|THE SHEPHERD OF MIDIAN
Series: Burning Bush Adventures - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 30, 2010
This morning we are going on in our series of messages focused on Godly manhood and the life of Moses. Manhood is kind of confusing. Isn’t it? Godly manhood is even more of a mystery. What makes a man a man?
Did you see this? In the last several years more than 600 people in the United States have been killed by lightening - 80% of them were men. The big question - of course - is why men? Why not 80% women?
A popular explanation is that - on average - men are taller than women and contain more iron in their bodies - both of which are qualities that seem to attract electricity. However - the people that research these things say that neither of those reasons has any bearing on the real reason.
According to the people that research these things the real reason men are struck by lightening more than women is - are you ready for this? The real reason is because men are “stupid.” Hey, don’t blame me for this.
Studies have indicated that because of ignorance, denial, or bravado, men are less willing to stop doing outdoor activities such as playing baseball - fishing - mowing the grass - even when lightening is present. Men take more risks. Depending on your perspective - that means that men act stupid.
We have visual proof.
(PHOTO) Three guys looking forward to an electrifying afternoon.
(PHOTO) The guy doing electrical work - well grounded with his metal ladder in a pool of water.
(PHOTO) Huge trust factor here.
(PHOTO) The guys hanging out taking care of a little project.
One more. (PHOTO)
Please turn with me to Exodus 2 - starting at verse 15. As you’re turning let me bring us all up to speed on where we are.
Last Sunday we began looking at how God describes manhood - Godly manhood - how God defines it - enables it - what God desires of men. We’ve been looking at Moses as our example of Godly manhood.
We talked about men being waffles. Do you remember this? Men compartmentalize our thinking. Multi-tasking is tasking. We’re very linear - point A to point B - in our thinking. “Don’t bother me about the lightening I’m teeing off.”
We saw that God is personally involved in the details of Moses’ life. Moses being saved from death - the whole baby in a basket in the bulrushes thing - oh my. Moses being raised in the Hebrew culture and belief - what it means to know the God of Abraham - Isaac - and Jacob. And then, being raised as a son of Pharaoh - educated in the finest schools in the world - raised with Egyptian gods and culture.
Moses alone has the unique understanding of what it means to be a son of slaves and the son of Pharaoh - both ends of the food chain.
Point being that Moses being raised both Hebrew and Egyptian - all that is a purposeful work of God. God preparing Moses to step in as the deliverer of God’s people.
Last Sunday we saw - that at a time when God’s people are being brutalized by the Egyptians - desperate for a deliverer - Moses - prince of Egypt - son of Hebrew slaves - uniquely prepared by God - God’s man - steps in to deliver God’s people. Moses takes His God given uniqueness and does what? Kills the Egyptian who’s beating the Hebrew slave - then orders the Hebrews to stop fighting with each other. Moses the deliverer. Moses the leader.
The result was what? Moses is totally rejected by the Hebrews. Totally rejected by the Egyptians - ends up fleeing across the desert to Midian - a huge disaster.
Bottom line: For a man to be manly he first needs to be Godly. That means having our hearts - the core of who we are - strengths - weaknesses - wounds - desires - whatever - laid bare before God - daily laying all of that before God in sacrificial surrender and passionately seeking after God from the depths of our hearts - so that in God’s timing and in God’s strength - according to God’s plan - God will lead us forward to the awesomeness of what He has purposed for us to be.
Moses tries to do the deliverer thing without God - ends up failing miserably - ends up fleeing across the desert to Midian. Let’s pick up where we left off last Sunday - Exodus 2 - verse 15 - once again we’re going to get help visualizing this from our friends at the Brick Testament.
Verse 15: When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled n the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
Which is where we left Moses last Sunday - Moses sitting by a well in Midian.
Verse 16: Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock.
Verse 18: When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” - Which indicates that they were used to getting driven off by the shepherds. Delay was normal. - So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.”
In verse 19 what do the daughters of Reuel call Moses? He’s an Egyptian. How do they know that?
If you remember your Cecil B. DeMille, Moses ends up at the well of Midian half baked by the desert - dying of thirst - wearing his Hebrew blanket and carrying the staff that Ramses gave him. Can you picture that scene? There’s absolutely nothing accurate in that.
Look back with me at verse 15. In verse 15 we’re told that Moses when he fled Pharaoh fled to Midian. “Fleeing” is not a fugitive desperately trying to find an oasis in the desert to avoid dying of dehydration. “Fleeing” is purposeful. Moses left Egypt in a hurry. But he probably left as a prince with the regal robes - heavily armed and on horseback - maybe even in his Lamborghini chariot.
Midian was a son of Abraham by his second wife Keturah. So Midian’s descendants are Semites. They have the same origins as the Hebrews. They worship the same God as the Hebrews. The name Reuel means “friend of God.”
Are we together? Moses is heading out of Egypt to his brethren in Midian.
Verse 15 tells us that Moses “settled in the land” - which means he dwelt there - lived there - established residency. Then he came to sit by this well. Most probably - as Moses is sitting by that well - he’s also dressed like an Egyptian. At least he’s identifiable as an Egyptian. That’s a far cry from some half crazed thirsty fugitive.
What’s Moses doing sitting by this well? Suggestion: Brooding. Letting his life pass by his eyes in living Technicolor.
Moses is about 40 at the time he arrives in Midian. What happens to men who set out to conquer the world - who are totally rejected at age 40? Rejected by the Egyptians. Rejected by the Hebrews. What happens when our male ego comes face-to-face with our inadequacy? When our self-worth comes face-to-face with our mortality - our vulnerability?
What happens when at about the age of 40 your business folds - you’re suddenly out of work - your investments tank - your wife walks out - your body starts to fall apart - when you realize that you’re over the hill - that your kids are stronger than you are and no amount of physical training is ever going to balance that out?
Why do men have affairs in their 40’s? Suddenly they’re addicted to Rogaine - wearing pooka shell necklaces and open collar shirts with their chest hair hanging out - driving around in convertible red sports cars. Men begin to question their masculinity - their future - themselves.
It is not a stretch to imagine Moses sitting by that well - even dressed in Egyptian garb - thinking about his life and wondering, “How did I ever get here? This isn’t even close to what I thought I had going for me.”
Something else we need to see here. Seven daughters come to the well to water their father’s flocks. Why daughters and not sons?
In the Semitic way of doing things men do not water the flocks. Children lead the flocks to grazing land - lead them to the well. Women water the flocks. Not men. Watering flocks is women’s work.
That a battle hardened Egyptian warrior shows up and drives off these ruffian shepherds was unexpected. But, it fits within reason. What Moses does next is unthinkable. He “even drew water for us and watered the flock.”
What these 7 daughters tell their father is an amazing description of where Moses has come to - rejected - contemplating the emptiness of his life - doing the loathsome work of shepherds - women’s work for a bunch of helpless damsels in distress.
Grab this: The Prince of Egypt - Moses - has hit bottom - and he knows it.
Let’s go on. Verse 20: So he - Reuel - said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he - Reuel - gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he - Moses - named him Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
Moses names his son what? Gershom. That name speaks volumes about where Moses’ heart is at.
Gershom has the idea not just of a sojourner - which literally means “a stranger there.” A sojourner is someone who’s a stranger in a strange land. Sojourner has the idea not just of a resident alien but also of someone who’s been “tossed out” from their own country.
Moses is a sojourner because he’s been rejected and tossed out - not just by the Egyptians - but by his own people the Hebrews. He’s fled - but not by choice. After dwelling and marrying and having a son - oh my - he’s still feeling sorry for himself. He names his first son “rejection” - “tossed out.”
You can take the Hebrew out of Egypt but you can’t take Egypt out of the Hebrew.
Are we together? Moses doesn’t give a rip about Midian. He’s in Midian because he has to be. Not because he wants to be. He’s in Midian but his thoughts - his heart - is still in Egypt.
Ever been there? Someplace you don’t want to be? Feeling out of place? Resenting it? Asking yourself, “How did I ever end up here? I had something totally different in my mind. This wasn’t even close.”
Many many years ago I moved south out of the Bay Area to go to college at BIOLA. I spent 3 years at BIOLA earning my undergraduate degree and learning about life in LA. The LA school of driving - move or die. The difference between smog and fog. Fog is a tad grayer.
I never really liked living in LA. You can take the man out of the Bay Area but you can’t take the Bay Area out of the man. In fact I was quite obnoxious about my contempt for LA. At one point I said quite adamantly, “I’ll never live in LA!”
Mistake. God and His sense of humor.
I spent 15 years living in LA. 15 years of learning to accept God’s plan for my life wherever - whenever - and whatever that might be. 15 years of learning the right answer to the question: “My desire for you or your desires for you? Your will or My will? Who’s will are you going to live by?”
In honesty - there are times I still don’t get the answer right.
We want Egypt. God calls us to be a shepherd in Midian. To let go of what we’re clinging on to - our vision for ourselves - and to trust Him - in order to become the man He’s created us to be.
God provides a new family - a wife - a son. God provides what Moses needs for life - a livelihood. In the wilderness where nothing makes sense God provides sustenance - purpose - deliverance. A land to dwell in. All that comes from God with the purposeful job title of “Shepherd of Midian.” “Moses, are you willing to trust Me for what your life is to become?”
Verse 23: Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.
“In the course of many days” is the Bible’s way of saying that a lot of time passed. We’re talking a lot of years here. A lot of painful years.
The historians have suggested that when the Pharaoh died there was an attempted revolt - the result of which was increased oppression of the Hebrews. Make ’em pay for revolting.
When Moses was living in Egypt things were not good for God’s people. Since then things had only gotten worse. Now - unimaginable suffering. Hard to imagine how things could get worse. For the first time in the book of Exodus we read that God’s people cried out to God.
God’s people cry out to God what happens? God responds.
Four verbs that describe God’s response
First: God heard. Literally God “paid attention.” God didn’t blow His people off. He listened carefully to the cries of His people. He’s deeply interested in what’s going on with His people.
Second: God remembered. The verb in Hebrew has the idea of recalling fond memories. Good times together. God remembered His relationship with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Remembered the promises He’d made to them and to their descendants.
Third: God saw. Which is more than just observing something. “Well, all that suffering is really interesting. That must really be a bummer.” “Saw” in Hebrew means being emotionally attached. Seeing with compassion. Paying attention to the details of someone else’s life because we deeply care about them.
Fourth: God took notice. Which is the Hebrew verb “Yaw-dah.” Like Yoda - the all knowing little green guy with the fuzzy ears. Yaw-da has the idea of fully knowing someone - intimately. It’s the same word the Hebrews used to describe sexual intercourse. God taking that kind of intimate notice - knowing intimately - what’s going on with His people.
Let’s be careful. God is always listening - always remembering - always seeing - always noticing - what goes on with His people. If He wasn’t He wouldn’t be God. How could God be all knowing and not be fully aware of everything?
Stay with me. To this point in Exodus God has been pretty much silent. But when His people cry out suddenly God is all over the place - listening - remembering - seeing - noticing. God - from our perspective - suddenly moves into action. Where’s God been? On vacation? What has God been doing in all that silence?
Moses spent 40 years in Egypt. Now he’s coming to the end of 40 years in Midian. That number 40 is not a accident. The number 40 in Scripture signifies a purposeful time of probation - testing - preparation - leading to revival - renewal - blessing - greater usefulness in God’s kingdom.
It rained 40 days and nights while God saved Noah and family and cleansed the earth - prepared it and them for what was coming next. Israel wanders 40 years in the wilderness - getting purified and prepared before entering the promised land. Jesus spends 40 days and nights in the wilderness and getting tempted by Satan - prior to His ministry leading up to the cross. After His resurrection Jesus spent 40 days before His ascension - preparing those who would lead the infant church
“In the course of many days” - during long hard days for God’s people - 80 plus years - God is operating silently behind the scenes to prepare Moses - Prince of Egypt - son of Hebrew slaves - to be the deliverer God has purposed him to be - educating Moses - MOSES - by teaching him what means to be a shepherd in Midian.
If you ever feel that God isn’t listening - remembering - seeing - noticing you where you’re living life - sitting by a well - wondering how you ended there - know that you have never escaped God’s notice. That He has been at work - and will work within your life. He’s already responding. The question is - will we cry out to Him and trust Him with our lives?
Chapter 3 - verse 1: Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Jethro is a title. It means something like “His Excellency.” In 2:18 - Jethro is called by his proper name Reuel - which means “friend of God.” But here Reuel is Jethro - “His Excellency” - an official designation. Jethro is Moses’ father-in-law - another title. He’s the priest of Midian - another title.
All those designations have a point. Moses - formerly the Prince of Egypt - now living in the land of Midian - is doing the loathsome work of women and children - shepherding someone else’s flocks. Moses - formerly the Prince of Egypt - is now working for his father-in-law who has a greater stature in the community than Moses.
Something else - the tense of the Hebrew verb for shepherding - pasturing - has the idea that this was habitual - ongoing. Moses - formerly the Prince of Egypt - now lives as The Shepherd of Midian - that’s who he is - and that’s okay.
Bottom line: This is where Moses has come to. Moses - The Shepherd of Midian. And, Moses is right where God wants Moses to be.
There two observations that we want to make here that can be helpful to us as men - striving to be men of God.
First: God’s Purpose For Shepherds. Let’s say that together, “God’s purpose for shepherds.”
How many of you have seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Remember George Bailey? George always wanted to do what? Build things and travel. Instead he gets trapped in Bedford Falls running the broken down Bailey Building and Loan - stuck driving a broken down old car - living in a drafty old house with a bunch of kids - playing nursemaid to a bunch of garlic eaters.
Remember the scene where George is standing on the bridge ready to throw himself into the river? He’s given up on his life. He’s come to the end of his dreams. He’s feeling trapped. He’s feeling like his whole life’s been wasted. Everyone would be better off without him.
As he’s about to throw himself off that bridge what happens? Clarence Odbody Angel Second Class. Clarence - knowing that George would be inspired to save him - Clarence jumps into the river. Which works. George saves Clarence. Are we together?
That begins a process - where Clarence begins to show George - that his life is anything but a waste. Clarence begins to show George the value of his life - the huge positive impact he’s had on so many lives.
I Googled “famous people” and there were 53 million plus hits. I Googled “famous shepherds” and there were about 1.5 million hits - most of which had something to do with dogs.
The people with their pictures plastered on the covers of magazines - that are filling stadiums with adoring fans - the one’s earning big bucks today - most of those are not shepherds. Through out the history of the Bible - to the people living in those times - generally shepherds were on the bottom rung of the ladder - holding up the rest of the totem pole.
In Jesus’ day shepherds worked 24/7. Which meant that they didn’t get to town much. Worse - it prevented them from observing Jewish ceremonial law. In other words - they were viewed as unclean - unrighteous - outcasts. They’re lowly - loathsome - unsophisticated - dirty. They smell like sheep. The only reason a person dealt with a shepherd was to purchase an animal for a sacrifice - or for food - maybe.
And yet God honors shepherds. All the patriarchs - Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - they were all shepherds. King David got his start as a shepherd. David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd” - comparing God to a Shepherd. Jesus said He was “the good shepherd.” God sent His angels to a field outside of Bethlehem - to the unclean outcasts - so that it was the shepherds who were privileged to hear the choir of angels proclaim the birth of Jesus. It was shepherds that God choose - as the first humans - to proclaim Jesus’ birth.
God blesses shepherds. God uses shepherds. Because being a shepherd really isn’t about being a lowly shepherd. Its about God’s purposes for us being shepherds. Being a shepherd is about being God’s shepherd - shepherding for God - bringing glory to God as His shepherd.
Moses is The Shepherd of Midian - shepherding Jethro’s sheep - someone else's’ flock - which is a far cry from the glories of Egypt. But that’s the point.
We can be like Moses - sitting by a well - wondering what’s happened to our lives - feeling all sorry for ourselves. Whining about where we live or what we do. Or, maybe - just maybe - we can see that God just might have some purpose in where He has led us to. That God may be a work behind the scenes of our lives - preparing us - preparing to use us in His great purposes - to bring great glory to Himself.
Our lives are not so much about how we view our lives so much as our willingness to be used by God wherever and whenever and in whatever He leads us to do.
Which brings us to our second observation. That is The Sacrifice of Shepherds. Let’s say that together, “The sacrifice of shepherds.”
Jesus described for us what it means to be a shepherd. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
The picture is of a sheep fold - a pen - an enclosure with sheep inside - with one entrance. At that entrance the shepherd lays down at night. Nothing gets in - no one gets in - or out - except over the dead body of the shepherd.
Rent-a-shepherds run. Shepherds hired to herd someone else’s flock. “They’re not my sheep my sheep. I’m not laying down my life for some dumb old sheep.” The good shepherd lays in the gap - laying down his life for the sheep - even dying on a cross for our salvation.
It may not be the flock you’ve envisioned for yourself. Might not even be the sheep fold you would have imagined you’d be guarding. But are you aware that God is at work in your life? That He desires to prepare you - to use you - for His great purposes?
Right now - right where you are - you are a shepherd with a flock to lay down your life for. Could be your wife - a family - parents - co-workers - students - people in the community - this congregation.
One last question: What is Egypt for you? What vision of your life do you need to let go of to embrace God’s purpose for your life?
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.