One day while Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert and came to Sinai, the holy mountain. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a flame coming from the middle of a bush.
– Exodus 3:1-2
Do you remember the rest of the story? The great leader Moses saves the children of Israel and leads them out of captivity to the gates of the promised land. What a great leader right?! But did you ever think about Moses and all the life that he lived that wasn’t mentioned in between chapters 2 and 3 of Exodus?
He lived for 40 years in the wilderness as a shepherd … to sheep that weren’t even his own! Talk about being brought low; he didn’t even own the sheep he was shepherding. Life has a way of doing that; of beating us down, and leaving us feeling unqualified for little more than shepherding someone else’s flock.
I don’t doubt that Moses had dreams, dreams of leading the Egyptian army and leading its kingdom. I’m sure he enjoyed living as one of the wealthiest men in the ancient world. Moses was one of the top 3 men in all of Egypt at the time of his exile. And in a moment, his dreams were dashed by a rash decision, and a dream that was once his purpose now became his source of pain.
We aren’t unlike Moses; many of us early in life, pursuing dreams and visions just to be beat down, ultimately to find that dream deferred.
Langston Hughes wrote about a dream deferred while living the midst of Harlem during the 1950’s. Langston said;
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
If I’m looking at Moses walking around the wilderness with his father-in-law’s sheep, all I’m thinking is, “there’s a has been”. But when God looked at Moses he saw what would be! And He does the same for you and me. You may be in the middle of your “shepherding years” asking God, “Why am I here?” But God knows that in order for you to be what you might have been, He has to take you through those tough and humbling years.
All it took was a burning bush to change the trajectory of a burnt out Moses. In a moment, God can change everything!
Moses needed those “shepherding years” to prepare him to connect with the children of Israel, to understand the wilderness, and learn how to lead not out of pride but humility. Never underestimate your suffering, God is using it!
You see, it took those 40 years right in between chapters 2 and 3 to prepare Moses to be what he might have been!