And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit This brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush (Acts 7:22-30).
News of Moses’ execution of the Egyptian overseer had spread in just one day. This news had spread rapidly be cause of the loose tongues of his fellow Israelites. They were unwilling to submit to his rule. They preferred continued bondage to Egyptian overlords rather than submission to a highly placed Israelite. God honored their preference. They remained in slavery for another four decades.
Eventually, God heard their cries. He decided to deliver them from their afflictions (Ex. 2:24). Who was God’s choice to serve as their deliverer? Moses, the man who had been driven out of their presence a generation earlier.
Where had Moses been all this time? Living inconspicuously as a free man in a foreign land, tending sheep. For forty years, he had been a nondescript sheepherder, invisible to the Egyptian empire. He had dealt daily with some of the most stupid and vulnerable creatures on earth. He had learned how to move them from place to place, round up strays, and protect them from predators. This was an ideal job training program for his future role as Israel’s deliverer.
Sheepherders learn patience. Moses needed all the patience he could acquire. Forty years of herding sheep were necessary as an assignment preliminary to a much more important role: forty years of herding Israelites. Moses fled from Egypt because he feared the Pharaoh.
At the time of his execution of the Egyptian overseer, Moses had spent four decades in the household of the Pharaoh. He could have enjoyed the trappings of illegitimate State power had he wanted to. He chose another path: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people, of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:24-25).
He did not suffer their affliction side by side with them. He suffered through exile from the house of the Pharaoh. The price of his decision to intervene on the side of his brethren was forty years of sheepherding in a strange land. By the time God called him to play the most important civic leader- ship role in the history of mankind, Moses was eighty years old: two-thirds through his lifetime. Six decades into his adulthood, Moses was still tending sheep.
Think about what might have gone through his mind at, say, age seventy-five. “What am I doing here? My talents are being wasted. I possess the wisdom of Egypt, although it’s fading somewhat after all these years. I was willing to use this wisdom to intercede for my people, but they resented me and my elevated position. They preferred Egyptian bondage to rule by one of their own. So here I sit with all these sheep. Another few decades and I’ll be bones in the wilderness. Who will remember me? Who will care that I was ever here? Not these sheep, certainly.”
Perhaps he was content with his station in life. Maybe he worried from time to time about the condition of his brethren, but what could he do about it? Nothing. “Surely it’s better to herd sheep in Midian than to serve as a representative of Egyptian tyranny. These sheep give me a decent living. That’s better than what my relatives in Egypt have. I’m married; I have a son; my father-in-law is a man of wisdom. Things could be a lot worse. I don’t need tame or fortune. I only need three square meals a day and a tent. I’ve got what I need.”
Whichever it was — even if it was both ~ at age eighty everything changed. People would remember Moses after all. But there would be no more quiet evenings under the stars, sitting by the campfire with his wife, son, and bleating sheep. God made him a herdsman over bloating Israelites.
Moses had bided his time. He remained out of the line of fire. Whatever he learned during his years as a sheepherder, he did not learn under the kind of daily pressure that he experienced from age eighty to age one hundred twenty. Biding his time in Midian, Moses had no inkling of what lay ahead. God did, of course. God had placed Moses in the wilderness and let him ponder whatever came into his mind. He gave him a kind of rest and recreation period before the forty-year war began. Moses was never again to experience anything like it.
When Your Draft Notice Comes
Moses was drafted into that war. He did not volunteer. In fact, he gave an excellent imitation of a young man standing in front of his local draft board. He kept offering excuses for not serving.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)