“When Pharaoh heard about this, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well. . .After a long time, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor, they cried out, and their cry for help because of the difficult labor ascended to God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
There are some people everyone wants to be. This is usually because of what the person has accomplished. Many of these folks are athletes. Kids in particular watch these people perform and try to mimic what they do in their own playing. The trouble is, most of these superlatively talented individuals make doing what they do look easy. The truth, however, is anything but that. Doing what they do the way they do it has taken them years of hard work and sacrifice. We want to reproduce their success without the time in the wilderness. That, however, is not how life works. This truth is something we see borne out in the Scriptures including Moses’ story here. Let’s talk about it.
Something occurred to me yesterday as I was writing that I hadn’t considered before. I commented on it briefly, but the importance of the idea wasn’t fully fleshed out then. After years of living in the palace as a spoiled member of the upper echelon of Egyptian society, Moses discovered how his people were really being treated. We don’t know how or why this happened at all let alone when it did. Perhaps he went on a trip to a place he hadn’t been before and where the Hebrew slaves were active. Maybe he encountered a group of Hebrews slaves for the first time in his own city. Whatever was the reason for it, Moses went out and “observed their forced labor.”
When he did, something broke inside of him. Maybe Pharaoh’s daughter was a good and compassionate mother to him such that he grew up loving her and his adoptive people as well. Because of this he only ever saw them through a set of rose-tinted lenses. Seeing the appalling treatment of his genetic people, though, forced him to see his adoptive people in an entirely new light. And what he saw now was shockingly ugly.
Absent any kind of a nuanced biblical framework for processing this gross injustice, Moses began to despise the Egyptians. He began to passionately desire to see his people freed from their terrible bondage. The trouble was, as much passion as he brought to the issue, he wasn’t really a Hebrew. I mean, yes, genetically speaking he was, but he wasn’t in the ways that would matter to the rest of them. He wasn’t in the ways that would have led any of them to accept him as a leader who could actually effect a change in their circumstances. He had passionate sympathy for them, but he could in no ways empathize with their situation. As far as they were concerned, he was merely another foreigner seeking to bend them to his will.
There’s yet more to this. As someone who had certainly been raised in an entirely pagan context, not to mention one in which he was pretty much able to get whatever he wanted anytime he wanted it, he did not have anything like the character necessary to do the job he wanted to do. He had perhaps never been in the position of ever really caring about someone or something other than himself and what he wanted. Yes, he did now and for possibly the first time, but these were young and immature feelings. They were full of passion, but not wisdom.
Adolescent passions like these are a potentially good and powerful thing. But without wisdom to shape and guide them, they are more likely than not to cause more harm than good when unleashed. Without a God-centered worldview framework, passion will almost always be without wisdom. Our culture is awash in such wisdomless passion and the bitter fruits it produces are littering the nation. Moses quickly demonstrated just how true this was by murdering the first Egyptian he saw abusing a Hebrew slave. Perhaps God was going to use him to accomplish big things, but he was in no shape to start doing them yet.
By His wisdom and grace, rather than making Moses pay for his crime with his life as Pharaoh planned to do, God used the opportunity of his sin to maneuver him into a position from which He could begin to do the work necessary to get him ready for the job he was born to do.
Something similar happens all too often in our own stories. Perhaps we have a passion for a particular thing, and perhaps that passion is a God-given gift. But until it is harnessed with wisdom to guide and direct it, we’ll be like a small child trying to hold onto a firehose spraying at full force. We may have a grip on it, but we won’t have control of it, and while we might spread a lot of passion everywhere around us, only a little of it will get to where it is actually going to do any good. In spite of our arguably good intentions, our lack of wisdom leads us to chase our goal down a path littered with sin. Even where sin isn’t our chief problem, though, when we operate without wisdom, we are going to see trouble more than benefit come from our actions. We may have a very good place we want to go, and it may in fact by the place God is directing us to go, but before we can experience all of the blessing that will come from it, we have to follow the path between here and there.
Following the path takes a lot of things. It takes wisdom, of course. It takes patience. It takes humility. It takes a willingness to receive correction and critical feedback both from people we like and trust and also from those we’d rather not hear from. It takes a willingness to trust in God’s timing and not try to force things to happen on our own schedule. None of this is fun or terribly pleasant in the moment. But if we will nonetheless follow faithfully, we will yet see done what God wants to accomplish through us. That will be a very good day.