During the construction of the Egyptian cities of Pithom and Rameses (Exodus 1:11), Moses probably inspected the progress. He may have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his grandfather, the Pharoah, when he first saw the grand design of the cities with their huge storehouses. From their vantage-point, the Israelite workforce, numbering in the tens of thousands, looked like ants. Some were mixing mortar and forming the bricks, others were firing the great kilns where the bricks were baked and hardened, while others were laying the newly-fired bricks in perfect rows, building walls and towers. He may have winced a little as he witnessed the task-master’s mistreatment of the Israelites. Whipped like oxen, they were driven and forced into their back-breaking labors.
It is likely that Moses shared his grandfather’s pride. These were grand accomplishments, achievements of the world’s greatest and most advanced of all nations. They, the Egyptians, were creating something unknown in any other corner of the globe. They were Egyptians!
Imagine this: Back in the royal palace, it’s early morning. Moses calls for his servants who are immediately dispatched to prepare his perfectly polished chariot, harnessed to two impressive steeds. With his royal robes and his magnificent headdress, he might have been mistaken for Pharoah himself. With the reigns in one hand, and a whip in the other, Moses expertly drives his team out of the great walled city, through the impressive gates, and out into the world. Moses is on a mission.
“When he was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites” (Acts 7:23). Moses “went out to his own people and observed their forced labor (Exodus 2:11).
I’m only guessing. I can’t be certain, but something was happening in Moses’s heart. Moses was an Israelite living in an Egyptian world. He knew that the blood coursing through his veins was Israelite blood, yet he wore the clothing and enjoyed the trappings of Egyptian royalty. At one moment, Moses swelled with Egyptian pride, and then he grieved for his Hebrew family. He knew that they were being cruelly mistreated and the young Egyptian prince lay awake at night contemplating his response. Something motivated Moses to “visit his own people.”
The Spirit of God was at work. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Having decided to follow his heart, Moses drove his chariot, inspecting the construction projects, and watching closely the mistreated Hebrew slaves. “When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian” (Acts 7:23-24). “He saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his people. Looking all around and seeing no one, he struck the Egyptian dead and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:11–12). Instead of seeking the Lord’s direction, he took matters into his own hands.
Years later Moses would clearly hear God say, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation... The Lord will fight for you, and you must be quiet” (Exodus 14:13–14). God had a better plan! He always does. Moses’s attempt to “rescue and avenge”his people was forty-years premature. God knew that Moses needed forty-years of wilderness training, and that the Israelites needed forty more years of humbling service in Egypt. God is never late. He is never too early. He’s always right on time.