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
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!
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 forty 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 Pharaoh didn’t know God. So Moses 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.
Moses spent the next forty 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.
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 was stupidity?
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. 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.
I’ve already discovered I can’t handle the pressures Moses had when he traded 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 either. Moses blundered and thundered and made both the Almighty and the Israelites angry.
Through the trials, he learned in lean times to lean on God. The leaner the time, the harder he leaned. And he learned 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, the apostle Paul in 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.