Moses, a man whom we can emulate, was not merely a great person and servant of God; he was also one who suffered under great human pressures. Torn between the pleasures and glories of Pharaoh’s court and the lowliness of the slavery of God’s people, he chose to be with the latter, possibly forsaking the opportunity of becoming a Pharaoh someday (Hebrews 11:25). Through the years ahead he was faced with adversity after adversity. When the children of Israel did not want his help or leadership, he was forced to flee Egypt and go into the desert as a fugitive. For the time being, his potential career in royalty, or as a saving leader of his people, was over. Consequently, he had to resort to the role of a lowly shepherd with foreigners in a strange land. His hopes and dreams were gone. Then, when God called him to rebuke Pharaoh and lead Israel out of Egypt, he felt totally inadequate.
Soon the children of Israel, including his own brother and sister, were complaining about his leadership and their plight during their wandering in the wilderness. He labored all day for them, and still they vacillated between trust and unbelief in the Lord. They wanted to stone Moses every time a new problem arose; nevertheless, he triumphed and grew stronger in daily dependence on the Lord. How did he survive, while dealing with external enemies, internal complainers, and his own doubts, to finish the work for which the Lord had called him? Prayer was the answer.
Thus, this study of the prayers of Moses can become a great inspiration and force in our own lives, to help us keep on marching when difficulty arises in our own life situations. Are things’ going wrong? Are people complaining? Have obstacles risen in your path? Do doubts about yourself or your future voice themselves in your mind? If so, you would do well to march for a while with Moses through the barren wilderness, sharing his prayer life, so that you may be strengthened for your own walk through crisis times and waterless days. Let Moses teach you, by his prayers, how God’s resources and strength can win your battles and provide sweet water in a desert for you and yours.
31-1 A Prayer That Angered God
Some forty years earlier, Moses, in his own strength, had attempted to aid the Hebrew people. He had failed. Now, four decades later, God called upon the older and wiser Moses to be His spokesman in leading Israel out of Egypt, their land of bondage (Exodus 3:10). At the holy scene of the burning bush, Moses spoke with God—and in that sense, he was praying. Moses raised certain objections to serving God, and God answered them all:
1) Moses: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Exodus 3:11). God: “I will certainly be with you” (3:12).
2) Moses: “What shall I say to them” when they ask me Your name” (3:13). God: “Say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (3:14).
3) Moses: “They will not believe me” (4:1). God, paraphrased: “I will use what you already have—your simple shepherd’s rod—for a sign to the people” (4:2-5).
4) Moses: “O, my Lord, I am not eloquent…I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (4:10). God: “Who has made man’s mouth?…Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say” (4:11, 12).
5) Moses: “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” (4:13). Paraphrased, Moses was saying, “Lord send anyone, but not me.” God: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother?…he shall be your spokesman…and you shall be to him as God” (4:14-16).
God finally became angry with Moses’ many objections to serving Him. these five objections, or fearful hesitations, each reflect the older Moses’ recollection of his youthful failure and realization of his present weaknesses and limitations. All of God’s replies, however, stress His:
1) Divine power;
2) Presence with His servant;
3) Provision of everything and everyone necessary for the ministry ahead.
The God who calls is the God who will supply. Let us hear God and have this faith; to doubt angers God. (4:14-18).
31-2 A Prayer of Impatience
Moses and Aaron obeyed the Lord and went to Pharaoh. In the Lord’s name they demanded that he let the children of Israel go. At this time, however, they asked only for permission to go into the desert to worship God in a feast (Exodus 5:1-3). This would be like asking for a holy week (the first in four centuries) to worship God. Pharaoh not only refused, but to spite their God and Moses, he commanded that from that time forward they were to gather straw for their bricks at night, during their only free time (vv. 4-19). Angry, the leaders of the Israelite work crews came to Moses and Aaron, and in bitterness called upon God to bring judgment of Moses and Aaron because they had angered Pharaoh with hopeless requests for release (vv. 20, 21).
At this, Moses became despondent, and uttered this prayer of impatience, complaining to God:
1) You have made the condition of the people worse, not better;
2) You should not have sent me to do this job;
3) Since we started, things have only worsened;
4) You still have not delivered Your people (vv. 22, 23).
Soon Moses would see that:
1) God would, in His time, greatly better their condition;
2) God’s choice of Moses as His servant would prove to be correct, as impatient Moses developed into a man of giant faith and patience;
3) The temporary troubles which were brought by Moses and Aaron would yet achieve benefits that would endure;
4) God, in the end, would mightily deliver His people.
In your life, do you ever speak or pray in impatience? If so, learn a lesson from God’s dealing with Moses, and wait patiently on the Lord. “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6; cf. Isaiah 40:31).
31-3 A Prayer of Intercession
When Moses lingered with the Lord on Mt. Sinai for days, the children of Israel grew impatient and had Aaron build them a golden calf, which they worshiped as a god (Exodus 32:1-6). In reaction, God offered to destroy these obstinate people for Moses and to build a new nation from the line of Moses, just as the present one had descended from Abraham (vv. 9, 10).
To this Moses responded with this wonderful prayer of intercession, a prayer to God on behalf of another. He pleaded with God in the following three appeals:
1) Please do not destroy these people, because You are their Savior (v. 11). Paul also prayed for backslidden Israel (Romans 10:1-4).
2) If Your people are allowed to perish, the pagans will blaspheme Your name and reputation (v. 12). (This was God’s argument in Ezekiel 36:16-24; cf. Exodus 32:16).
3) You cannot go back on Your promises to bless them and to give them the land You promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v. 13). Paul used the same argument in Romans 11:26, 29.
This prayer of Moses (and God knew that Moses would respond in this way) was indeed effective, and the nation was spared (v. 14). No wonder James declared, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Let us also pray in intercession for one another.
31-4 A Prayer of Compassion
After the golden calf had been destroyed, and those who worshiped it were slain, Moses again addressed the people of Israel. He announced that he was about to “go up to the Lord,” to ask that their sin of making the golden calf might be forgiven and that an atonement might be accepted for them (v. 30).
His prayer of compassion on behalf of his fellow sojourners contained a most touching element. He said that if their sin of making the calf could not be forgiven, then, “I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written”—the Book of Life (v. 32; cf. Revelation 3:5). Moses did not want to go on living if those whom he loved could find no forgiveness.
God’s holiness and justice comes forth with His reply, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book” (v. 33). That this eternal judgment refers only to those who remained impenitent is made clear from Scripture by the fact that God did not destroy the nation. Also, Aaron continued to serve as high priest.
Although God did not accept Moses’ offer to die for those at Sinai, nor for those in Israel who would sin some fourteen hundred years later, God the Father did accept the death of Christ for the sins of those who were to become His people, even two thousand years after that death (Mark 10:45).
Like Moses, Paul said, “I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-4).
Such examples show so clearly the attitude true Christians should have toward their brothers in Christ. Too many appoint themselves as judges, as those who would condemn their fellow believers (Matthew 7:1-5; cf. Romans 14:4, 12). At the same time such people abandon their God-ordained role of offering prayers of compassion and intercession. Without this Moses-like compassion, the church becomes a one-sided grand jury, rather than a haven of rescue and rest for lost souls (Matthew 11:28-30).
31-5 A Prayer for Fellowship
1) Moses, in contemplating the journey before the children of Israel, asked God to tell him “whom You will send with me” (v. 12). God answered reassuringly, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (v. 14). In other words, Moses was saying, “I am going to need more help and some comfort for the long march ahead.” God’s reply assured him that the Lord Himself would continue with Moses and the nation in their journey. He would carry the burden of the trials ahead, and give Moses rest.
Moses prayerfully reminded God that:
a) He had said that Moses had “found grace” (favor) in His sight (v. 12);
b) this was His nation (v. 13).
In effect, Moses was begging:
a) “If You love me, then help me”;
b) “They are Your people, so You will have to take care of them—I can’t.” Moses was crying out, “I need You.”
What an example this is for each of us—and especially to those whom God has called to some special work for Himself.
2) Next Moses asks, “Please, show me Your glory” (v. 18). Now that he was sure that God would accompany him in the work ahead, he wanted to know God even better.
3)This was also the outcry of Paul’s heart: “That I may know Him” (Philippians 3:10, 12).
Surely these impassioned prayers for fellowship (outcries for more of God’s presence), which were on the lips of Moses and Paul, should also be on our own lips today.
31-6 A Prayer for a Successor
After leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, and then for forty years in their wilderness wanderings, the time came for Moses to die (be “gathered to [his] people”) (v. 13). After Moses viewed the Promised Land, looking westward from the summit of Mt. Nebo (v. 12; cf. Deuteronomy 34:1), he prayed one of his final prayers to God (vv. 15¬17). He prayed for a successor.
There are many lessons that we can learn from this prayer and from t he situation which occasioned it. Among these let us realize that:
1) In this life the time comes when even the greatest leaders must pass from the scene (Joshua 1:1-9).
2) In searching for a new leader, we must seek the one whom God appoints (v. 16), one “in whom is the Spirit” of God (v. 18; cf. Acts 13:1-3).
3) It is best that the new leader be appointed promptly, so the “the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd” (v. 17; cf. Ezekiel 34:8-12).
4) Truly great leaders seek on able replacement. They do not resent the new leader in sinful jealousy (vv. 18, 19).
5) There are great advantages in having a successor who, like Joshua, has had significant previous leadership experience, especially with the same people. Joshua (Oshea) was the chosen scout from the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8). He was Moses’ assistant and general of the army (Exodus 17:8-10).
6) No matter how people say it will work out, it is nearly impossible for the leader to be effective while the former leader is still present. For example, in God’s providence Moses was gone when Joshua took command.
7) Selecting a disagreeable or demanding leader always leads to trouble (1 Timothy 3:1¬7). Joshua’s loyalty to Moses was a bright star amid a murmuring, complaining nation.
8) It is proper that the new leader be installed with a fitting ceremony (vv. 18-23; cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
9) God selects different men for different times and needs. With the passing of Moses, God commissioned Joshua for the next phase of the journey. Joshua’s responsibility was to follow “the Lord [Jehovah] your God” (Joshua 1:6-9), not to become a carbon copy of Moses.
The prayer of Moses in the twilight of his life found its answer in God’s appointment of Joshua. The work would go on.
Master Outline 31 – Prayer of Moses
 Was Moses a man who suffered under great human pressure? YES or NO. Explain.
 What did the children of Israel want to do with Moses every time a new problem arose?
 How did Moses survive while dealing with external enemies, internal complainers and his own doubts?
 Forty years before God called Moses, how had he tried to help the Hebrew people?
 What were Moses’ five (5) objections to being used by God?
 God’s replies stressed what three (3) things?
 The God who _____________________ is the God who will ________________________.
 At God’s instruction what did Moses and Aaron first ask Pharaoh for?
 In anger what did the leaders of the Israelites ask God to bring on Moses and Aaron?
 A despondent and impatient Moses complained to God about what four (4) things?
 What four (4) things would Moses soon see God do?
 What did the Apostle Paul say about being impatient?
 What did God offer to Moses when the children of Israel built the golden calf?
 What were the three (3) areas of appeal that Moses made to God for the children of Israel after they built the calf?
 What did James say about the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man?
 What was the most compassionate part of Moses’ prayer of intercession for the Israelites?
 How does God’s holiness and justice shoe forth in answer to Moses’ prayer?
 What attitude should true Christians show toward their brothers in Christ?
 Without the demonstration of Moses-like compassion, the church becomes a what?
 What assurance did God give Moses as he asked, “Whom will you send with me?”
 What was Moses’ next question to the Lord after the assurance of His presence?
 Who else in the Bible asked the same question as Moses?
 What was Moses’ last prayer before he died?
 What nine (9) lessons can we learn from this “prayer for a successor” prayed by Moses?
 In searching for a new leader what must we seek for?
 Was Moses’ prayer in the twilight of his life answered?