he Unexpected Twists of Destiny
All the great characters to be found in the pages of Scripture are never meant to be seen as just historical figures. To do so would be to reduce the Bible to a rather boring old book that in a less permissive age would be banned because all of human life is there without being covered up with too many fig leaves. Every character we meet provides an invitation to reflect as much on our life as on theirs. In the reading today we are introduced to one of the great Old Testament figures who’s story never ceases to fascinate me, namely Moses. In the reading we hear of him leading his Father-in Law’s flock across the desert just at the point where he is about to be called into his life’s work of leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt across the desert and towards the promised land. If you happen to be getting on in years and think you’re too old for God to call you to do something wonderful just think again because when Moses heard God calling him from the burning bush he was eighty years old and his life’s work was only beginning.
While his mission was only beginning his entire life had been a preparation for what he was about to do. However, while God was preparing him poor old Moses wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was taking place. The Bible tells us that he was to live another forty and that he died at 120. His life could be divided into three periods of 40 years each. The first 40 was spent making himself a somebody, puffing up his own importance if you like. The second 40 God spent making him a nobody and the last 40 was where God showed him what he could do with a nobody.
So if we were to unpack those three periods what would we find? He was born in slavery in Egypt, to an Israelite woman at a time when by order of the king all male babies to be killed, so he was destined for a quick dispatch. His mother let him go to God and floated him down the Nile where providence arranged for him to be noticed by the maid of the Pharoah’s daughter who brought the baby to her. She then adopted him as her own son and brought him up as a prince. This was a life of wealth and privilege so you could say that he grew up with a golden spoon in his mouth. When he got to 40 we are told that ‘he was a man mighty in word and deed’, and the only man alive that was in a position to do something on behalf of his oppressed people. But he blew his chances. Like so many well intentioned young people he misused his anger to fight injustice and became the victim of it himself. He saw one of his countrymen being harshly beaten by an Egyptian and his patriotic blood boiled so much that he killed the offender and buried his body in the sand so as not to be found out. Its typical of the way our reactions to an injustice can be far worse than the original action and also of how we tend to bury unpleasant events and emotions. But, Moses was spotted and the story was in danger of coming out. To avoid Pharoah’s wrath and to save his life he fled to Midian where he became a lowly shepherd. Midian is not just a geographical location in the Sinai Desert, the word actually means the Land of Strife. It’s the pace we all go to when we are running from ourselves. Most of us are pretty good at trying to evade what we cannot avoid. So we try to numb our emotional pain with some form of addiction, medication, busyness or constant noise where the off button is never used on the TV.
Moses spent all of 40 years in the desert running from himself until he ran out of steam and it was then that God called him. At that stage his life of promise had become a shambles, a life of wasted opportunity. What he didn’t know was that God writes straight with the crooked lines of our lives and had been preparing him precisely through his experiences of sin and failure. He was leading the flock of His Father in Law Jethro across the desert when God called him. Think about it. what a waste for a man of stature and promise but at this stage he had become chastened with no more of his youthful arrogance. He was now, we are told ‘the meekest man in all the earth’, gone were his great oratorical skills and he now spoke with a stammer. Basically he was a broken man broken by life having turned sour and now weakened by age. Whet he couldn’t see just then was that all his desert experiences were going to be absolutely necessary when he would be leading not just the flock of his father in law but the flock of his Heavenly father across the desert. In other words what he had been through himself he could now lead others through.
That’s the good news. Our life’s experiences can break us but they also have the potential to make us at the same time. We can grow in wisdom and compassion through the hard knocks or we can become bitter and remain broken. It all depends on whether we are prepared to face our pain or leave it buried in the sand. Unfortunately for far too many, denial is only a river in Egypt, and we go through life with not just with our issues buried but with our heads buried in the sand as well.