Young Moses and the Israelites: Immature Vision and Premature Rejection

Moses, the deliverer of Israel, was repeatedly rejected by the people of Israel—fourteen times by my count. Yet he successfully led them from slavery to freedom.

We can learn much from the fourteen rejections of Moses, why they happened and how he overcame them. Here’s a look at the first one.

Passionate but Presumptuous

This first rejection of Moses stands out because it is separated from the other ones by forty years. It happened earlier in Moses life. It also stands out from the other rejections because it’s the one rejection that Moses deserved.

Exodus 2:11-15 give us the story:

“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your companion?’ He answered, ‘Who made you prince and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ The Moses was afraid, and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.”

The rejection in this case was from just one person, who challenged him: “Who made you prince and judge over us?”

The book of Acts relates a message delivered by Stephen. Acts 7:23-25 gives us some insight into Moses’s thinking at this time in His life:

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.”

“He supposed that his brothers would understand,” said Stephen. He was being generous. He could also have put it this way: “He presumed with breath-taking arrogance that is brothers would understand.”

But Stephen was making a larger point, which was that people of Israel had often rejected God’s purposes. This becomes clear at the end of his message: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51)

Stephen made his point so well that they killed him—a fact that proved his point even more.

Stephen was right. Moses really was called by God to deliver the Israelites, even if he was making it hard for others to discern that calling.

Vision Is Not Enough

According to Hebrews 11:24-26, Moses’s decision to offer himself as a leader of Israel was a great act of faith:

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

So Moses truly had a revelation. He was called by God and he obeyed, making a great sacrifice.

But he went about it all wrong. He was just doing what he knew how to do, but that was the problem. If he had done it his way, it would have been just another slave revolt, the arm of the flesh against the arm of the flesh.

Moses had a revelation: that the Israelites were suffering for the sake of the promises of God. They were suffering “the reproach of Christ.”

Moses had a good interpretation of his revelation. God was indeed raising him up as a deliverer.

Where Moses went wrong was in the application.

“He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25)

The problem is made clear by the phrase, “God was giving them salvation by his hand.” This refers to the hand of Moses. And it’s true, but in a way, it’s not true. Yes, Moses was God’s chosen instrument, but salvation was going to come by the hand of God, not the hand of Moses.

The Test of Rejection

Moses fled from Pharaoh. He wasn’t afraid of Pharaoh when he killed the Egyptian. He wasn’t afraid when he offered himself as a leader of Israel. What he didn’t count on was the rejection.

It was only from one man, but that one rejection was all it took. Moses gave up his mission.

Rejection purifies vision. Moses had immature vision. He had the wrong idea about how God was going to use him.

Think about this: Moses was so sure of himself that he killed a man. Yet one word of rejection from a random slave, and his confidence crumbled.

Rejection reveals immaturity.

This doesn’t make it right to reject people just because they are immature. Nobody is without some real cringe-worthy acts of immaturity in their past. People need to be given grace and time to mature.

Israel’s Mistake

The Israelites didn’t recognize their God-given deliverer. They couldn’t see past the immaturity. To have Moses on their side was a unique opportunity. Sure, he was arrogant (and he killed a man!) but he had a background that made him perfect for the job, and he was called by God.
So even though Moses deserved this one, that doesn’t make it right.
Stephen was right. “Who made you prince and judge over us?” was not the right question to ask. A better question would have been, “Why are you interested in us at all?”


  • Rejection will test your vision and, if you let it, it will purify your vision
  • Just because someone is wrong to reject you, that doesn’t mean you’re not giving them a good reason




14 rejections of moses


This excerpt is from The 14 Rejections of Moses: Guideposts on the Path to the Crucified Life

Available at Amazon