And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.

And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:

For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them; but they understood not.

Acts 7:23-25

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that we went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren.

And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.

And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?

And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?

Exodus 2:11-14

Moses had come into his fortieth year of life, and he formed a lonesome figure in his wandering through the land of Egypt. In position and appearance he was an Egyptian, and one of the highest rank. He was known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. But as he advanced in years he had withdrawn himself more and more from the life of the court. He had refused to take a position in the government for which he had prepared. He had neglected to take to himself a wife from the daughters of the land in spite of his foster-mother’s urgings. Seldomly was he to be found in the social functions of the palace, and there was no effort on his part to make friends with any men of his own rank. Most of his time seemed to be spent in wandering through the fields and close by the construction projects where the Hebrew slaves were working. Also there he cut a solitary figure. The Egyptian taskmasters showed him a fawning respect. They recognized his influential position in the court, but he evidenced little appreciation for them. Occasionally he spoke a kind and sympathetic word to one or other of the slaves. Their responses were curt, if not openly hostile. The Hebrews knew that he was of their own blood; but he had lived too long among the Egyptians to be trusted. His Egyptian clothes and customs made too much of a rift for them to ignore. He did not toil in slavery like they did, and how could mere words remove that difference? Let Moses speak as he would, to them he was an Egyptian and not to be trusted. 

Little did any one realize the turmoil that lived in Moses’ breast. From the Egyptians he received countless offers of kindness. They sought to give, him friendship, power, and glory among the mightiest of the land. In the court of Pharaoh personal opportunities never ceased to come. But Moses had no appreciation for these offers of the Egyptians; he did not want to live as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; he was a Hebrew. His love was with the people of his birth. They were the chosen people of God. For them in their bondage he grieved. For their deliverance he longed and prayed. He remembered the promise of God to Abraham that after four hundred years they would be returned to Canaan, and upon that promise he rested his hope. Time and again he had counted the years and found that the promised day was drawing nigh. There remained only one thing for him to do; he had to find his place in the Hebrew nation so that the deliverance might not pass him by. But was it not quite evident? Israel needed a leader, to guide and direct the forces of the nation. Was there anyone more suited for that than himself? He had the training. He had the ability. He alone of Israel was prepared for work such as that. It was Moses’ firm conviction that he was to lead the people of God. Only one thing stood in the way. The Israelites would not have him as their leader. They would not even acknowledge his membership in the nation. They looked upon him with distrust and suspicion. And then there was one more thing that troubled him. God had not confirmed this calling. Thus Moses had waited for a change of attitude among the Hebrews, and for a word of confirmation from God. 

Slowly the feeling of eagerness and anticipation built up in the breast of Moses. As he watched the suffering and oppression experienced by his brethren, he became more and more convinced that something had to be done very soon. Finally he could contain himself no longer. It happened one day as he watched an Egyptian beating an Israelite unmercifully and without due cause. Suddenly he saw a plan clearly set forth in his mind. Here was an opportunity which should not be neglected. He would prove to this fellow Israelite that he was not an Egyptian at heart; he was ready and willing to take the part of the people of God. Moses was determined, but he was careful not to neglect due caution. Vigilantly he looked about him. No Egyptian must see or know what he was about to do. The way was clear, for no one else was in sight. Quickly Moses stepped forth and laying hands on the Egyptian slew him: With continued caution he carried the body away and buried it in the sand where it would not soon be discovered. Only then did he notice that the Hebrew had already departed. 

With a light heart Moses returned that evening to the palace. He felt flushed with joy in his accomplishment. Was not the man whom he had rescued even now spreading the word through the land of Goshen? Was not the news being received with amazement and joy by all who heard it? Now all Israel would know with certainty that he had forsaken the riches of life among the Egyptians to unite himself with them in their suffering. Surely their attitude toward him would be different on the morrow. Would they not eagerly receive him as one of them? and maybe even suggest that he be their leader? With only a slight tinge of fear and misgiving Moses spent the hours of that night. 

In the morning Moses left the palace with a greater enthusiasm than he had known for many ma year. Perhaps he would never return. If the Israelites received him with the gratitude that he expected, he could go to dwell with them. It would maybe be only a matter of days before the people would be sufficiently organized to rise up in rebellion against the Egyptians. With the blessing of God upon them they would throw off the yoke of Egypt and return with power into Canaan. 

As Moses approached the place where the Israelites were working he looked about him for signs of the new and appreciative attitude. It was then that he saw a new opportunity for him to establish himself more firmly with his people. He saw two Hebrews striving together. The day before he had availed himself of the opportunity to show himself to be a strong and able defender of the people of God. Now he would show himself as a wise and discerning judge of people. He would watch to see which of the two was in the wrong and then take steps to reconcile them to each other. By this they would know for sure that he was capable of being their leader. 

Finally Moses approached the two brethren that were struggling together. With a tone of voice as gentle and understanding as he could make it, he addressed himself to them. “Sirs,” he said, “ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one to another? Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?” 

But the response was far different from what Moses had expected. The man who was evidently in the wrong turned upon him. There was no shame, no guilt, no repentance upon his face. There was only a bitter sneer and from him came the retort, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?” and with a rude shove he pushed Moses away. 

In amazement and dismay Moses looked about him at the others, but wherever he looked it was the same. There was no kindness, no gratitude, no sympathy or understanding. On the faces of all were to be seen only sneers, distrust, hatred, the same as always only now even more bitter. Moses turned and fled. 

There are disappointments in the lives of men which at the time often seem impossible to endure. We think of Elijah when driven all alone into the wilderness until he cried unto God that he might die. We think of Peter that night after he had denied his Lord and he went out to weep wretchedly bitter tears. Such was the despair that tore at the heart of Moses as he was retreating from the sneers of his brethren. The whole of his life had served to the building of the dream that now lay crumbled about him. It had been the one thing only that he had really desired, because he believed in God and loved the people of God. But he had underestimated the ingratitude and hardness that still dominated the hearts of Israel. They did not want a deliverer. In spite of all their hardships, they were still bound with lust to the fleshpots of Egypt. That was their reason for rejecting the love of Moses,

Still as Moses retreated there was one thought that he could not drive away. In his ears continually rang the question, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?” For that question he could not find an answer. He had no appointment either of man or of God. What he had done he had done on his own, and he had no right. He was an intruder and an impostor. Uncalled of God and unwanted of the people, he had received only what he deserved. 

Immediately the problems came to Moses of where he should now go. If his brethren held no love or respect for him, they would soon report his misdeed of the previous day to their overlords. Soon even Pharaoh would know and he would be called into question. Perhaps even now the summons was awaiting him. He could go to the palace and defend himself. His word would undoubtedly stand against the accusation of a mere Hebrew slave. In that way his position in the palace and in Pharaoh’s family would be secured. But that would require of him a false oath before the king. It might stand before man, but for it he would be held guilty by God. Even more it would mean that he would be forever separated from the people of God. The Israelites would recognize him as guilty even though Pharaoh did not. All possibility of his being restored to the covenant people of God would be forever gone. When their deliverance would come it would pass him by. 

The only other alternative would be for him to flee the land. This would be sure to incur the wrath of Pharaoh, for it would be as much as an admittance of guilt. It would constitute a public acknowledgment that he had taken the part of a Hebrew slave over-against the ruling power of the Egyptians. Never again would he be able to return in peace to the palace. The riches and glory of the royal palace would be forever lost. He would be a hunted man, unwanted in all of the land of Egypt. 

We read concerning Moses in Hebrews 11, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Moses stood before a choice between Pharaoh and God. Only by remaining in Egypt and defending himself with a false oath could Moses maintain the position of favor before Pharaoh which he had known all of his life. In fleeing, Pharaoh’s wrath would be aroused, and he would be disowned as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Henceforth his life would be worth nothing more than that of any Hebrew slave. But with Moses there was an awareness of more than just the attitude of Pharaoh toward him. He was conscious of the presence of the invisible God. As powerful a ruler as Pharaoh might be, the favor of God was to Moses much more important, and God would never condone an oath falsely sworn. Moses was a man of faith and the presence of the invisible God could not be forgotten. 

It was a solitary figure that made its way toward the wilderness of Midian. He had thought to be going this way at the head of a great nation, but he was now going all alone. He had thought to be going in power, but now he was fleeing for his life. He had thought to be going in joy, but now his heart was rent in sorrow. There was yet very much that Moses had to learn.