Acts 7: 29,30
29 Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons. 30 “And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.
Moses was a man who grew in the courts of Pharaoh as an Egyptian prince. But we see that despite being in the palace, Moses had a concern for His people, the Israelites who were suffering at the hands of Egyptians. When Moses was about 40 years, he saw one of his people being beaten, and he tried to take things into his own hands. He killed the Egyptian and because of this impulsive act he had to flee from Egypt and Pharaoh.
The phrase that touched me in the passage is, “And when forty years had passed” an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Moses had to spend the next 40 years working as a shepherd for a man named Jethro in Midian.
40 years of a person’s lifetime is no small deal!
As Moses gets stuck in Midian for another 40 years, I wonder what Moses would have been going through at this time. This man started with a great passion to save His people and he is one of the most educated men in the country. He belonged to one of the powerful families of the nation.
In Acts 7: 22, we read that “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action”. Egyptian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations of the time, history tells us that they were well advanced in technologies and this fact is also clear from one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the Pyramids. In today’s scenario, probably Moses would have attained a level of education at least up to a doctorate. But we read that he had to spent about 40 years doing probably nothing significant towards saving his people. From a Prince, he is suddenly shifted to the position of a Shepherd. And it’s interesting to think how Moses may have utilized his highly exceptional skills in the wilderness while he was taking care of the sheep.
Many times in Christian life we all pass through this season of drought where we feel that nothing significant is happening in our life. Probably many times, we would have felt wasted and small in life! But the thought that came to mind was that God certainly had a plan with the 40 years of Moses!
I would like to share an illustration of a Chinese Bamboo Tree to give a better understanding of this thought. In China, they grow a bamboo tree, commonly known as the Chinese bamboo tree. Like any plant, growth of the Chinese Bamboo Tree requires nurturing – water, fertile soil, sunshine. When they sow the seed in ground and water it, nothing happens till the end of the first year. In the second year, again, no growth above the soil. The third, the fourth, still nothing. Our patience is tested and we begin to wonder if our efforts (caring, water, etc.) will ever be rewarded. And finally in the fifth year – behold, a miracle! We experience growth. And what growth it is! The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet in just six weeks!
But let’s be serious, does the Chinese Bamboo Tree grow 80 feet in six weeks? Was the tree waiting for 4 years doing nothing so that it can come out in the 5th year? Or, was the little tree growing underground, developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth in the fifth year and beyond? Well in truth, the tree was preparing itself for the last 4 years so that it will be ready to balance its exponential and exceptional growth in the 5th year!
Probably, 40 years of wilderness would have been used by God to teach Moses patience and trust. Working with the sheep day after day would have taught him both. In Numbers 12:3 says that Moses became the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3). This is the same man, who killed an Egyptian in the flare of His anger, in fact, he is a murderer, but as time passed, God himself testified about Moses as the meekest man on earth. I am sure that 40 years of wilderness have transformed Moses.
In fact, with 40 years of training, God uses Moses to lead His people- the Israelites for another 40 years in the wilderness. And the Israelites lead by Moses were not a small group! According to the Bible, there were about 2 million people: “The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.” (Exodus 12:37). If there were six hundred thousand men, besides children, this means that there were about 2 million people. Many times in the journey, Moses would have felt inadequate to deal with such an ungrateful and complaining people. But God had already prepared Moses for such great leadership! And God was with Moses as promised.
If we see someone who is growing a tree and has nothing to show till the end of the fourth year and still taking care of the bare ground — watering& nurturing it, we are bound to either make fun of the person or call him maniac! The reason is that we would be operating out of mindsight — judging things through human mindset. But we serve a God who works beyond our thought process and He is working behind scenes. Sometimes, we don’t even understand what is happening around us. And in such desperate situations, we might ask God a lot of questions. Everyone would have one such low point in life where we would ask God a lot of questions. But in His perfect time, God answers all our questions.
The life of Joseph is another example of this context. Joseph was a faithful man and God gave him a big and amazing dream. It was God who gave him the vision that his father and brothers would bow down before him as we read in Genesis chapter 37.
Genesis 37: 9-12 “9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will, your mother and I and your brothers come and bow down to the ground before you?”
But the immediate events in his life after the dream were a stark opposite to the vision he got from God.
• The brothers stripped him of his beautiful tunic (Genesis 37:23)
• He was sold by his brothers to Midianite merchants (Genesis 37:23)
• The Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar (Genesis 37:36)
• Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison (Genesis 39:20)
• The chief cupbearer whom Joseph helped forgot him (Genesis 40:23)
At this point of time, Joseph might have had a lot of questions because his dreams didn’t much match with the reality of incidents happening in his life. But looking closely at all these portions in the bible, one thing is very clear, ‘God was with Joseph wherever he was…”. Genesis 39:2,3 says, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant.” He was sent to jail but wherever he was Joseph found favour in the eyes of jail warden. The warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (Genesis 39:20-22).
Sometimes, even for us, life may not be going in line according to the promises received or it may be dry, but God is certainly with us! He helps us to find favour in our workplace, family etc… and gives us hope daily! So basically it was not as if God left Joseph to suffer alone but God was in control of whatever was happening in Joseph’s life. And eventually, as time unveiled the mystery God led Joseph to be in charge of the whole of Egypt and God fulfilled the vision he gave to Joseph Genesis 41: 41-44).
God knows what he is doing with each of our lives and sometimes the immediate events of our life may not go hand in hand with the promises we have got from God. But in these circumstances, we shouldn’t fear anything because He is still in control. However low the situation might be, God can still raise us to be in control over the things as He is by our side. Let us trust God blindly! And today, whatever situation each of you may be, God is certainly working behind scenes! And every day He is equipping us for a greater harvest!
The one who gave the promise is powerful enough to fulfil it!