Summary: How we can learn from our "wilderness" experiences in life.
A Study of the Life of Moses
Sermon # 3
“Learning in the School of the Desert”
Dr. John R. Hamby
You will remember that when Moses stepped out on his own to become the deliverer of Israel it was an unmitigated disaster. He ended up killing an Egyptian and then hiding his body in the sand. In his failure we saw how no matter how talented or educated we may be we can do nothing without God. We saw that we are capable of terrible things if we persist in our own ways. We discovered that hiding our wrongs does not erase them it only postpones its discovery. Verse 15 tells us that, “When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.”
When we left Moses last week he had fled from Egypt into the desert of Midian. Fleeing to the land of Midian, Moses ended up at a well, to which the daughters of a priest of Midian have brought their father’s flocks. [The Midianites were also descendents of Abraham (through his second wife - Kethurah- Gen. 25:1-2) and may have remained worshipers of the true God.] We find the story beginning in verse 16, “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. (17) Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.”
After traveling a long way across the desert wilderness Moses “sat down by a well.” While he is there the seven daughters of the priest of Midian came to water their father’s flock. As they began drawing water to fill the troughs some shepherds came and ran them off, intending to use the water that had already been drawn to water their own flocks.
Moses who noticed what was happening “stood up and helped them.” I like to think that words “stood up” have a double meaning, he not only stood to his feet but he stood up for and protected these young women. He “helped them” by running off the offending shepherds and he then helped them to water their flocks. Notice that the former prince of Egypt helped these women to water a flock of smelly sheep. Moses was already beginning to learn the lessons of servanthood.
The young women then returned to their home where the scripture says in verse 18, “When they came to Reuel (roo’-el) their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?” (19) And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.” (20) So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.”
Their father who is called Reuel (which means “friend of
God”) is later called Jethro (3:1), one of names is probably the family name and the other is his title.
Jethro wants to know why they are back so early. They told him how “an Egyptian” (no doubt his speech and dress had led to this conclusion) had defended them from the shepherds and drew water for their flocks. Jethro responded by saying, “where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Their father gently chastised his daughters for not extending the hospitality of a meal to this stranger who had helped them. So the daughters go out to bring Moses to their father.
With the great economy Moses records how his chance encounter at the well resulted in a length stay in Midian, his marriage and the birth of his first son. According to verse 21, “Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. (22) And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Can you believe it? A man with an advanced knowledge of science, literature, and military tactics eking out an existence on the backside of the desert, living with his father-in-law, raising a couple of boys and watching over a flock of sheep that did not even belong to him.
Moses entered the desert at the age of forty and didn’t leave until he was eighty (Acts 7:30). So during what most people would have been considered by many as the most productive years of a person’s life – Moses tended sheep in what must have seemed like Hell’s backyard. He was a man who did not become productive for God until he was eighty years of age. According to the account in Acts 7 the life of Moses can be divided into three 40 year segments. The first forty years he was nursed by his mother and educated in the courts of the Pharaoh. The second forty years he spent in the desert taught by God and the final forty years he sent with the spend with the Hebrew people in the wilderness.