When he thought he was finished, he was finally ready.
Lesson 33 from The HOPE Study Guide
Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father–in–law … And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed …God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” …Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. And the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…”
– Exodus 3:1–8
Moses fled to the desert, and he lived there as a shepherd for forty years. Then one day, God appeared to Moses in a fire in the midst of a bush, yet the bush was not consumed. And God spoke to Moses from the bush. God told Moses to return to his people and lead them out of Egypt. God promised to be with him.
– The HOPE, Chapter 6
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
In the first lesson of Chapter 6, we learned of the very specific vision that God gave to Abraham. God told Abraham that:
- His descendants will be strangers in a land that is not their own.
- They would be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.
Then, in Lesson 32, we saw how God used Joseph to save his family (Abraham’s descendants) from the famine in their own land by allowing them to live in Egypt (a land that was not their own). In Egypt, Joseph’s family increased in number and was eventually enslaved and treated harshly by the ruler of Egypt. During this time they became known as the Hebrew people. At one point, the ruler of Egypt ordered the death of every son born into a Hebrew family. One Hebrew child was spared, however, when his mother placed him in a basket in the river that ran by the palace of the princess. The princess found the boy, took him in as her own and named him Moses.1 He was raised as a prince of Egypt…but he had been born a Hebrew, and he never forgot it.
One day when Moses was about 40 years old, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, so he killed the Egyptian. Fearing for his life, Moses fled into the wilderness. There he married a shepherd’s daughter and lived in that place for another 40 years. 2 It is at this point that our current lesson opens. The descendents of Abraham have been enslaved in a foreign land, just as God had said. And at 80 years of age Moses is about to encounter the covenant–making–God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Think about it, as a prince of Egypt Moses received everything that wealth and power could provide. Still he recognized the plight of his people (Exodus 2:11). With his influence, he might have helped his people like Joseph did. But when Moses killed the Egyptian, everyone turned against him, even his own people. With all of his potential seemingly squandered, Moses went into hiding in the wilderness.
Many people see in Moses’ life a metaphor for their own spiritual journey. For the first 40 years of his life, Moses was well schooled in the ways of the world. But when he tried to get things done his way apart from God, he failed miserably. Whatever God was building into (or taking out of) Moses during his time in the wilderness, a few things seem obvious. After 40 years in the wilderness, there appears to be an absence of any selfish ambition in Moses to seek wealth, power, or fame, or even the need to do something significant (like deliver his people from slavery). He did not desire to have or do what would have been important in the world he had come from. In the wilderness Moses was weaned from the ways of his former world.
Moses probably began the day of his burning bush experience with the mindset that he would live out the rest of his life in the wilderness …in obscurity. After 40 years in that place, Moses might have thought his life was on the shelf. Little did he know that his best days were just about to begin! At the burning bush, God gave Moses a graduation ceremony very different from the ones he might have had in the finest schools of Egypt. In a sense, God was saying that Moses was finally ready to do what he had been created to do all along. Moses was now ready to do it God’s way rather than man’s way. He had always been a man of great ability, some of it natural and some it acquired through his upbringing in Egypt. But now Moses was ready to submit his strengths to God rather than using them independently from God.
As we shall soon see, Moses goes on to deliver the Hebrew people from slavery and to lead them for 40 more years, ultimately becoming one of the most important figures in human history.
ASK & REFLECT
- For Moses the wilderness was more than a location; it was a place in his soul where he could not (and did not need to) depend on the things that defined his identity in Egypt. In the wilderness he could avoid real challenge …and failure. In a strange way, it was an uncomfortable place and a comfortable place at the same time. He could have become stuck there had God not intervened. Have you ever been in a similar place? If so, explain.
- A person’s weakness can often cause them to depend on God. But a person’s strength can lead them to think they don’t need to depend on God. When this occurs, our greatest strength can become the greatest detriment to our spiritual life. Can you think of an area of strength in your life, one in which you find it easy to operate without depending on God?
- What do you think God would have you learn from the life of Moses?
DECIDE & DO
If you can identify with the story of Moses, if you feel that you’ve blown your opportunity to be what God wants you to be, if you feel like you are “on the shelf,” then be encouraged by the life of Moses. God is the One who determines when we are ready to do what He is calling us to do, and He is the One that prepares us to do it, sometimes by leading us to the wilderness.
It is never too late for God to use you! Be ready when He says it is time to go.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Sandy Sheppard, “Wilderness Survival: Rich Lessons from a Season of Suffering.” (Discipleship Journal, The Navigators, NavPress, July/August 1998). (http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.106.10.html). Retrieved October 13, 2006.
- Scriptures for the Desert, a sidebar to the article above. (http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/22.214.171.124.html). Retrieved October 13, 2006.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB
To watch the companion video that goes with this lesson, go to: http://www.thehopeproject.com Chapter 6