Digging in Deeper: Exodus 3:1

“Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

On occasion people will compare the times in which we live our lives to those before us. Usually this is done in a spirit of nostalgia, and we don’t come off looking very good. I’m not typically a fan of this. Nostalgia is a deceptively tough master that will leave us longing for a past that never really existed and discontented about the present. That being said, there is one point in particular at which we come off looking worse than our forebears that I would like to give some attention to this morning: We don’t like to wait for things. Humans have never been well-known for patience, but in our instant society, we’re particularly bad and getting worse. This creates problems when we serve a God who literally has all the time in the world. We get a glimpse of this as we move into the next part of Moses’ story. Let’s talk about it today.

When we last left Moses, he was far from home and trying with only limited success to adapt to his life in this strange, new world. His exile was his own fault. He had murdered a man and fled from justice. (Just as a bit of an interesting observation: the two most famous figures in the Hebrew Scriptures were both murderers, one by direct action and the other by decree; God really is able to use anyone to accomplish His plans and even the vilest offender can become by grace the noblest servant.) If you want to think about it, Moses deserved death for his crime. That was God’s decree to Noah after the flood. If someone takes a human life, his own life will be demanded as payment. Yet here, God showed grace and mercy and gave Mosese what amounted to a 40-year prison sentence instead.

In any event, Moses was somewhere he had never planned to be. And while the narrative here condenses his time in Midian down to its bookend action points, he was there for a really long time. Forty years. That’s a full generation. Moses had kids who may have already had kids themselves before anything meaningful changed about his situation. And during all of this time what was he doing? He was essentially waiting. Waiting for what he could not have known, yet he waited all the same.

I wonder what made him go to this particular mountain on this particular day. We’re not given any details about that. The various biblical authors consistently gave us the details they knew we needed to know most. In many cases, though, they aren’t the details that most interest us in a given moment. I hope there’s some way to learn the full breadth of these stories in God’s eternal kingdom, but it probably won’t matter then, so we may be stuck knowing just what we do. Or perhaps a better way to put that is we’ll learn to be satisfied with what we have instead of constantly looking for more and different. That’s a sermon for another time.

Moses had been shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks for decades at this point. He had no doubt grazed them all over the region. It may be that he had been in this spot before, but God knew the time wasn’t right to reveal Himself to Moses. Or this may have been the very first time. God was simply waiting for him to arrive, knowing that he would when the time was right. Until then, though, Moses was living his life, waiting for that moment when things were going to change. How they were going to change, he didn’t likely have any idea. In fact, at some point along the way, he may have given up on their ever changing. Perhaps he did finally settle into his life there in Midian, simply assuming that this was where he would live out his days. Either way, his life was a game of waiting.

This same kind of thing can play out in our own lives. We can easily find ourselves in a season of waiting; a season when we seem to be doing nothing but spinning our wheels and going nowhere. Life is moving around us, and we are moving with it to some degree, but the whole time we have this lingering sense that we aren’t where we are supposed to be. Sitting in that kind of a place for long can be agonizing. Our mind starts to play games with us. We question ourselves and the people around us, trying to find a reason for our being stuck. We start to look for opportunities to move to a different place. We try to change things up just to see if that shakes us out of our rut.

While doing this kind of thing is totally understandable, it is also dangerous. When we start looking for ways to bring a change to our situation, we run the risk of finding them. Yet if these ways are not from God, they not only aren’t going to bring the change we are seeking, but they may actually result in our getting stuck longer or deeper than we were before. They may make the eventual process of moving forward more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Of course, the question that drives us crazy here is how we know whether the changes are from God or are simply ones we have sought for ourselves. Staying actively tuned into His Spirit through regular prayer and a consistent engagement with the Scriptures all in the context of a healthy church community will help the most here.

So then, what are we supposed to do when we are feeling stuck somewhere we didn’t plan on being? Here are a few things to consider. First, are we stuck there because of some unresolved sin issue? God isn’t going to let us move on to the next place until we have dealt with that. Bringing sin with us into a journey with Him will laden us with extra weight that will slow us down and render our forward progress much more difficult. It may be that He is waiting for us to deal with that decisively before He will let us go to the next place He has for us.

Second, sin may not be the problem, but it could be that we are stuck because of some delayed obedience on our part. He has given us some instruction and He is simply waiting for us to obey it before showing us the next step to take. Actively seeking those next steps without taking the last ones won’t work. He won’t reveal them until we and He are both ready. Trying to take them without His revealing them will render us far more likely to take the wrong ones, leading us back to the last kind of being stuck.

Third, character takes a long time to develop. It could be that there isn’t anything we’ve done wrong, and we are not failing to obey some command He has given. It may simply be that that timing isn’t right yet to go to the next place. I was a chemistry major in college. One of the experiences every chemist has in the lab is waiting. There were times when we were breaking down some compound to be used in other applications, but the process of breaking it down took a very long time. So, you got everything ready to go, started doing the work, and then you waited. And waited. And waited. And there was nothing you could do to move things along any more quickly than they were already going. In fact, if you tried to hurry things along, you were going to mess them up. You simply had to wait.

Life works the same way. Sometimes there are times when we are just going to have to wait patiently. For years. For decades even. God is up to something in us during that time, but it is going to take a long time to bring it to completion before we can go to the next place. Don’t despair and don’t get impatient. Instead, live with consistent and intentional faithfulness right where He has you. Serve Him there to your utmost capacity. Build relationships, invest in your community, make disciples, love your neighbors, and so on and so forth. Do all of those things you would be doing if you were where you were ultimately supposed to be until you get to that place. Be present wherever you are for the time you are there. Then, when it is time for God to move you to somewhere new, be present there.

God has not forgotten you. Wherever you are, He knows right where that is. You may not think that’s where you should be, but if you’ve gone through both of those first two steps and resolved everything related to them you can imagine, your feelings and plans aren’t ultimately the most important ones to consider. God’s are. His will ultimately be fulfilled. Yours won’t…unless you sacrifice them to Him and let His become yours. Then you will start to be able to see the waiting for what it truly is. And when the time is right, God will reveal the next place you are to go. Just don’t get so attached to the last place that you aren’t ready when the moment arrives. He has been preparing you for this. Take it with gratitude and go. Everyone around you will be glad that you did.

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