The book of Exodus opens where Genesis closed: the sons of Jacob are living in Egypt, in the region of Goshen. Long forgotten is the Joseph story and the benevolence of Pharoah. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are an enslaved people, living under an order of infanticide. Exodus 1, verse 22 is, “Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Exodus 2 narrates the opening chapters of the life of Moses, God’s deliverer. The Moses story is a fascinating one filled with ironic twists and turns. Jewish babies were delivered from Egyptian infanticide by the civil disobedience of Hebrew midwives. Hidden for three months, then discovered by the daughter of the ruler who issued the murderous order, the Hebrew baby named Moses was adopted by Pharoah’s daughter who subsequently chose a Hebrew woman to help raise Moses who was actually his real mother.
At age 40, Moses, son of an enslaved people, adopted into Egyptian royalty, and educated as an Egyptian prince, decided to become a defender of the Jews. He failed miserably. He killed an Egyptian. Pharoah ordered Moses’ death not because of his fatal assault against an Egyptian, but for treason. Moses, the Egyptian prince, had made a choice to identify with and defend his native people, the enslaved Jews.
In all the twists, turns, and ironies of Moses’ first 40 years, God providentially preserved his life and prepared him for great things. Why not use Moses to deliver His people at this point in the story? God has His own time, but from a human perspective, Moses was not spiritually prepared. At age 40, the prince of Egypt needed to get out of Egypt. Moses had a heart for his native people, but the temperament and habits of an Egyptian prince. Moses needed to get out of Egypt to avoid retribution for treason, but, more importantly, he needed to get out of Egypt for his own spiritual refinement and preparation. It is one thing to get out of Egypt; it is a whole other thing to get Egypt out of us. The latter takes longer. Moses would not return to Egypt for another 40 years.
As the curtain closes on Exodus 2, Moses is a man without a people or a nation. Rejected by the Jews after an initial attempt at standing up for them, and on the run from Pharoah’s hand of retribution, he fled to the wilderness and the land of Midian. For the next 40 years, he grew as a man, worked as a shepherd, married a woman named Zipporah, and had a family. After the birth of his first son, he described his life as having “been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (Exodus 2:22)
And for 40 years, God spiritually refined and prepared Moses to go back to Egypt. There is no indication that Moses thought he would return to Egypt. He had no earthly idea he had been uniquely equipped to be a great deliverer in God’s redemptive history. Someone has noted the “difference between education and experience is education comes from reading the large print and experience comes from failing to read the small print.” Moses, the Hebrew boy who became an Egyptian prince, spent his first 40 years reading the large print of Egyptian education and would spend the next 40 reading and learning the small print of God’s preparation.
Chapter 2 ends, “And God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” (Exodus 2:24-25) Having read the small print, Moses was prepared to return to Egypt.