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Troublesome Zeal

Acts 7:23-29
'When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. He saw one of them being ill-treated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defence and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realise that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, "Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?" But the man who was ill-treating the other pushed Moses aside and said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?" When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. (NIVUK)

Moses was the awed hero of Israel. The religious accusers at Stephen's trial considered Moses as God's holy law-giver: he could do no wrong. Stephen was charged with 'changing the customs Moses handed down' (Acts 6:14). But they had forgotten the history of this man who God saved from infanticide … the man God chose to lead His people out of Egypt. He was a murderer (Exodus 2:11-12).

Stephen took time to remind the court of how Moses got into that mess. Until he was forty years of age, Moses was a prince in Egypt, highly educated and trained as a capable leader. But he never forgot his Hebrew background even though it appears he kept his distance from his own people. But when he saw the reality of the cruel slavery which was crushing them, Moses decided to intervene and he killed an Egyptian who was ill-treating an Israelite. By the next day all the slaves knew that he was cruel too and did not want to have anything to do with him.

Moses was now unacceptable to his own people and a liability to Pharaoh (Exodus 2:14-15). Despite his privileged upbringing and status in the country, Moses became like a common criminal and he fled for his life. For the next forty years he became a shepherd in the Sinai wilderness. He was a non-entity who married the daughter of a Bedouin priest, Jethro, and spent forty years managing sheep (Exodus 2:16-22).

And yet God had His hand on this sinful man and his untamed passion. During forty years he had learned how to read the wilderness and where water could be found: it was essential training for his main job, another forty years of managing God's people and their livestock in the same wilderness. Yet Moses was a murderer; why did God choose him? The same was true of the Apostle Paul; and the same question might be asked (1 Corinthians 15:9). The truth is that there are no sinless people for God to use (Romans 3:23), except Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). All of us are unworthy but the grace of God is greater than our sin. Our future is not determined by our past if we repent and receive Christ. He is able to do far more than ever we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20), using us despite or because of our past. Be encouraged, and be willing for Him to work through a sinner like you.

God of grace. Thank You for choosing to use failures like Moses and me. Forgive me for the times when I have been reluctant to serve You because I did not feel worthy. Thank You that through Jesus I have been made worthy to be Your child, to enter heaven and to serve You until I meet You. Please help me to be willing to be used by You so that You will achieve some of Your purposes through me, enabling others to be blessed and You to be glorified. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams