Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. February 2 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Exodus 1:1–4:17

Leadership, Born of Necessity

Why doesn't someone do something about this? Most of us have asked this question at one time or another. What are we saying? We are expressing a frustration that a problem needs to be addressed, and we need a leader to step out of the shadows to take care of it. This is leadership, born of necessity. This was true of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and it was true of the Biblical patriarch Moses.

Today, we begin the book of Exodus. Chronologically, the events begin where the book of Genesis ends. In Genesis we left Joseph, his brothers, and their families in Egypt in the region of Goshen.

After their father Jacob dies, Joseph lives until he is 110, seeing his great great great grandchildren. Just before Joseph passes, he utters a prophecy about the children of Israel (descendants of the patriarch Jacob), which demonstrates his faith—God will come to their aid. When they are delivered, they are to take his bones with them back to the land of Canaan, the land promised to them by God (Genesis 50:24-25). In the meantime, something is going to happen to their large family—oppression and slavery.

The children of Israel become slaves to the Egyptians when a new king of Egypt reigns who does not know Joseph and what he has done for them. The population of the Israelites multiplies rapidly, and seeing the threat of their numbers, the Egyptians make them slaves so they will not rise up and conquer them.

The Israelites suffer great hardships. They are harshly treated and worked ruthlessly. They must have asked the question many times over the 400 years of their oppression, “doesn't God see us?” And now, to make things much worse, their babies are cruelly and ruthlessly slaughtered.

Today, many babies are being killed through abortion. In anguish we might cry out as they did, “Doesn't God see? Help us LORD! Have mercy on us and our children!” Of course, God cares about our hardships and about babies, and someday he will bring justice. God especially cares about the Hebrew babies in Egypt because the LORD promised to bless Abraham's chosen descendants.

Moses is born to lead. Even as a baby he is considered an exceptional child (Hebrews 11:23). His mother hides him, but when she can hide him no more, she trusts in the God of Israel to take care of him. She places him in a weatherproof basket and floats him along the reeds of the Nile to be found by someone who will take care of him. His sister Miriam watches her baby brother until he is discovered by Pharaoh's daughter. Seeing this, Moses' sister asks the princess if she wants her to find a Hebrew woman to nurse him. Of course, Miriam suggests her own mother (although the princess may not have been aware of it). Her mother has the privilege of nursing her son, Moses, legally. She is even paid to do it.

Moses is raised an Egyptian prince; however, he doesn't embrace it.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:24-26, NIV).

Moses recognizes the LORD's hand on him for leadership, but when he exercises it in his own power, he stumbles at the first sign of opposition, becomes fearful, flees Egypt, and goes into hiding. When Moses tries to rush the plan of God, he loses both his courage and ability to lead his people out of bondage.*

Has anything like that happened to us? Yes, leadership is born of necessity, and we may feel we are the leader to meet that need, but timing is everything. We must be sensitive to God's choice and his leading. Forty years later, after Moses learns the occupation of a humble shepherd, God appears to him from a burning bush and commissions him to deliver His people from slavery. The LORD works in us, humbling us, and preparing us to do his will. In the meantime, we have to wait for his perfect timing.

Sometimes, even when leaders are chosen and empowered they are hesitant to take the leadership. Moses now has heavenly power and a commission from God Almighty but is reticent to take the leadership given to him. Perhaps it is because he is older or because he had previously failed. Maybe this assignment from God seems like an insurmountable challenge. It is easier for him to remain a shepherd and raise his family. He uses the excuse that he cannot speak well. What excuses do we use for not obeying God's will? The LORD is angry and chooses his brother Aaron to be his spokesman. Do we want God to use us? We must not look to our own resources but trust him to meet the needs. We need to be obedient to his calling.

Lessons to Live By

  • Are you oppressed in your spirit? God wants to give you forgiveness, spiritual life and peace (more...)
  • Sometimes it seems like God does not care, but he sees everything that goes on in our lives and does care. It may not be time for him to deliver us, but the LORD is faithful to his children. He keeps his promises, and he does everything for his glory and our good.
  • One reason why some of us go through hardships is that God has something better planned for us. We must learn to trust him even in our darkest days.
  • The LORD chooses leadership, if we will have the patience to wait. Perhaps some of us were born for such a time as this.
  • God wants humble, obedient, and willing servants. He will empower us to accomplish much more than we ever can in our own strength.

Today's Bible Memory Verse

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

*insight from Pastor Nathan Sabin, editor.

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A Look Ahead: Just because God calls us to do something, does not mean there will be no challenges. We may, like Moses, face Early Leadership Struggles. Discover what we can do to overcome them in this Next Lesson.

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