In Midian

Image courtesy of Deposit Photos, photo by gorlovkv

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.

A Little Leaven, A Lotta Heaven

“The kingdom of God is within you.” –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 17:21 NKJV

Friday night at our house is-pizza-and-a-movie night. It began when the youngest left for college, and my husband and I ate out at a local pizzeria. Eventually our date night morphed into dining on frozen pizza at home. After a while frozen pizza lost its appeal, and I rooted around in my recipe box and retrieved my old pizza dough recipe.

Years ago I learned the secret of making good pizza dough. It’s in the kneading. First I dissolve the yeast in warm water. Warm, not hot, because hot will kill the yeast. Then I add the sugar, salt, and oil, mixing it well so the yeast, sugar, and salt dissolve. Then I add about half the flour, mixing it with a wooden spoon until it’s just past the gooey stage.

Then I knead in the rest of the flour by one-half cupfuls—and I don’t pay attention to the recipe! I pay attention to the dough. I’m done adding flour when the dough is just past being sticky, soft like a baby’s behind, and springs back when I lightly indent it with my finger. I rarely use all the flour the recipe calls for.

Now, you’re asking, what does this have to do with the kingdom of heaven? Everything. You see, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching the people about the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, using analogies of things they understood so they would grasp what He was trying to tell them.

“The kingdom of heaven,” He said once, “is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33 GW). The kingdom of heaven is like yeast.

The older versions use the word “leaven.” Leaven, according to my trusty Webster’s, is “any influence spreading through something and working on it to bring a gradual change.” In bread dough, the leaven causes it to rise and gives it a delectable flavor. Ever eat bread that failed to rise? It’s useless, isn’t it? Fit only for the trashcan.

In this world, the leaven is the kingdom of heaven, or the rule of God over all who accept and submit to Him (see John 3:3,5). In each believer, the leaven is the words of the Master, found in Scripture, that gradually spread through our minds and hearts, transforming us, transforming our lives, ever so gradually.

First, though, the leaven must be added carefully then worked through the dough of our lives. Just like bread dough, the secret is in the kneading. Ever knead dough? It takes time and patience—and just the right touch—not too heavy and not too light.

God is the one who kneads His Word through our lives. If you’re dough being kneaded, though, it doesn’t feel too good to be twisted and turned and folded and pushed and pulled. But the Master knows what He’s doing. He’s not following a recipe because we are individual lumps, each needing a different touch, a different amount of flour to be added, and a different amount of kneading time. The Master works us until we’re pliable, soft, resilient—not too sticky or gooey and not too dry or tough. Then He sets us aside for a while for the leaven to do its work.

But we’re still not ready. Like bread dough, we must be punched down, worked again, shaped, and left alone, covered with a soft cloth, so that the leaven can finish its work. It’s a long process.

Child of God, are you being kneaded? Don’t despair. Just remember—a little bit of leaven, worked just right into the dough of your soul, means a whole a lot of heaven.

Dear God, thank You for kneading me in the way I need to be kneaded. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:33 and Luke 17:20–21.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Photo courtesy of ABSFreePic.com.