Summary: To example what God teaches Moses through his wilderness experience
Driven To The Wilderness
Primary Purpose: To look at what God was trying to teach Moses through his years in the wilderness
These passages represent the second 40 years of Moses life, from age 40 to age 80. In the beginning of the story we see Moses running for his life. Pharaoh is trying to kill him again because he has murdered a Egyptian. Now, on the run, Moses will enter the second phase of his training in God’s graduation school of learning.
You may be inclined to think of these years as wasted years for Moses. All he’s really doing is guiding a few sheep for his nomadic father and family across the desert. That appears to be all that is happening, but it isn’t. God is using this time under the guiding hand of the isolation of the desert and the wisdom of Jethro to prepare Moses for what lies ahead.
Jamie Buckingham said it this way, “Jethro, with warm, simple hospitality helped the former prince of Egypt emerge from his shell of grief and self-pity and enter a world of preparation, a world designed by God to train him for the time when he would return to Egypt for a far greater purpose.” (“A Way Through the Wilderness” by Jamie Buckingham, Chosen Books, pg.21) In order to be useful, Moses must be driven from at least 3 things:
I. Driven from self-centered pursuits v.11,17-19. Some say that Moses had been a commander in Egypt of the southern army in Egypt. Certainly, he had opportunities to do things that few other people in his day did. He was a prince in the finest homes and had great power as a prince. Pharaoh may have even seen him as a threat. With that kind of power under his fingers it would have been easy for Moses to become self-centered, even self-sufficient. That may explain why he chose to murder the Egyptian in the first place instead of handing him over to the courts.
God is going to use the isolation of the desert to work on the character of the man he is going to use. For there are few things more important in usefulness to God than integrity. Your character often times determines your usefulness. Many things could Moses learn in the palace, but unselfishness, hospitality, kindness wasn’t among them. This he learned from Jethro and his family.
Again, Jamie Buckingham said it this way, “These were the years in which his rough edges were sanded smooth. The literal blast furnace of the Sinai refined the character of a man God was going to use. There he learned to pray and he learned the value of solitude. There, starting with a few sheep and goats, he learned the principles of leadership.” (Buckingham, pg.22) God often uses isolation and pain to get our attention in ways success never can. He uses life’s pain to teach us, to mold us, to make us useful. The pain isn’t for nothing. God will use it for his glory.
II. Driven from many gods to one God (3:1) The Egyptians worship the sun God Re and the river god Osiris and many other gods. Moses was exposed to all of those gods. But, he also had the teaching of his mother and her stories about the God of Abraham. God led him to Jethro, whose name we see in v.18 was Reuel. Reuel means “friend of God”. I think this is something that God was molding Moses into also. Later in Exodus 33:11 it says of Moses, “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Moses had to be purged of all that false teaching and remember again El or God Almighty.
III. Driven from independence to dependence. V.21. At the beginning of the story we see Moses running for his life. No more comforts of the palace, no more servants to call upon, no more armies to command. He is alone, perhaps for the first time in his life. We see him running to a place called Midian. Midian is a place, but also a people. Midian was the son of Abraham and Keturah, Abraham’s second wife after Sarah’s death. They were a desert people who were nomadic who lived in the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia. There he finds himself witnessing 7 young ladies getting run off by some cruel shepherds. His strong sense of justice overcomes him again and he lashes out at the shepherds and provides for the 7 women.
At this point, he doesn’t have much of anything to count on. Maybe he doesn’t even know where he will get the next meal. Jethro’s hospitality is welcome and so he finds himself in a modest tent, surrounded by modest ways, but in this home he finds support, acceptance and love. So, Moses gets married, begins to raise his family and thinks that perhaps he will live out the rest of his days as a simple shepherd among nomads, but God has other plans. For then we see it says, “God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” V.24. The word remember there doesn’t mean that God suddenly remembered something he had forgotten, but it means “that he is about to take a significant step toward fulfilling the covenant” (Baker Book Commentary, pg.42) Moses, is almost finished with his schooling and ready to fulfill his destiny.