QUESTION: How did Moses get direction and help as he led the people of Israel through the wilderness?

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.


Hebrews 3:5 presents Moses to us as a faithful servant over the house of God. This passage refers back to Numbers 12:6-8 where God says that unlike other prophets to whom He would speak in visions and dreams, He spoke plainly, face to face, with Moses. Yet Moses is pictured as a servant in contrast to Christ who is far, far greater, being Son over God’s house.

Whether in Egypt, on top of Mount Sinai, from the entrance to the tabernacle, or wherever it might have been, God spoke directly to Moses and through him to the people. This was God’s purpose, for Moses was to be a type of Christ through whom God has spoken to His people.

But Moses felt himself insufficient for the task entrusted to him and in need of human help. In contrast to Christ, he had some helpers. The first one mentioned was Aaron, his brother, whom God appointed as his spokesman when he complained that he was not eloquent (Ex. 4:14-17).

In Exodus 17, Amalek attacked and Moses put Joshua in charge of the fighting men while he himself went up to the hilltop with the rod of God to pray. But Moses’ hands, unlike Christ’s, got heavy. Aaron and Hur put a stone under Moses to support him while he prayed and they supported his arms uplifted in prayer.

Joshua seems to have been with Moses practically from the exodus out of Egypt. He was one of the two men over 20 years old when Israel came out of Egypt who ultimately entered the land of Canaan. Joshua made a few mistakes that Scripture notes, but as Moses’ servant he doubtless learned much from him. God later chose Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land.

To lead a people numbering more than 600,000 fighting men plus their wives and children, along with a mixed multitude of tag-alongs, was a tremendous undertaking for God’s servant Moses. Early on their wilderness journey, in Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro brought Moses’ wife and sons to him and stayed for a brief visit. Seeing Moses spend the day from morning till evening judging the people, Jethro suggested that Moses lighten his load by only intermediating between God and the people and teaching the people what God wanted them to do. He also suggested that Moses appoint faithful, able, God-fearing men over the people as rulers of thousands, hundred, fifties and tens to judge small matters. Only major matters would then be brought to Moses’ attention to bring before God. Moses welcomed this suggestion and sought to implement it.

We find this account in Exodus 18, and it is apparently this that Moses refers to and elaborates on in Deuteronomy 1 as he reviews the events of the wilderness journey with the people shortly before his death. It is interesting to see that while he and Israel had accepted his father-in-law’s counsel, good advice from the standpoint of human wisdom, we never find it referred to as coming from God nor do we ever find instances of its being successfully implemented. On the contrary, at least a year later when God had led Israel on from their long encampment at Sinai, where they had built the tabernacle and its furnishings, we find the people continuing to complain.

The second instance of complaints, in Numbers 11, caused Moses to complain bitterly to the Lord (vv.11-15). He told God, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.” God then told him to gather seventy men of the people of Israel, elders and officers over them, to stand with him at the tabernacle of meeting. God said that He would talk with Moses there and that He would take of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon these seventy, that they would bear the burden of the people with him. This was done, and these men prophesied. But in the final analysis we do not find them lightening Moses’ load or that, by God’s putting of the Spirit that was on Moses on these seventy, there was any multiplication of the Spirit of God. Indeed, we can well say there was now more machinery and greater complication, but no more of God’s Spirit!

God still spoke to Moses, giving him direction. God’s servants doing God’s work at God’s direction will always find God’s grace to be sufficient for them. He may well be pleased to give them help, for fellowship in His service is a sweet and encouraging grace. But help that His servants try to find or devise for themselves will never attain to God’s gracious provision for them. May we learn to lean hard on Him rather than depend on human wisdom or resources!

Author: Sebastien

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