Character Study: Moses – Humility (Numbers 12:3)
“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)
What do you think of when you think of Moses? Exodus from Egypt? Parting the Red Sea? The Ten Commandments? Great prophet and leader? Dramatic miracle-worker? Those things are all true enough. Moses is one of those larger than life characters in the Old Testament. At least for me, I have always tended to think more about what he did than who he was. There is one, however, who sees things just the opposite.
God isn’t impressed with all our credentials or accomplishments; he is interested in our character. He sees the root of our motives and he justly discerns our heart. So what did God see when he looked into the heart of Moses? According to the scripture above, he saw a humble man–the most humble man on the face of the earth. Well he didn’t start off that way, not by a long shot.
We don’t know exactly how or when this happened but by the time Moses had matured to age forty, he had a sense of his divine destiny. Even though he had been raised a son of the Pharaoh’s daughter he knew who he really was.
“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren” (Exodus 2:11).
Right destiny, wrong timing
What he did next was a case of: right destiny, very wrong timing. He killed the Egyptian and hid him in some sand. The next day he returned to “help” some more by intervening in a fight between two Hebrews. “He supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). Hmmm…humility not yet there.
Not only did they not understand, but they let him know his help was unwanted. Plus, they had seen the incident the day before, and news of it very likely would get back to Pharaoh (it did). Moses fled to the far country of Midian to escape Pharaoh’s hand. It is there that he would spend the next forty years of his life in a very special school designed by God just for him. His education would get him ready to deliver God’s people in GOD’s timing, and with a new heart.
There’s not a lot of detail about those forty years in Midian. We know Moses hooked up with a man named Jethro, married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah, and had a son named Gershom. Actually the son’s name gives a small clue as to how sad and displaced Moses felt. The name Gershom means, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” We also know Moses was willing to herd his father-in-law’s flock—a very lowly profession considering what he came from. His dreams of being a deliverer crashed and burned, but along with that went the presumption and pride that made him unsuitable to lead just yet.
Then what happened? A whole lot of nothing. Day after day, month after month, year after year. Waiting. Of course Moses probably didn’t see it as waiting because what would he have been waiting for? He didn’t know anything was still ahead. As far as he knew, he blew it and was washed up. Moses was in a school where his homework was to get up everyday and go through the day without being significant.
Yet day after day and month after month and year after year something was happening. We know it by what transpired at the end of the forty years when God showed up in the burning bush. God revealed who He was and also that He had been watching Egypt while Moses was “sojourning in a foreign land”. “’I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt'” (Exodus 3:7). He was now ready to deliver them from their four hundred year bondage, and guess whom He wanted to use as His instrument?
God said to Moses, “’Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt'” (Exodus 3:10). Now? Really? After all this time? Moses’ answer reveals to us that he was finally ready to graduate from school with a PhD in Humility. He said back to God, “’Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'” (Verse 11) Bingo! An answer God could work with. He was graduating with a summa cum laude.
Humility had been worked to such a deep place in Moses that he gave excuse after excuse to God for why he was the wrong person to be sent. When God answered every argument Moses finally just begged.
“’Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue'” (Exodus 4:10).
Of course God got His way and Moses did all that the Lord commanded him to do. He operated in tremendous supernatural power, and he wielded absolute authority over millions of people for the next forty years of his life until his death. How badly the whole thing might have turned out if he had not been the most humble man on the face of the earth?
Can Moses’ life speak to any of us today? Not for what he did because that assignment was unique in history. But what about for his character which was developed slowly over eighty years? God was willing to wait until he had it before giving him his marching orders.
Perhaps you are in school right now, but you never thought of it that way. Is a whole lot of nothing going on? Month after month, year after year? Have you had a sense of God’s destiny for you, but nothing ever came of it? Or maybe you blew it early on and don’t see how a chance could ever come around again. Maybe you are as far from your destiny as Midian was from Egypt.
No matter how slow things seem, something IS going on. Humility may not be what you lack for your call, but perhaps something else is. Trust in God that what you lack, He will supply. And take comfort knowing you probably won’t have to be in school as long as Moses was. If you now feel totally inadequate to be used by God, that’s a good thing. God can work with that. He also wants you to graduate summa cum laude! What if there are other Red Seas to part?