Acts 7:20 – Beautiful for God
Acts 7:20 – Beautiful for God
At this time Moses was born, and was beautiful before God.Acts 7:20
As Stephen recounts the history of Israel and the way of the promise before the Sanhedrin, he makes a significant statement about Moses. The disciples of the Lord Jesus had always been regarded as critical of Moses and the law, but Stephen here emphatically states that Moses was beautiful before God. One might even have expected a less graphic expression. Why the specific choice of such a term to describe God's attitude to Moses?
In fact Stephen quotes here the exact word used in the Septuagint in Exodus 2:2, where it states that when Moses' mother saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months. After that, in a last desperate attempt to save the child, she put him in a basket among the reeds in the river. The account indicates that Pharaoh's daughter, who happened to come to the river and find Moses, also considered him to be a beautiful child. Even though she knew he was a Hebrew child, she adopted him and gave him the name Moses.
In accenting this word in his speech before the chief priests, Stephen shows how God was working through the hands of men. The letter to the Hebrews uses the same word about Moses in Hebrews 11:23, where it states that the parents acted out of faith in hiding the child. God uses the sign of outward appearance, an appearance of strength and health, to indicate that this was a special child. So marked was his appearance that not only his mother but Pharaoh's daughter was struck by it. And behind all this, says Stephen, we must see the hand of God. In the choice of the parents and the adopting mother, Pharaoh's daughter, we see the choice of God. Moses was especially chosen by God, and his special vocation was in effect visible from birth onwards.
Stephen also places this new beginning within the context of Pharaoh's decision to kill all the male children in Israel. The time of near annihilation becomes, by divine intervention, the time of the birth of redemption. And even Moses' name reflect this. As one saved from water he was as one risen from the dead. As Calvin puts it, the minister of deliverance seemed dead even before he was born.
All this puts the new beginning in the light of God's unending mercy and faithfulness! The initiative is born solely out of Him! And even though He uses people as His instruments, – the parents in faith, and Pharaoh's daughter as an unknowing helper – the work is solely His.
Here Moses is a type of the greater Servant that was to come. Stephen even points to this in his address, for he recalls how Moses announced the coming of a greater prophet, v. 37. And the letter to the Hebrews puts these two, Moses and Christ, side by side, Hebrews 3:2ff. Moses, it says, was faithful in God's house as a servant, but the Lord Jesus was faithful as a son. For Moses could not see all that his Master was doing, and he knew neither the direction nor end of his ministry. But he faithfully testified to a greater future that was coming. But Christ was active from before the foundation of the world, and He knew all about the house that God was building. And He willingly accepted His calling in the building of this house.
Here Christ rises above Moses as a son rises above the servant. For Moses was beautiful before God – chosen by God, and equipped from birth. But the Son? The depth of His humiliation was far worse. “He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him,” Isaiah 53:2. In His human nature He bore God's wrath against sin, and this wrath manifested itself in every possible way. The scorn of church and world came upon Him. Even the earth did not let Him alone.
Yet in all this God desired Him as none other. The Pharisees challenged God to deliver Him on the cross, “if he desires him,” Matthew 27:42. But God did desire Him at that moment in the deepest hour of His suffering! He desired Him to finish His work, and to remain on the cross to the end. This was His will and counsel for our redemption!
In God's way with Moses we see an allusion to Christ. Like Moses He was one destined for death, and yet one raised from the dead. So He excels Moses in every way. Moses is saved through water, and saves Israel through water. Christ brings the fire of purification, and saves His people through the fire of the last judgement. Moses was beautiful before God; Christ was desired by God even without human beauty. Moses was a faithful servant, Christ is the faithful, desired Son – the only Son of the Father!
So we stand thankful for Moses' service. But – and this is Stephen's point – we must see his service in its proper light. He pointed to the greater Son who was coming! And where Moses was beautiful before God, the Son, above all, is His chosen Servant. Indeed, in Him we are saved, and in Him we all, through faith, may be beautiful before God. For does not He desire His own?
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