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.          

The Shepherd and I

The LORD is my shepherd. – Psalm 23 NIV 

When my youngest son first got his Australian Shepherd puppy, I had to chuckle. Did David have any clue how much time and effort it would take to train him?

The things this bundle of unbridled energy chewed up when I doggie-sat him! I seriously considered sending David an itemized bill for what I had to replace. Like my bird book. Like the spout from my stainless steel water bottle. Like a throw rug. Like the charging cord for my cell phone.

We’d call, “Tucker! Come!” But he ran the other way.

That was then.

Now Tucker is nearly two, and the time David has put into training him is obvious. While Tucker is still a bundle of energy, he’s obedient and tries hard to please. And he comes when he is called.

Just as it was important for Tucker to learn to submit to his master’s commands, it was also imperative for David to know Tucker, his Australian Shepherd traits and his unique personality.

When I think of Tucker, I think of Psalm 23.

Over the centuries, this beloved psalm has brought comfort, peace, and contentment in times of grief, sadness, and doubt. As we read the words the psalmist David penned – probably while he was on a hillside tending his father’s sheep – they resonate deep within our hearts and souls, and we sense an unnamed longing within filled.

We imagine ourselves relaxing in a verdant meadow, beside a lazy brook whose waters gurgle placidly downstream. Our souls are refreshed and restored.

But our relationship with this Shepherd who leads us to this quiet place, who makes us lie down (when we’d rather be hurtling full steam ahead), who leads us, not away from, but through the deep, dark valleys in our lives, is one of trust.

We must trust the Shepherd.

This, then, is a psalm of trust – something that seems to be in short supply these days. We seem to want to trust only ourselves to provide for our needs. We think we know what we want, what we need. And so, we, like sheep, run away from our Shepherd (Isaiah 53:6), each our own way.

But our Shepherd knows us better than we know ourselves. You see, He is more than our Shepherd. He is our Creator, the One who formed each one of us when we were still in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139)

As our Creator-Master-Shepherd trains us, we learn He wants only what He knows is best for each of us. We learn He acts out of love. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11 NLT)

When He formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life in him, did God have any clue how much time and effort it would take to train this species? Yes. But He did it anyway because in His eyes we are worth it.

You see, we are more than sheep in His pasture (Psalm 100:3). We are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), His crowning glory (Psalm 8:5).

Don’t you think it’s time we acted like it?

Thank you, Lord, for being my Shepherd. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 23.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.