What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made?
Does it haunt you? Has it permanently taken up residence in your heart, propping its feet up on the couch of your soul and replaying itself over and over again on the TV of your mind?
How are we to feel about our greatest mistakes?
The following story, based on true events from 3500 years ago (and recorded in the biblical book of Exodus), is strangely relevant for your life and mine.
Setting the Stage
Wrestling with a midlife crisis, his first niggle of arthritis, a few extra pounds that won’t seem to fall off, and the onset of sleep apnea… 40-year-old Moses leaves his stately Egyptian mansion for an afternoon walk.
Strange, distant noises captivate his attention. First a shout, then a “crack!” and then a scream. “What’s that noise?” he wonders. His spirit is not prepared for what it’s about to see.
Trekking over a distant sandhill, with his back to the Nile, he happens upon a Jewish labor camp. The horrific sight of emaciated humanity! The deafening sound of hammers, chisels, lashes, and shrieks of pain! Nausea overcame him when he inhaled the odor of rotting flesh.
Regaining his composure, Moses noticed most of the evil emanated from one man, the foreman, dressed in black from head to toe, and parading around looking for someone to slack off, mess up, or look up from his or her work with anything but defeat and subjugation in their eyes. This monster flaunted his authority as if we were Pharaoh himself.
The Plot Thickens
Sheer hatred boiled within Moses for this man. For several days, he stood at the outskirts of the labor camp calculating the supervisor’s every move.
- Just after breakfast each morning, the foreman went for a ride and seemed to always find a slave to beat—as if to make a public example for each day.
- Like clockwork each day, he visited the same sections of the detention center.
- Moses’ epiphany came when he noticed the manager’s daily habit of retreating to his tent—alone—for a nap just after lunch. “This is my chance!” Moses opined to himself.
The next day, while the entire camp was distracted with yet another public flogging, Moses slipped into the tent and waited. Like clockwork, just after noon, the slave-driver opened and closed the flap, took off his sandals, sipped a little water, and crawled onto his cot. His breathing slowed… his sighs deepened… his snoring began.
After a quick scan of the room to make sure they were truly alone, Moses sprang from behind the wardrobe and plunged a dagger into the foreman’s skull. Though it felt like an eternity to Moses, the supervisor died immediately.
After dragging the body behind the tent, digging a shallow and sandy grave, and nearly finishing the job, Moses looked up to notice the glance of a slave who had spied the whole event. “Shush!” Moses intensely whispered, “Don’t say a word to anybody!”
You Can Run but You Can’t Hide… from Grace
By the next morning, the Bastet (Egyptian cat) was out of the bag. Everyone knew about the murder, including Pharaoh himself. Moses fled for his life, heading east for the rugged, mysterious mountains just beyond the Gulf of Aqaba… over 200 miles from the threat of Egyptian fury.
If you’ve ever attended church as an adult or visited a Vacation Bible School as a kid, you’ve probably heard some version of the rest of the story…
- Moses lives in the wilderness, as a Bedouin shepherd, for the next 40 years.
- The Jews continue to suffer under Pharaoh’s dominance for those same 40 years.
- Eventually, God calls Moses back to lead His people out of Egypt, through one of the gulfs of the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and (eventually) into the Promised Land.
Later in the Bible, God retells Moses’ life story, excluding one major detail…
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 fleeting pleasures of sin. 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. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. (Hebrews 11:24-29)
What’s missing from this biographical sketch?
Why would God leave this out? Here’s why…
Grace means I’m not defined by my greatest mistake.
We could phrase this important truth in other ways:
- I’m more than the sum of my greatest mistakes.
- God can use my deepest sin for his highest glory and the world’s greatest good.
- My sin is not powerful enough to rewrite the story of grace God has planned for me.
By God’s unmerited favor (grace), Moses’ heart was opened to faith and was, therefore, no longer identified with his murder. Instead, he became known for his faith. He received a new identity from God and lived fully into that identity.
Again, grace means I’m not defined by my greatest mistake.
Too Good to Be True?
Are your greatest mistakes crushing you? If they’re defeating, paralyzing, or haunting you––take heart! There’s hope! You can receive a new identity, much kinder than the one attached to your greatest mistakes.
How is this achievable?
Though it’s impossible for us to climb out of these pits on our own, or to emerge from our own failed identity by sheer effort, religion, self-deprecation, or good works… someone else, similar to Moses, paid your debt and offers you a new identity!
The true story of Jesus of Nazareth is very similar to Moses’ story:
- They were both born to be deliverers.
- They were both rescued from evil rulers at birth.
- They both spent time in Egypt as babies.
- They both experienced seasons of relative silence in the wilderness: 40 years for Moses, 40 days for Jesus.
- They both met an influential woman at a well.
- They both delivered their most popular messages from a mountain.
- They were both shepherds.
- They were both rejected by their own people.
- They both watched God sew a beautiful tapestry of salvation from the tangled web of a murder.
The big difference between their two stories hinges on the murderer and the murdered. While Moses was the perpetrator in his story, Jesus was the willing victim in His story. Jesus’ death was no accident. His self-sacrifice was planned before the foundation of the world.
Though God demands perfection of all mankind, thankfully, He sent His son, Jesus, into the world: to live a sinless life, to suffer and die on the cross as a substitute for our sins (absorbing the judgment we rightfully deserve), to rise again, to ascend back into heaven, and to grant forgiveness, righteousness, His Spirit, and eternal life at the moment we repent and believe.
Jesus fulfilled an exodus for us that Moses never could. He offers to lead us through the waters of salvation, through the fires of transformation, and into the hope of restoration. Today, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!
Then you can experience this truth for yourself…
Grace means I’m not defined by my greatest mistake.
Matt Friend, a Charleston native and tenth generation West Virginian, graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has served in pastoral ministry since 2002 and at Bible Center Church since March 1, 2016 (as our sixth Lead Pastor). He and Sarah (his high school sweetheart and wife) are raising two teenage daughters, Katie and Riley, and one son, Kadyn. Together, they are advocates for adoption and all things Charleston. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, kayaking, and spending time with his family and two dogs, Queso and Sabi.
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