Today we begin a series looking at the life of Moses. Moses has always been a central figure in history and today there is still a lot of interest in his life. Last year a major motion picture, God’s and King’s, was released which chronicled the life of Moses and who can forget one of the most beloved films of all time – The 10 Commandments with Charlton Heston. As I was working on this series I realized that the life of Moses covers four books of the Old Testament: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and the only other person to get that much attention in the Bible is Jesus.
The events of Moses life are certainly central for the people of Israel. It was Moses who was used by God to send the plagues on Egypt which is what led Pharaoh to finally set God’s people free from slavery and those events are still commemorated in the most holy celebration in Jewish life – the Passover. It was also Moses who received the 10 Commandments which began to establish God’s law for the people to live by and it was Moses who led the people through the wilderness for 40 years as they made their way to the Promised Land.
One of the themes that run through Moses’ life is his capacity for overcoming great obstacles. From his birth to his death, Moses faced challenges that seemed insurmountable and while at times he told God he was ready to give up and walk away, he never did. By facing those obstacles with faith, what formed in Moses was this spirit of overcoming. This summer I hope we can learn from Moses how to overcome the challenges and obstacles that we face in life. It is only by overcoming that we enter into the fullness of life. It is only in overcoming that we enter our own Promised Land.
Today we are going to start at the beginning and look at the history into which Moses was born. Exodus 1:8-22. When Moses was born, life for the Hebrew people was hard and getting worse. They were slaves in Egypt and while for many years they had been treated well, a new Pharaoh had changed all that and now they faced an impossible situation. They were expected to do more work but were not given the time or resources to do the work. In time Pharaoh became afraid that the Hebrew nation would get so large that they would become a threat to his own people so he issued a decree that all boys were to be killed as soon as they were born. With this background, Moses should have never survived. He was literally destined to die just moments after he was born, but he didn’t. Moses survived because there were women willing to do something to help overcome this situation.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Moses life is actually seen in the months surrounding his birth and it has to do with the role that women played in Moses survival. Remember that women in these days had little status and no authority and Hebrew women had absolutely no standing or power. First they were Hebrew which meant they were slaves and second they were women who had no rights. They were powerless, and yet they didn’t let their situation stop them. A few women were willing to take courageous steps to help save little boys and because they were willing to overcome their history and take some risks, Moses’ life was saved.
And it wasn’t just one woman, it was several. First there were the two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who were told to kill all the baby boys when they born. In faith, they risked their lives and disobeyed that law to allow the Hebrew boys to live. They told the Pharaoh that the Hebrew women were so strong that they gave birth quickly and by the time they arrived to help, the women were done and gone so they never had the chance to kill the boys. Because of their courage, they were able to overcome the plans of Pharaoh. Pharaoh however just doubled down and said that all boys that were born were to be thrown into the Nile to die.
Once again, Moses should have never survived, he should have been thrown into the Nile as an infant, but he wasn’t because his mother risked it all and hid him. Once again the courageous acts of a woman helped overcome the fate that awaited Moses at his birth. Then, when the child got too large and loud to hide, it was once again her courage that told her not to toss Moses into the Nile but to send him out in a basket. Exodus 2:1-8.
Once again, notice the role that women play here. It wasn’t just the courage of Moses’ mother but also his sister who followed the basket and even the kindness and courage of Pharaoh’s daughter who rescued Moses. This Egyptian woman defied her father to take in a Hebrew boy and then allowed him to be nurtured by a Hebrew woman. Without the courage of all these women, Moses would have never survived. Because these women were willing to take some big risks, Moses didn’t just survive, he moved from poverty to power. Moses went from a life of slavery to a position of authority.
At the very beginning of Moses’ life we see him overcoming great obstacles. He should have never survived and if he had, he should have been a slave, but through God’s hand and the faith and courage of some woman, Moses overcame his history. God opened the door so that overcoming his history was possible and God still opens that door.
Too many times people will look at their lives and see where they have come from and the families, community and culture into which they were born and assume that they can’t amount to anything and yet the very life of Moses teaches us we can overcome our history. The women around Moses didn’t allow their position to keep them from overcoming Pharaoh and because of their courage, Moses had a life. Moses shows us that we can overcome our history. Where the world may see no potential or power, God sees great possibility. While we look at ourselves and think we can’t amount to anything, God looks at us and sees infinite value and the ability to do great things. Where we see no future, God sees great plans. Overcoming our history is possible, but it requires faith in God and the courage to step out to take some risks.
Overcoming our history first requires us to have faith in God and the firm conviction that God makes all things and calls them and us good. This is what we hear in the creation story, God creates all things and calls them good. All life is good. And then look at Ephesians 2:10. We are the work of God and God has created us to do good things and to have us a good future, Jeremiah 29:11.
If we can trust God who created us and calls us good, than we can overcome any family, culture or environment that might tell us something different. Overcoming our history calls for faith but it also calls for courageous steps of faith.
The church I served in Altoona started an afterschool program for our neighborhood and we worked with children from some difficult family situations. Many of these children were born into difficult circumstances and had everything stacked against them. They didn’t have money or power; they didn’t have stable homes or the love and encouragement to help them succeed. We heard heartbreaking stories of families living in homes with holes in the roof and parents more interested in drugs than providing for their children. To me, these obstacles seemed insurmountable at times. Our desire wasn’t just to provide a safe haven for them once a week, we wanted to help these children overcome their history and move on to greater things and the good life God had for them.
A few years ago I heard from a young woman who attended our program in those first few years who was graduating from Lock Haven University. Overcoming her history was not a dream but a reality. A young man from the program is now a local pastor in our annual conference. With the help of others, these children took some courageous steps of faith and overcome their history to accomplish more than they ever thought possible and they are not alone. Many people have succeed in overcoming their history
A few years ago at the Leadership Summit we heard from a woman who overcame her difficult history and is serving God in some phenomenal ways. Christine Caine was abused by several men at a very young age and she says, When you’re abused, you think God could never really do anything with your life. You can hear a thousand sermons on destiny and purpose and God having a plan for your life—plans for good and not for evil—but deep down you can never believe God could use you. It certainly has been the fight of my life to get to the place of trusting God to redeem the broken pieces of my past for his glory.
As we see, for Christine the first step was learning to trust that God could love her and had created her for something good. Once she began to believe this she was able to continue to overcome her history by taking some small courageous steps of faith. Christine began by attending church and then she stepped out to volunteer with the youth ministry. She said, When nobody else would stay and clean up, I swept the floors. I remember cleaning the toilets as well. I remember holding that toilet brush and doing it as unto God with a passion.
Those were courageous steps of faith for her and as she walked on, Christine got some counseling to help her overcome her own broken history so that she today she is able to reach out and help others overcome their own broken and painful history. Today Christine is the co-founder of the A21 Campaign that helps rescue women, men and children who have been victims of human trafficking.
Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of this modern day slave trade and the average age of those kidnapped and forced into slave labor and prostitution is 12 years old. There are more people in slavery today than at any other point in human history, something we never hear about, and only 1-2% of them will ever be rescued. With faith in the God who created us and calls us good and the courage to take some risks, Christine overcame her own history and is now one of those people who are willing to take some great risks to help others overcome their history. She is just like Shiphrah and Puah and Moses’ mother who risked it all to overcome Pharaoh and set the stage for Moses to overcome his history.
The story of Moses tells us that we can overcome our history. It doesn’t matter where we have come from or how much seems to be working against us, God created us from something good and so God is making a way for us to overcome all obstacles and struggles so we can find life. The story of Moses also tells us is that we all need some help in overcoming our history. Moses had the help of many women and their courage gave Moses the opportunity he needed.
There are people today trying to overcome their history and realize God’s potential for their lives and they need our help. It might be people who are victims of human trafficking; it might be children and youth in our own community who need mentors and love; it might be those we serve in Sierra Leone. Overcoming history doesn’t just happen for anyone; it is a choice we have to make at some point in our lives to believe and trust God enough to take some courageous steps of faith. Overcoming history also happens because we make the choice to step out with courageous faith to help others overcome the history of their lives.
Overcoming Our History
1. Read about the events surrounding Moses’ birth from Exodus 1:6-2:10. What obstacles did Moses face at his birth? How did God help him overcome them?
2. Moses went from poverty to power, but later in his life he had to overcome some problems which took him from power to poverty – see Exodus 2:11-25. What courage was needed for Moses to make this change in his life? In what ways was Moses’ time in Midian needed for God’s future purpose in his life?
3. What “history” in your own life have you had to overcome? Economics? Academics? Abuse? Physical or emotional problems? Lack of support and encouragement?
4. Can you identify the people God used in your life to help you overcome? What specifically have they done to give you the courage to move forward in the face obstacles?
5. How did Jesus have to overcome his own earthly “history”?
(Born into poverty, living in Nazareth – see John 1:43-51)
6. How did Jesus help others overcome their history? (Fisherman, women, children, prostitutes, tax collectors)
7. God wants to use each of us to help others overcome the obstacles and challenges they face in life. How can God use you in the lives of others?
8. There are more slaves today than at any other time in history. Hear how God is overcoming human trafficking through the ministry of A21 (Abolishing Injustice in the 21st Century).