Did God Spank Moses?

The story of Moses at the burning bush is (thanks to Cecil DeMille and Charlton Heston) one of the most famous stories in the Old Testament (see Exodus 3 & 4). But have you ever read it as an example of parenting?  Did you know that God is invested in using disobedient children (like us) to accomplish His purposes?  What can we learn about the way that God disciplined Moses as a way to understand principles for parenting our own children?

God asked Moses to do something he did not want to do.

In the story, God (the father) makes a request. Not a suggestion, but a firm request, of Moses (the child). God instructs Moses to leave his mundane shepherding job, and all that has been familiar for 40 years, and go to lead the people (who hardly remember him) out of the clutches of the all-powerful Pharaoh. Now that’s a tall order! Who wouldn’t be a bit fearful and resistant?

What’s remarkable to us about this story is the Father’s patience and encouraging tone – even in his anger. Instead of arguing or getting into a power struggle, or using a “delayed obedience is disobedience and must be immediately disciplined” approach, God keeps encouraging Moses.

Instead of arguing or getting into a power struggle, or using a “delayed obedience is disobedience and must be immediately disciplined” approach, God keeps encouraging Moses.

Putting yourself in the story

See if you can picture yourself and your child in a tussle like this:

Parent: “I want you to stop what you’re doing and do a really important job!”

Child resistance #1: “I don’t want to! I’m not good enough!”
Parent answer: “I will be with you!”

Resistance #2: “I really don’t want to! People won’t listen to me.”
Answer: “I will do some really special things to help convince them.”

Resistance #3: “But I’m not smart enough and I can’t talk well enough!”
Answer: “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Three times the child defies the request, and finally outright refuses as he says, “Pleeeeease! Get somebody else!”

Now at this point, if you’re like me, you’re thinking, “This is it! How dare you defy me to this extent? It’s time for some serious consequences for your disobedience!” And, in fact, the Bible tells us, “The Lord’s anger burned against Moses and He said, “This defiance is intolerable! Get over my knee! You need a spanking because of your disobedience!”

Did God spank Moses?

Well, not exactly. Even in his anger and frustration, God did not punish Moses for his stubbornness. Instead, he persisted in finding a way to usher Moses into success. He encouraged Moses further, by enlisting assistance and companionship for him in the form of Aaron, his brother.

As persistent as Moses was in his resistance, God was more persistent in finding a way to guide Moses to do the right thing.

As persistent as Moses was in his resistance, God was more persistent in finding a way to guide Moses to do the right thing.

If our goal is to follow God’s parenting example what can we learn from this?

  • It can take multiple and varied offers of encouragement before a child feels encouraged.
  • Just because we’re angry doesn’t mean we should put consequences in place.
  • Children generally learn best when we encourage them by helping find ways to succeed rather than punishing their defiance.

Moses finally decided to follow God’s instruction. He went on to confidently confront Pharaoh and lead the people out of bondage. God knew that Moses needed some persistent encouragement to get started, which He graciously provided. Even in our frustration over our children’s resistance, can we likewise have compassion on their struggle, and offer the encouragement they need to be successful?


Want to learn more about these concepts? Download our one hour recording of a Discipline That Connects workshop.

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