MOSES, Inspirational Leader – September 1/2, 2012 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
MOSES – INSPIRATIONAL LEADER
September 1 /2, 2012
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Among inspirational leaders, we view Moses as the greatest of the Old Testament. He inspired the people of his time, and Moses continues to inspire us today. Because Moses stands as the major character in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and because he is pictured as writing (e.g. Exodus 24:4), he came to be considered the author of these books. He is the famous person of Hebrew scripture; the gospels picture Jesus Christ as a new Moses.
About his family, we have only a few verses in the Book of Exodus. A Levite couple, Amran is the father and Jochebed is the mother (Exodus 6:20), bring forth a child. The mother hides him for three months, fearing the Pharaoh’s law requiring Hebrew boys to be killed. So the mother at first hides this infant, but after three months she can no longer conceal her son. The Pharaoh’s daughter, sympathetic, finds the infant along the river bank, and eventually the child is nursed by the birth mother, yet this daughter of the Pharaoh adopts the child.
As an adult, Moses must flee from Egypt, for he kills a man. Then Moses, shepherd for his father-in-law Jethro, while tending a flock of sheep, comes to Horeb, the mountain of God. There “the angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up’” (3:2-3). And now Moses receives his call from God.
Moses hears his mission from God. “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). But Moses comes up with excuses, one after the other; he does not wish to accept the vocation to which God calls him. Wouldn’t all our lives be easier, we think, if only we were not so burdened with our obvious mission? Do we squirm, and find excuses, for our mission?
“Who am I,” Moses complains to God, “that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). And God responds: “I will be with you….” That great promise should have been enough, but Moses could think of other excuses.
Suppose, says Moses, that I go to the Israelites and say that You sent me; they might ask me your name. What should I then say? My name is this: “I Am who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’”
And Moses still objects. But what if the Israelites still don’t believe me? And God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground; it turns into a snake. Again, God has Moses put his hand into his cloak, but Moses finds that the hand now is leprous. And then God removes the leprosy (Exodus 4:1-7). Moses then objects that he speaks poorly, that he lacks eloquence, and God commands that Moses’ brother, Aaron, will do all the talking (Exodus 4:10-17). Moses, I suppose, does not run out of excuses, but “the Lord’s anger burned against Moses” (Exodus 4:14); so Moses finally catches on, realizing that the Lord will accept no excuse.
Moses at first bends only stubbornly like Jonah, but by the end of his life, Moses becomes as humble as the prophet Hosea.
Moses requests, in Yahweh’s name, that Pharaoh should let the Hebrews go into the desert to hold a feast. Pharaoh refuses. Nine plagues do not change his mind. Yahweh then kills the Egyptian first-born. With a cry of anguish, Pharaoh urges Moses and his people to leave Egypt. Shortly thereafter, Pharaoh changes his mind and sends his army in pursuit of the Israelites. Yahweh’s miracle at the Red Sea, however, provides escape for the people and death for Pharaoh’s army.
Moses with the people hears the Ten Commandments directly from God (Exodus 20: 2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21) on Mount Sinai. Yet in a short time, Moses, angered by the People’s idolatry, breaks the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them (Exodus 32:19).
Moses speaks directly to God, beseeching God on behalf of the Israelites who have worshipped the golden calf. “So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh what a great sin these people have committed! …. But now [God], please forgive their sin” (Exodus 32:31), (cf. also Exodus 19:18-25). The Lord accepts the plea of his servant Moses.
The Lord leads Moses, age 120, up Mount Pisgah, and Moses views across the Jordan the Promised Land. There Moses dies.
The most famous statue in Rome depicts Michelangelo’s Moses. It resides in the Church named St. Peter in Chains. Much bigger than life-sized, the statue suggests strength, for it shows muscular arms and legs, and a fierce upward gaze. His beard is long, and he grips the beard in strong fingers. Two small horns project atop his head, suggesting God’s direct enlightenment on this greatest person in the Pentateuch.
God inspires the Israelites through Moses. Through Moses, God gives manna to eat, and He brings quail to them. At God’s command, Moses strikes the rock, and water gushes for the people and for their flock. Through Moses, God bestows the Ten Commandments, and God leads the people morally.
Moses inspired His people, and Moses inspires us. With him we hear God’s call to live religious lives, and God’s promise, “I will be with you.” At Christ’s ascension, we hear a similar promise, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 24:20).
Moses lived close to God. Moses inspires us in godly living. Amen!