Mr. Amram’s son is an Egyptian prince who has a call from Israel’s God.
He dresses Egyptian, sounds Egyptian, and acts Egyptian so much of the time that it’s hard to believe there’s anything Israelite about him. Besides, he has an Egyptian name.
Mr. Amram says his name isn’t Moses; his line is that Moses has no choice, since that’s the name they call him in the palace. But none of the family has ever told us—not Mr. Amram, not his wife, not the kids—what his real name is. They say they could get in trouble if they ever did. Everybody and nobody believes they will tell, because that would be awesome! And nothing more than a big joke—that one of the slaves has his own name for the next Egyptian pharaoh; or that some slave says, or two or three or four of them say, he actually belongs to their family.
Mr. Amram’s wife, Jochebed, has a story about how their family member got to the palace; but they almost never talk about it. If you did hear it sometime, you would right away understand at least some of the reason nobody but everybody has ever heard anything about the story: it’s a women thing—Mrs. Amram, her daughter, the Egyptian princess, some of her girlfriends and servants. . . . Not a single man in it, except Moses, who, of course, is not a man. He’s a 3-month-old baby!
What is sure is that nobody could make up that story, so it must be true, true and fantastic—from a realm all its own. Everybody and hardly anybody believes it. Everybody and almost nobody talks about it.
Sometimes the confidence of knowing exactly what God wants you to do makes you stagger with excitement—even when nobody understands. It drives you to dizzying deeds for God—nobody will understand anyway, except those crazy ancient Israelite sages who think of themselves as your fathers! So you strike a blow for your fathers and your brothers, sure that they will understand. You act up for them to see what you’re up to: somebody is beating your brother one day; you show up; he sees you coming and takes it to the next level; he thinks you’ll like him more for being mean to the Israelite. And there’s no one else around to report him for excessive cruelty.
The trouble for him is that he cannot see behind your eyes; he cannot see inside your head; he has no idea how differently you see the world. He’s so open to you that he doesn’t even get a chance to be surprised. Moreover, you are good at this. So good that the poor, unenlightened Egyptian’s life is over before he can say “Hello!” Your Israelite brother streaks out of there as quickly as he can, leaving you to bury the body by yourself.
So now you get to find out how big a problem it can be to hear God’s voice right in your ear: people, your own people, think you’re a threat to their stability. Fleshpots and lashes sound much better to them than some fantastic “We Shall Overcome.” They’ve been stuck here already for more than 300 years, and now you want to infiltrate their ranks and steal slave secrets by claiming that you’re one of them and that you have a plan. Mr. Amram must be rounding up followers. . . .
Besides, where would this escape plan take them—to the wilderness? Who prefers the desert to life in the Nile delta? Some Israelites—besides Mr. Amram and Company—have their own names for you: what you call confidence they call conceit; when you say self-assurance they say arrogance; when you get all full of passion they say it’s self-promotion, polishing your politics; but it’s a weird kind, preparing for royal diplomacy perhaps, when you become king and have to deal with foreign nations. What’s clear is that you’re out of place and need to find your place.
The God of the wilderness made a new man out of Moses.
You hear it in the way they look at you. And if you can’t hear their eyes, they give you words too plain to be misread. Run for your life, great liberator! Run! The people you so care about don’t care about you; they don’t care about your liberating crusade on their behalf; they don’t even understand that there is a war going on and that you’re on their side. They don’t need your liberation, Moses; they need to be left in peace and misery. But you need them. You need the words they’re giving you: “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Ex. 2:14).1
No, no, no! That must be the most stupid thing an Israelite can say right now: Are you on some killing spree? Am I next? You thought the answers would be on every doorpost by now. But they aren’t printed anywhere; only in your head: Yes, I’m on a killing spree. And: No, of course not! You and I are on the same side. I only look Egyptian.
Tell me, Christian, have you ever felt that you’re the only sensible person around? Your church needs help that God has prepared you to give. But you’re not an insider. You’re a layperson. Their dedication to traditional ways of doing business makes you just a figurehead on the board they named you to. Maybe you’re even tempted to take the Moses route—the one that leads to the wilderness—because you’ve come to see that your committee has no place for sensible people. You feel forced to choose: resign or live cynical.
But what makes you think your logic works? If Moses was the only sensible one around in his day, then he was the one who should have stayed at any cost. After all, he may have run because he didn’t want to die (Ex. 2:14, 15); but he didn’t run because he was scared of anybody. If he was so willing to die for his cause, he should have stuck around; he was needed.
You’re needed; you’ve heard God say so; good people who talk with God tell you He’s told them so. How is resigning the thing to do? How can leaving, quitting, or cynicism still be right? Does it matter how elegant or crude, accommodating or awkward, supportive or hostile, interesting or boring, fancy or ugly the circumstances are if God needs you? Does applause or criticism matter if you are where God’s people need you to be? If God’s work needs you, what other considerations need to be present for you to serve: kitchen appliances? massages and backrubs? emergency road service? more flattery?
Moses ran away from his call to Egypt and ran right into God. He lost his way, took the wilderness route, and found his forever God: “Shut in by the bulwarks of the mountains Moses was alone with God.”2 Now, God could teach him without all the weapons training he had acquired, the other military skills he had developed, the ambition he had harbored. And he spent so much time learning from God in the wilderness that by the time God was ready for him to go back, Moses was sure he wasn’t the right person to go.
“The fact that a man feels his weakness is at least some evidence that he realizes the magnitude of the work appointed him.”3 The God of the wilderness made a new man out of Moses. He learned the truth about the great controversy: it isn’t how many congregations you raise up, church planter; how many members you baptize, evangelist; how many structures you lay down,builder; or articles and books you publish, writer; or how many grand conferences and major meetings you stage, great organizer. It’s a spiritual war. And Moses found the key to victory.
You find it in God’s summary that He gave through Zechariah 1,000 years later. It was part of a message to another of God’s leaders formed in his own wilderness of national inferiority, recent exile, and sustained colonial status. The Lord’s Word there instructs that true success comes “not by might nor by power, but by [His] Spirit” (Zech. 4:6).
So don’t quit your job, Moses; just relegate your ingenious humanity to its right location in hierarchies of importance. As your God instructed through Isaiah centuries after you: “Mythoughts are notyour thoughts, nor areyour ways Myways” (Isa. 55:8). His ways are much higher (see verse 9). True success with God means doing God’s things God’s way.
No need to spurn your call, Moses, for “not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.”4 And don’t surrender your conviction, Moses, for the world needs people of conviction: “There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”5
Don’t diminish your passion, Moses—hold on to your first love (see Rev. 2:1-4). Don’t change your mind, Moses—just respect God’s own.
Lael Caesar, associate editor at Adventist Review Ministries, has been a lifelong fan of the new Moses.