The story is told of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and how he played a practical joke on some friends. As the story goes, he sent an anonymous telegram to each of twelve friends, all men of great virtue and considerable prestige and position in society. The message simply said: “Flee at once … all is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, all twelve had left the country.
No doubt there is some playful exaggeration here, but the point is that each one of us can identify with failure. Each one has at least one skeleton in their closet. However, very few are willing to admit it. John F. Kennedy once said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.”
Moses was no stranger to failure. Though he was on the fast track to success, he ran ahead of God, made a huge mistake, and then ran and hid from his failure. His early life provides a cautionary tale for us all about the danger of running ahead of God’s plan.
Moses was on the fast track to greatness (Acts 7:20-25). Moses had:
- Position (21). Moses was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace and nurtured for the throne.
- Education (22). Moses was probably educated in the Temple of the Sun, “the Oxford of the ancient world.”
- Skills (22). Moses possessed intellect, charisma, eloquence, and leadership. He made a name for himself as a young man.
- Heritage (20, 23). Though raised in the palace, he identified with his Jewish family. He knew who he was.
- Sense of compassion and justice (24). Moses could not stand idly by and watch the weak being downtrodden. He wanted to help the oppressed.
- Destiny (20, 25). Though God does not call him into service until the burning bush (Exodus 3), Moses seemed to sense what God was going to do through him.
Moses ran ahead of God’s plan (Exodus 2:11-12; Acts 7:23-25). As a man of action, Moses did not like marking time and waiting. He initiated his own plan to deliver the nation of Israel (Acts 7:23). He rolled up his sleeves and jumped in. In so doing, he demonstrates a misguided understanding of his own importance (Acts 7:25). He seemed to have the idea that all he had to do was sound the rallying cry and all Israel would come running. Rather than think through the situation and develop a plan, he reacts emotionally (Exodus 2:11-12). He acted alone, in secret, and in his own strength. With one rash act, he threw away forty years of preparation.
Moses ran away from his mistakes (Exodus 2:12-15; Acts 7:26-29). When you act in the flesh, you have to cover up your sin. Moses buried his in the sand (Exodus 2:12). However, it did not remain a secret very long and the next day it was common knowledge. Rather than embrace him as deliverer, his own people rejected him (Exodus 2:13-14; Acts 7:26-28). After realizing his failure (Exodus 2:14), Moses flees and becomes an exile (Exodus 2:15; Acts 7:29).
When we take matters into our own hands …
- We think we are the answer to God’s problems, not the other way around. He reveal our pride and arrogance.
- We become impatient because God is not moving fast enough. We become anxious and chafe at waiting.
- We react instead of respond. Rather than think through the issue and develop a plan, we react emotionally in the heat of the moment.
- We experience rejection because of our foolish mistakes. Instead of our message being rejected, we are rejected for our choices, rudeness, or compromising approach.
- We end up as exiles. We find ourselves on the sidelines wondering if God can ever use us again.
- We discover the well of a new life lies nearby (Exodus 2:15). Unbeknownst to Moses, the well Moses sat next to would lead to a new life and renewal.
Don’t run ahead of God. As Moses learned, God will not be bent to our will. He will bend and shape us to his will. Even if it means letting us sit on the sidelines for 40 years.
This is the synopsis of a message given to the congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 18, 2017. It is part of a series of messages on The Life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.