“Not again”. The Hebrew Prince of Egypt knelt down next to the lamb that had managed to get itself stuck in a thorn bush. The soft pink skin beneath her fleece was already covered in scarlet scratches. ‘Seh, seh, seh’ the Prince breathed rhythmically, easing the trapped leg out. Once free, the lamb went to run off, but he held fast to the freed leg and used his forearm and elbow to pin her to the ground. He pulled out the flask of precious oil that was attached to his belt and began dabbing it on the scratches. The lamb did not co-operate. Several times she almost managed to wiggle free and finally succeeded in kicking the flask out of his hand. The Prince cursed to himself as the oil spilled out onto the rocky slope; that oil was worth more than ten lambs. Dipping his fingers into the little pools of oil that had settled on top of the dust, he continued to coo ‘Seh, seh, seh’ patiently tending to all of the scratches. The red flowing plant was irresistible to his flock, but the inch long thorns contained a sap which was mildly poisonous, and caused skin welts that attracted flies and infection. Finally he was done. He let the lamb up and watched as she darted away in the opposite direction to the flock. The man sighed, pulled himself up and debated following her. She would hit the stream at the bottom of the hill and hopefully have enough sense to turn around and climb up the hill to join the rest of the flock. He reattached his now empty flask to his belt, wiped his hands on his cloak and returned to the sheltered grassy ledge he had found on the west side of the mountain. The Prince did a quick head count. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the lamb trotting back up the hill, bleating as it came. All was well.
It was hot. He sat on a largish rock and took a swig of warm, dusty water. He thought briefly of fresh cool water and exotic fruits, but quickly pushed those thoughts away. That was another life. It was gone. Don’t think. Don’t dwell. He had a wife, children, employment, and security. He had much to be thankful for, but…
Moses had spent forty years chasing after these mindless, stubborn creatures whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to get into as much trouble as possible. Was this all he had to look forward to for the next forty years? Was this to be his legacy, his great contribution to his God and to his people? ‘Not your people’ a cynical voice hissed in his ear, ‘they rejected you, remember? “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” The Palace never accepted you, the Hebrews rejected you, and here you’ll always be an outsider.’ The memory of those first few years and the jibes that had followed him around the camp overtook his consciousness. ‘What’s with the accent? Think you’re some sort prince, or something?’ Moses had became so self-conscious of his accent he developed a stutter, and once it took it never left him. The other shepherds never had forgiven him for showing them up in front of Jethro; men should be able to drink from the well first, it’s only natural, who did this Hebrew with the palace accent think he was coming up here and treating our women like they deserve special treatment? Lost in thought, the sickening feeling returned to his stomach as he remembered not knowing how to light a fire, slaughter a sheep, erect a tent or contribute anything of value to the camp. When Jethro, his father in law, suggested he take care of their smallest and least valuable flock, he was relieved to be able to get away. He soon learned that sheep were trouble, stubborn and stupid. But their stubbornness was no match for Moses’ own. He had failed at everything in his life so far, he was not about to let a flock of half-witted sheep outwit him. Forty years later, he was the best shepherd in sight of Horeb, and had earned some respect from his adopted tribe. Well, as much respect as a foreign shepherd with a stutter can earn.
Even so, forty years on and the old frustration never left him. Anger burned deep inside him as he thought of all the injustice in the world, and yet he felt helpless to combat it. ‘I was brought up to be a Prince, a leader of men, but I’ve ended up a worthless, useless, shepherd. How did it all go so wrong?’ But he knew how it had all gone wrong, he could never forget it. In a moment of stupid heroics he thought he would avenge a Hebrew slave who had been beaten so severely he would be crippled for the remainder of his life. The Egyptian slave driver was sadistic maniac on a power trip, and Moses could not turn a blind eye to such unprovoked cruelty. The blow to the back of the head was only supposed to stun him, not kill him… but no one saw it that way. They only saw him as a gutless murderer, someone who attacks a man from behind and tries to cover it up, and then runs away in the dead of the night…
A crackling sound interrupted his reverie. He looked behind and saw something that sent an electric shock through his body. Fire… in the heat of the midday sun… on a slope… between the flock and the stream… there was no escape. He looked from the flock, to the stream, and then helplessly searched for something to put the fire out with, then he noticed that the fire was not spreading. The sparse, dried up grass around the flowering bush should have caught in an instant, but it remained unscorched. Impossible. ‘I must be going mad,’ he thought. Moses approached the bush and reached out to touch the blue/orange flames. Then a voice unlike any he heard before spoke from the bush, ‘Moses, Moses… take those sandals off your feet, you are on holy ground’. After forty long years, Moses was about to walk from The Waiting Place, into his purpose.
Readings: Exodus 1-3; and Acts 7:17-53
Acts 7:23 “When he (Moses) was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian”.
Exodus 2:16-17 “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their fathers flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock.”
Moses did not experience a direct call from God until that moment at the burning bush, and yet he had always harboured an intense passion for justice. Sometimes God speaks to us through a yearning in our hearts that we cannot ignore. What cause has God placed on your heart? What injustices in the world do you feel compelled to fight?
Hebrews 11:24 “By faith Moses when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin”
Exodus 3:1 “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father in law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God”.
Moses wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and turn his back on privilege and comfort. When we pursue the call of justice, there is always a cost. Have you considered the cost of pursuing your purpose? Are you prepared to pay it?
Exodus: 4:1 “The Moses answered, ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’
Exodus 4:10-11 “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak’ But he said, ‘Oh my Lord, please send someone else!’”
Moses experienced fear of rejection and doubt over his own abilities. He had already tried to lead his people, but had failed and fled. He had what appears to be some sort of speech impediment which he was incredibly self-conscious of. Yet despite the fear and doubts, he was (eventually) willing to fulfil his purpose. What fears and doubts are you experiencing in regards to your purpose?
Sometimes The Waiting Place looks like a man who has run away from God and his calling because of a mistake he had made in his past. The message of Moses’ Story is that no matter how messed up our past may be, it is never so messy that God cannot still work through it. Moses was an influencer, a leader and champion for justice, uniquely positioned in the Egyptian court to deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. But he tried to race ahead of God, attempting a coup before he was called, and consequently spend 40 years in The Waiting Place learning humility, patience and a reliance on God. Whilst in The Waiting Place, it may feel as though God has washed His hands of us, that what we have done is too great a disaster to come back from. If you are in this Waiting Place, be encouraged that even a murderer who ran away can be used by God to fight the injustice in the world. There is nothing in your past that could cause God to write you off forever. In Isaiah, God says to us “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:17-18). Just as Moses rescued the lamb from the thorn bush, God rescues us from the thorny places of life, even when it is our own appetite for the red flowers that got us caught there in the first place. Just as Moses tended to the scratches on the lamb using precious, expensive oil, God has paid the ultimate price to heal us of our sins, the life of his son Jesus. Even though we may squirm, flight and run from God, just as Moses was patent and gentle with the lamb, so too our God is with us. Are you stuck in Waiting Place because you are unable to move past your past? Come to God now in prayer and ask him to pull you out of the thorns, tend to your wounds and lead you into your purpose. Remember the words of the Psalm when doubt and fear overtakes you; “The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” (Psalm 103:8).