Friday, January 14, 2011

Hall of Faith Series - The 40-Year Trial of Moses


Good Friday morning everyone, once again today we will continue our tour through the Hall of Faith.  As part of that series, we are still studying Moses this week.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:27 NKJV
Once again, we return to Exodus for our text.
When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father's flock.  Exodus 2:15-16 NKJV
We are picking up right where we left off last week.  Moses, after killing the Egyptian, being rejected by his own brethren, and with the threat of death from Pharaoh, Moses fled Egypt.  We got as far as Midian, which is in the Sinai Peninsula and rested by a well.  I am sure he was resting from his journey through the wilderness and evaluating his life and what he just went through.  I am sure that Moses was just about as close to rock bottom as one can get.  Think about it, Moses was part of the household of Pharaoh, which he gave up by choice.  He went to be with his people and tried to defend one and committed murder.  The next day, his own people, the very people his heart was for, rejected him.  Then he discovered that the household he left was out for blood for the murder he committed.  In a short time, he gave up one home and lost another and he gave up one family and was rejected by another.  On top of all that, he was now a murderer and wanted dead by the king himself.  With no home, no family, no nation, no country, and no real safety as a wanted criminal, Moses was in the midst of a great trial.

Now we pick up this week where the seven daughters of the priest of Midian drew water from the well that Moses rested at in order to water their father's flock.  What many would see as a chance encounter, is actually a meeting appointed by God.  We will see that no matter what Moses lost in the world, he still had God and God had a glorious plan. 
Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.  Exodus 2:17 NKJV
These poor women did all the work in drawing water from the well, but some criminal shepherds chased the women away in order to steal their water for their own flocks.  Moses saw the injustice of what was going on and stood up and intervened.  The thieves thought they were picking on weaker younger women, but they soon met their match when a strong man stood up to defend them.  We see God's plan starting to take effect.  We also see that God's plan for Moses also blessed the lives of these women who were saved from the thieves.  We sometimes lose that what God does for us effects other people.  God's plan for Moses saved these women from being robbed.  These women were not women of the God of Moses, but Got intervened in their lives just the same through someone who worshiped Him.  God can and will do the same for you.  Please understand that God's blessings for your life are not just for you, but to be His witness to those around you. 
When they came to Reuel their father, he said, "How is it that you have come so soon today?" And they said, "An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock." So he said to his daughters, "And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread."  Exodus 2:18-20 NKJV
The crime of the shepherds must be a common problem considering the father was surprised to see his daughters so soon.  It is a sad thing when you have to assume being a victim of crime as part of your day.  Sadly, that is the reality for much of the world today.  God hates this sin too.  God hates the perpetual victimization of so many in this world.  While final judgment is not here yet, it is coming, and God will deal with those chronic criminals who do not repent.  For now, God does intervene at times and according to His purposes.  This is one of those times.  These men thought they would make the girls work for them before getting their own water, but God had something else in mind.  Moses, though in the midst of a trial, did not wallow in his pity but rose to help these girls.  He not only drove away the criminals, but helped them draw water.  His generosity is now going to be rewarded as the father asks the girls to invite Moses to their home.
Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, "I have been a stranger in a foreign land."  Exodus 2:21-22 NKJV
Moses now has a "home."  I use quotes because Moses never associates this as his home.  He calls himself a "stranger in a foreign land."  His heart is still with his people and his God.  God provided him a safe place to stay and a job, but the purpose was not to care for him there for the rest of his life, but to prepare him for what was to come.  This was a training ground.  For the next 40 years, Moses was in preparation for the great calling God has had for him.
Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.  Exodus 2:23-25 NKJV
That process of time was the 40 years I mentioned earlier.  The Pharaoh who wanted Moses dead is now dead himself, much time has passed, the burden of God's people grew ever harder, and God is now ready to act.  God did not "remember" His covenant as though he forgot about it for a while, but remembered it in terms of the time now being fulfilled to act on that promise. All the pieces are in place and now even God's chosen leader, Moses, is at a point where God can give him his calling. 
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.  Exodus 3:1-2 NKJV
We will stop here today, but we see now that all those years of waiting are now going to pay off.  Moses is realizing his calling he tried to realize on his own some 40 years ago when he tried to judge between two of his brethren.  It was a long forty years.   He did the work of a shepherd in the desert.  Ironically, it was that same desert he would eventually lead his people through.  What may have seemed to be grueling busy work, we now see as preparation for what was to come.  Moses spent those years mellowing his sharp temper (remember he killed the Egyptian in anger), allowing any memory of his crime in Egypt to go away, and for his people to be truly ready to accept him as leader.  It was long, but it was time well spent. 

Maybe you are in a desert now.  Maybe you feel like you have a calling that no one else sees in you or maybe you feel no calling to serve at all.  Maybe you were serving and something happened and God had to take you away from ministry for a time.  If you are not serving and feeling as though the calling is just not there yet, please be encouraged.  The wait may seem long and it may very well be long, but God has a plan for you to serve.  Moses had to wait forty years for his call from God.  Jesus did not start his ministry until he was thirty years old.  We also find others who seem to get into their service almost immediately.  Be encouraged that God has not forgotten you.

Please also do not use this as an excuse to not serve.  Make sure that there is no call and not that you are ignoring one.  We must answer that call when it comes.  When Jesus called the Apostles, they immediately stopped what they were doing and followed Jesus.  We must be ready in the same way.  If God is not calling you, part of that reason is because He is preparing you.  Not serving is no excuse to be not preparing.  God is not going to call you if you are not preparing for your call.  Are you studying His word?  Are you praying for direction?  Are you obedient in the small areas where God gives you to serve?  Just because you may not have a regular ministry does not mean you are not to minister.  We are all called to do various things at various times.  It may be giving someone in need a few dollars, it may be being a comfort to someone going through a hard time, it may be shoveling snow at church, it may be helping a stranger change a flat tire, it may be just about anything.  For Moses, it was helping seven young women being harassed by criminals.  The Bible is clear, though, that if we are faithful in small things, God will entrust us with larger things. 

It may not be in a burning bush and the Spirit of God may not come down on you like a dove, but God will call you one day. Start preparing now and be watchful for the call so you can be obedient when it comes.  Failing to answer God's call is only going to rob yourself of the blessings God has for you as you realize the good works you were created for. 
 He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'"  Luke 13:7-9 NKJV
If you are not serving, you are not producing fruit.  If you are not producing fruit, you had better be allowing the Holy Spirit to do that work to prepare you.  One day the Master of the vineyard will come calling to inspect your progress, but will he find fruit in your branches? 
And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away.  Matthew 21:19 NKJV

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