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.          

Rest Stops

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there by the water. – Exodus 15:22

Since our daughter settled in South Carolina, seven hundred miles away, my husband and I used to make the twelve-hour drive to visit with her and her family two or three times a year. At our age, long trips are easier to take if we make frequent stops to rest and avoid road weariness.

Thousands of years ago, the Israelites also had a long trip to make. One million men, women, and children left the bondage of Egyptian slavery and trekked across a barren wilderness where there was little to eat or drink, and where they were exposed to rain, wind, sun, and storms, headed for a land flowing with milk and honey. Along the way, they got tired, thirsty, hungry, and discouraged.

But they were on a faith-growing journey, and the One who led them had many lessons to teach them. They failed test after test. Just when they were in the deepest despair and discouragement, hope dwindling and faith faltering, God intervened—with manna from heaven, water from desert rocks, and an oasis with twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees.

I’m sure the weary travelers would have loved to pitch their tents and stay at that oasis the rest of their lives. But eventually they had to move on. The oasis wasn’t their destination.

The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness is a picture of our journey through life. Once the shackles of our bondage to sin are broken, we begin our journey to the Promised Land – Heaven. We, too, struggle through the wilderness, which, just like the Israelites’ journey so long ago, takes up most of the trip. And we, too, encounter oases sprinkled along the way. But we cannot abide in the rest stops. They are there to provide a temporary respite from the difficulties of life, refresh our minds and spirits, and renew our strength.

Sometimes I’d like to find an oasis and move in permanently. But God calls me to venture into the wilderness on a faith-growing journey. And, just like with the Israelites, He will be with me every step of the way.

Thank You, Lord, for the wilderness that stretches my faith and the oases that refresh me and give me the strength to journey on. Amen.

Read and reflect on Exodus 15:22–16:1

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