In Midian

Mount Nebo
Photo by Berhold Werner (Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. – Proverbs 19:21(RSV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

Moses—now there was a man who had it all—prosperity, power, prestige. But this prince of Egypt, thanks to his impulsive nature and nasty temper, became a refugee, fleeing for his life in disgrace and fear. Instead of a palace, the wilderness. No longer the proud prince, but a lowly shepherd. Talk about culture shock.

I wonder, as he tended sheep in the godforsaken desert and on the lonely mountainsides of Midian, did he think he was all washed up? A has-been? That the best part of his life was over? How long did it take him to stop missing the splendor, the hype? Did he feel as though he lost his purpose?

Then, after 40 years, Mission Impossible: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:9–10 NIV).

Oh, right. Like that was going to happen. Moses knew Pharaoh. But he didn’t know God. So he hedged. He made more excuses than a kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.

But man cannot argue with God. Well, you can, but you can’t win. For every excuse once-mighty Moses gave, God had an answer.

So Moses spent the next 40 years leading a stubborn, rebellious, cantankerous nation over one million strong through both a physical wilderness and a spiritual one. It was for this that Moses was enshrined in the famous “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11). He died a great leader with a fame that endures to this day, a fame he never could have achieved as a prince of Egypt. (Other than King Tut or Cleopatra, do you know the name of even one Egyptian royal?)

But I wonder, as he dealt with the constant complaining, the mercurial temperament of a nation whose loyalty and emotions were as fickle as an ambivalent teenager’s, as he quelled rebellion after rebellion, as he wore himself out settling their petty disputes—did he long for the quiet hillsides of Midian, tending to a flock that was undemanding, whose major flaw wasn’t stubbornness but stupidity?

Back in his heyday Moses didn’t want to rule Egypt; he wanted to rescue the Israelites. Right idea, wrong time. Moses needed to spend some time in Midian, in the wilderness classroom, to learn patience and humility. When God saw Moses was ready, He called him to his destiny, his purpose.

Sometimes we find ourselves in Midian, wondering if we’re all washed up, if somehow we missed God’s purpose for us. Or we wonder if we’re being punished. Or perfected. Oh, Lord, I’ll never be perfect! So I wonder if I’ll spend the rest of my life stuck in Midian, in a wilderness where the only attention I get is from needy sheep.

But I can’t handle the pressures Moses had when he traded his sheep for people. But then, everything that happened in Moses’ life had a purpose: to prepare him for the job God had planned for him all along. Moses wasn’t perfect when God called him—or afterwards. He blundered and thundered and made both the Almghty and the Israelites mad.

But he learned in lean times to lean on God. The leaner the time, the harder he leaned. And he learned that where God sends, He also enables and provides.

God hasn’t changed.

If you find yourself in Midian, enjoy the peace and quiet, the absence of strife and chaos. Work with God as He molds you for the job ahead. Then you might wish you were back in Midian.

But, then, it could be your job is Midian.

In that case, take to heart the words of another man who, centuries after Moses, found himself in his own Midian, a jail cell: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11 RSV).

Dear God, if I spend the rest of my life in Midian, help me to be content. Help me to know that You will fulfill Your purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 2:1–3:10

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.          

Disappointing Season

Why, O my soul, are you downcast? – Psalm 42:11 NIV

Of all the months of the year, October is my favorite. There isn’t a thing I don’t like about it, except it’s only 31 days.

The cooler temperatures bring on sweater season, cuddle season, soup and stew season, and the first fire in the wood burner. The hillsides explode in brilliant splashes of scarlet, gold, orange. The shorter daylight hours hint at long, relaxing evenings by the wood burner, reading and crocheting.

Ah, autumn . . . Author Lee Maynard called it “the season of the year that God seemed to put there just for the beauty of it.”

“If I were a bird,” wrote George Eliot, “I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns.”

This year, I wish I could fly about the earth seeking autumn! Because it certainly seems to have bypassed us in these parts.

Too much precipitation and unseasonably warm temperatures have resulted in a disappointing fall season. Rain and wind teamed up to snatch dying leaves from the trees before they had a chance to turn. Three weeks into October, the red maple in front of my house is still green, although half its leaves are gone. And how I looked forward to the bright orange glow infusing my dining room!

I took for granted the October leaves would always be vibrant, the temperatures would always turn cooler, and I would snuggle under warmer blankets. I never expected the leaves to go straight from late-summer green to drab brown, or to wear shorts and flip flops when I longed to wrap myself in my favorite sweater and putter around the house in my soft, sheep-fur-lined moccasins.

I expected October to always be brilliant and beautiful.

When our expectations collide with reality, disappointment crashes in.

My disappointment with the season pales in comparison to disappointment with the way life often turns out.

We expect good; we get bad.

We expect health, we get illness.

We expect fair weather; we get wind and rain and storms.

We expect faithfulness; we get betrayal.

We expect to enjoy a long, happy, loving marriage; we get widowhood and loneliness much sooner than we expected.

We expect a comfortable income; we get too much month at the end of the money.

We expect reward for all our hard work; we get more hard work with no reward in sight.

We expect the garden to produce a bountiful harvest. We get blight, bugs, and bad weather.

But God never promised us a charmed life, did He?

He never promised nothing bad would ever happen to us. But He does promise to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28). It may not by what we planned, but His plans are for our good (Jeremiah 29:11) and are exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20; Isaiah 55:8–9).

He never promised us a life free of troubles, trials, and tribulations. In fact, Jesus said we should expect them (John 16:33). But He did promise to be us through them (Isaiah 43:2).

He never promised to give us all we want. But He did promise to provide us with everything we need (Matthew 6:25–33, and Philippians 4:19).

He never promised we’d never be alone. But He did promise to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

He never promised we wouldn’t suffer the pains of growing old, but He did promise to sustain and carry us through our golden years (Isaiah 46:4).

He never promised other people, particularly those we love, wouldn’t disappoint us. But He did promise to be all we need (Lamentations 3:21–26).

He never promised us a battle-free life. But He did promise us victory (John 16:33).

His Word is filled with His promises to His children.

The world, your family, your friends, your life may disappoint you.

But God never will.

When I’m enduring a season of disappointment, Lord, help me to hear Your whispers of hope. Amen.

 Read and meditate on Psalm 42.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.