be. All of self, all of fleshly energy or the world's resources, which naturally we might trust, must first be debased—"counted as dung" (Phil. iii.) My own righteousness, natural goodness, benevolence, loveliness of character, my natural mental aptitude or acquired wisdom—everything of mine own, God sets aside; and till I shall have learned to set them aside likewise, He will not and cannot give me true place and power in His service.
I know well that such truth is "foolishness" to " he many." Even so! It is no wonder to me that there should be so little of true God-power seen at work in our midst, for, alas! the very things which He despises are those on which our hopes centre, and the men mostly depended on are oftenest those who never yet have known their own weakness, far less Jehovah’s strength.
To Moses thus prepared, God appears and speaks. The second part of this great schooling begins. The disciple has now to learn the power and resources of God.
The vision of fire in the thorn-bush has been generally misunderstood. Most interpreters have fancied that the bush typified the nation in bondage, and the fire the suffering under which they groaned—God watching over and preventing their consumption. Careful study of the Word corrects this mistake. God had heard from heaven and had now come down to deliver. He Himself was and is the fire. Throughout Israel’s history, the burning flame is the symbol of Jehovah’s presence. Whether in and upon the thorn-bush, or going before the people as the pillar, or dwelling between the cherubim as the Shechinah glory, we have the fire ever betokening God HIMSELF. At this time, He had "come down to deliver." The instrument as seen by others was to be His servant Moses; but in and on the servant God was TO BE. Here the I AM was to assert Himself. The poor, scraggy thorn-bush of the wilderness was Moses; and in this poverty-stricken, dried-up instrument, God was now to test. Very slowly did Moses take in the great truth. His own sufficiency had been thoroughly unlearned. There was now no faith in self or in earth’s resources. So well, indeed, had this lesson been learned, that the very abiding sense of his own weakness and unfitness stood at first, in the way of belief that Jehovah would or could use him. Does it not ever seem thus? If our own self-conceit and sense of self-importance ceases to hinder, does not our sense of failure and weakness divert from God? Thus it is that we often quite as much as in the former way, limit and hinder the grace and power of our God.
"The place whereon THOU STANDEST is holy ground." What a word! This, at last grasped by faith, fully understood and continuously maintained made Moses what he ever afterwards was, the patient, humble, and loving yet fearless servant of God and leader of the people. Indeed, properly speaking, it is "no longer" Moses, but God. Around him, in him, on him, there is to be the perpetual presence. Henceforth, it is ever to be true of him, in faith-grasped consciousness, "the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Here is true consecration, and here alone is consecrated ground. As for the first time, in all his felt weakness and insignificance, he entered the halo of this glory, the command was given, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet." His preparedness to go forth must now be entirely at the will of God. Unlike the time when "full grown" (as to nature), he went forth of his own will, and "supposed (Acts vii. 25) his brethren would have understood," &c., "he is now, though truly prepared, to wait for every word of guidance on the will of God. Moses is never again, so to speak, to put on his shoes. This at least is part of the meaning; the rest is to be seen in the servant’s deeply humble and reverent attitude of soul. He is ever in the presence of God.
Beloved Christian worker, this is the secret of all true greatness. Never was a really great thing done but by such a man, in such a state of heart and mind. Emptied of self, learned as to the insignificance of the world and of all that is merely natural, trusting not in himself or in others, he humbly, reverently believes in his God, not as afar off, but now in him, upon him, and around him. He stands in His presence, walks in His companionship; he lives and moves and has his very being consciously through simple faith IN GOD; and what he does is at God’s bidding and under his control. "No longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me." Henceforth, such an one can truly say, "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me." Brethren, what hinders? Whether in you or in me, or in the Church as a whole, what hinders? Is it not one of two things-—conceit of ourselves, our own righteousness, wisdom, wealth, influence, numbers, or something of our own, which makes the Great God somewhat less needful? or, should all this be dashed to the ground and trampled in the dust, we dare not in our emptyness venture all an God——dare not lean all our weight on Jehovah Jesus—-dare not go as now we are, weak, poor, worthless, and having nothing, TO GOD, and believe that then and from thenceforth we have HIM, and so "possess all things"? Yet this is the secret of the so-called "higher life." Thus it is that, whether for doing or suffering, the "spirit of glory and of God resteth upon us" (1 Peter iv. 14).When the Church, like Paul, shall have spiritual understanding and faithfulness enough to count all her own gain but dung, and faith enough to believe in God instead, then the excelling glory of new covenant times shall be realised (2 Cor. iii. 7-11)----then shall the weakest saint be indeed as David, and the whole be "as the angel of Jehovah before Him." Would to God that we were brought to think of everything human just as God thinks; and then brought to know the meaning of, and abidingly to believe in the "grace of God" and the "God of all grace."
"What is that in thy hand?" Ah, now it only a shepherd’s staff. Forty years before, the question might have been very difierently answered; but now it is only a shepherds staff. IT IS ENOUGH FOR GOD. With that little, to all human wisdom and sense so contemptible, Jehovah wrought all his wonders.
My brothers, most of us have far too much. It is not enough that for true service, we must have learned to distrust self, but in order that the glory may be all Jehovah’s, as the power is all His own, our natural means and resources must be so poor, so mean to the eye of sense, that the servant is not likely to trust to them. The shepherd’s staif—good enough in itself, perhaps, to support the feebleness of an old man of eighty years, and direct the few sheep under his care, but surely not to meet and do battle with Egypt’s king, and work deliverance for Israel. Then, it was all he had; but he HAD it. Many of us, alas! occupy the place of service and bear the name of servant with much that we only seem to have. God cannot use what seems; it must be what we really do have, if talent, opportunity, knowledge, or experience is to become in our hand "the rod of God." This insignificant little, is, moreover, put at God’s disposal. It is given up to Him, and taken back at His command (chap. iv.), henceforth to be to Moses, not my "shepherd staff," but "the rod of God." Beloved, you may not have much. That matters not; but it matters very much that you be wholly in God’s hand, and that whatever may be in your hand, be looked upon by you as no longer your own, but God’s, and put entirely at his disposal. Mr. Moody tells of a family converted by a kindly smile. That wasn’t much, but it was a smile from the heart, lighting the face of one in whom the God of love was dwelling.
In all Church history, the men who have accomplished most, have been men whose earthly resources were small enough. When the Church turns to the world's great things, she falls from her greatness and loses her power.
"How are they to know that I am sent, and who shall I say has sent me?" The answer is marvellous. "I AM," and "I AM THAT I AM." His presence is to prove itself. Where the true servant is, there is God. It is enough—-Jehovah manifests Himself when He sends us. It may not be always as we could wish; there may be conviction of sin, and misery of heart, and ruin to those about us; or there may be life from death and wonder-wrought deliverances and blessing.
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God" (2 Cor. iv. 7). Who is suflicient? Our sufficiency is of God. By His perpetual presence and in unchanging faithfulness to His own character, He approves His own work and His own servants. HE IS! and He is that He is. Nothing more, nothing less, and at no time anything else. No further argument or proof is needed. Whenever in anything that professes to be God’s work we see less or other than God Himself, then the servant is not sent. Whatever is merely of man is nothing here. Of one servant alone it could always be said, "I do the works of my Father," and "I and my Father are one." Of Him alone always it could be said, when men asked, "Who art thou?" "In very deed that which I say."
He said He was the Son of God, and His deeds always proved it. Of Him alone always; and yet I am persuaded that, as we rise to the great truths before us----as we rise to simpler faith in them and in Him whose words they are, we likewise shall more thoroughly and continuously live such a life; or, rather, we shall permit that blessed One to live in us, and out from us in every deed, and thus WE, too, with whatever we are and have, shall be instinct with Him who is THE LIFE ETERNAL.