|THE SHEPHERD OF MIDIAN
Series: Moses - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 7, 2017
Tom carried his little sailboat to the edge of the river - carefully placed it in the water and slowly let out the string. In the warm sunshine he watched the little boat he had built sail and float there. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat and as Tom tried to pull it back to shore the string snapped and the boat raced downstream.
Tom ran along the shore as fast as he could. But soon his little boat was of out of sight. He searched for it all afternoon until it was too dark and - sadly - he had to go home.
A few days later, on his way home from school, Tom saw a boat just like his in a store window. When he got closer he could see that it was his boat.
Tom hurried to the store manager: “Sir, that’s my boat in your window! I made it!”
“Sorry, son, but someone else brought it in this morning. I paid him $1 for it. If you want it, you’ll have to buy it for one dollar.”
Tom ran home - busted open his piggy bank - counted his money. He had exactly 1 dollar. He ran to the store. Rushed to the counter. “Here’s the money for my boat.”
As he left Tom hugged his boat and said, “Now you're twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you.” (1)
Redemption - like in the story of Tom and his boat - redemption also has the idea of purchasing what belongs to us.
Which in a nutshell is what all this represents. Where God is going in His creation. God our creator forming us in His image for His purposes - for His glory. Adam and sin separating us from God. God working to redeem us - His creation. In reality, God owns us twice. He made us. He bought us.
Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and Israel are real people living real lives in real places in real time that God uses to illustrate what it means for us to live in a real time in relationship with Him. That God uses to illustrate for us what He’s doing in history - His accomplishing His promised redemption for His glory - and how He desires to uniquely involve each of us in what He’s doing.
Last Sunday - as we began our study of Moses - we saw that God is personally involved in the details of Moses’ life.
Moses saved from death - the beautiful baby bobbing in a bitumen basket in bulrushes by the bank. Moses raised and educated Hebrew and Egyptian. God preparing Moses to step in as the deliverer of God’s people.
Result being? An epic disaster brought about because Moses was trusting himself not God. Moses is rejected by the Hebrews and the Egyptians. Flees across the desert.
Our cliffhanger from last Sunday. We left Moses sitting by a well in Midian.
Which brings us to Exodus 2:15.
me read for us and we’ll make some observations as we go
Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses
fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat
down by a well. Now
the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they
came and drew water and filled the troughs to water
their father’s flock. The
shepherds came and drove them away, but
Moses stood up and saved them, and
watered their flock. When
they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is
it that you have come home so soon today?”
Verse 19: They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.”
Let’s pause. 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 his 1/2 brother Ramses gave him. Can you picture that scene? The accuracy of all that is pretty much nada.
In verse 19 the daughters of Reuel call Moses a what? An Egyptian. How do they know that? Because he did the Pharaoh Pharaoh song for them. Maybe not.
In verse 15 we’re told what? That Moses when he fled Pharaoh he fled to Midian. “Fleeing” in the Hebrew is the word “barach” - which is not a fugitive desperately trying to find an oasis in the desert to avoid dying of dehydration. “Fleeing” can be very purposeful - withdrawing quickly from one place and going to another - but planned out.
Meaning that Moses left Egypt in a hurry. But he probably had time to pack first.
Looking at our map. To get to Midian from Egypt we have to cross the whole of the Sinai Peninsula - think lots of sand and rocks - desert - heading south east into more desert. This is the garden spot of the Sinai.
That’s a journey that takes planning - not just a skin of water a blanket and a staff - oh my. Moses is purposefully heading out of Egypt - away from Pharaoh’s presence.
Midian was the son of... Abraham by his second wife... Keturah. So Midian’s descendants are Semites. They have the same origins as the Hebrews. Apparently many of them still worshipped the same God as their Hebrew cousins. The name Reuel means “friend of God.”
Are we together? Moses is purposefully heading out of Egypt to his cousins in Midian.
Verse 15 tells us that Moses “stayed in the land” - which means he dwelt there - lived there - established residency. Then - after all that - 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.
So what’s Moses doing sitting by this well? Suggestion: Being moody and marinating. Letting his life pass by his eyes in Imax 3D.
What would that be like for a man to go from total respect to total reject. 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?
Moses is about 40 at the time he arrives in Midian. What happens when at about the age of 40 a man is suddenly out of work - his investments tank - his body starts to fall apart - when we realize that we’re over the hill - that our kids are stronger than we are and no amount of physical training is ever going to balance that out?
At about age 40 men get addicted to Rogaine - start 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. Just saying.
It’s not a stretch to imagine Moses sitting by that well - even dressed in Egyptian prince 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.
Which is something girls did starting at about age 8 until they were married. They tended the family flocks - grazing them close to home - watering and watching them - bringing them in at night. The work of women and children.
When the local grazing wasn’t sufficient then the men took the flocks farther. Large nomadic herds are tended by the men. Men shepherd herds for others. That’s man’s work.
What these male shepherds are doing here is being jerks - treating these women who are only doing women’s work - not manly man work - treating the women with zero respect.
On the Egyptian totem pole of society - at the far distant top is the royal family - descendants of the god Ra. At the top are sons of Pharaoh like Moses. Somewhere towards the top are priests and soldiers - warriors - like Moses who was a commander of the Egyptian army. Down towards the bottom - way down towards the bottom of the totem pole - are shepherds.
That a battle hardened Egyptian warrior prince 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 women’s work for a bunch of helpless damsels in distress.
Point Being: The Prince of Egypt - Moses - living in Midian - has hit bottom - and he knows it.
Let’s go on. Verse 20: He [Reuel] said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he [Reuel] gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. She gave birth to a son, and he [Moses] called his name Gershwin, for he said, “He shall become a pianist and composer of popular melodies.”
Moses names his son what? Gershom. Why? Because: “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
That name speaks volumes about where Moses’ heart is at.
The name Gershom literally means “exiled” - “evicted” - “driven out” 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” of 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 - maybe purposefully - but it’s not his first choice. Not by a long shot. He names his first son “tossed out.”
Meaning you can take the Hebrew out of Egypt but you can’t take Egypt out of the Hebrew.
Are we together?
Ultimately Moses doesn’t give a rip about Midian. He’s in Midian because he has to be. Not because he wants to be. And he’s not thinking about what he’s been blessed with - herds of sheep to herd - an extended family that loves him - a wife - a child. After dwelling and marrying and having a son he’s still feeling sorry for himself - still moody and marinating. He’s in Midian but his thoughts - his heart - is still in Egypt.
Ever been there?
Feeling tossed out? Someplace you don’t want to be? Pushed into a situation or circumstances that are no where close to what you think your life should be like? Ever felt run over - disrespected - taken for granted. Out of place? Resenting it? Hopeless angry and depressed? Asking yourself, “How did I ever end up here? I had something totally different in my mind. This wasn’t even close.” Or, “How do I ever get out of this?”
None of this relates. Right?
Not too many years ago I left where I’d grown up - all of what was familiar - left home and moved south out of the Bay Area to go to college at BIOLA University - La Mirada, California. Following what I understood to be God’s will for my life.
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.
Mistake. 3 years turned into an eventual 15. God and His sense of humor.
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 your life or yours? Your will or My will? Who’s will are you going to live by?”
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 or women He’s uniquely created and called us to be.
God humbles Moses. And God provides a new family - a wife - a son - a new employment opportunity. 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?”
“During those many days” is the Bible’s way of saying that a lot of time passed. Around 40 painful years. When Moses was living in Egypt things were not good for God’s people. Now they’re worse. Unimaginable suffering.
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. Keep ‘em from siding with our enemies.
For the first time in the book of Exodus we read that God’s people cried out to God.
When God’s people cry out to God, God… responds.
Four verbs describe God’s response
First: God heard. In Hebrew the
verb is “shama” - meaning to wake up and smell the
really close attention to.
God didn’t blow His people off. Yawned and
rolled over. He
listens carefully to the cries of His people - pays
close attention - is deeply interested in what’s going
on with His people.
Second: God remembered. In Hebrew the verb is “zakar” - which has the idea of recalling fond memories - good times together. God remembered His relationship with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. God remembered His covenant - the promises He’d made to them and their descendants.
Third: God saw. Ever had someone see you and ask: “How’s it going?” And before you can answer they’re already six miles away. Not that any of us would do that?
The Hebrew verb is “raah” which is more than just observing something. “Well, all that suffering seems pretty intense. Have a nice day.” “Saw” means being emotionally engaged with what we’re seeing. Compassion. Understanding. Paying attention to the details of someone’s life because we deeply care about them.
Fourth verb: God knew. Which is the Hebrew verb “yadah” - like Yoda - the fuzzy little green guy with the big ears who seems to know everything. The Hebrews used the word to describe intimate carnal knowledge of someone. Intimate heart level fully knowing someone. God knows His people at the heart level of what they’re experiencing.
That all describes God’s response to cries of 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?
What God is describing for us here in these verses is how God works in terms that we can understand. What it means to be all knowing in a practical - how this works out in a real time - with My people - sort of way. It’s Scriptures way of letting us know that God’s visible response to His people is about to change.
To this point in Exodus God has been pretty much silent. But, here in verse 23 when His people cry out suddenly God is all over the place - listening - remembering - seeing - knowing. God - from our perspective - suddenly moves into action.
So - in all that suffering - where’s God been? On vacation? What has God been doing in all that silence?
Huge for us to hold on to for ourselves - especially for the times in our lives when we wonder where God is. Even in silence God is still there.
Moses spent 40 years in Egypt. Now he’s coming to the end of another 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
“During those many days...” - during long hard days for God’s people - maybe 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 - by teaching him what means to be a shepherd in Midian.
Meaning - 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 - when were groaning - and even when we’re not groaning - will we cry out to Him and trust Him with our lives?
Last verse - coming closer to our cliff hanger for today. Chapter 3 - verse 1: Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his 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 titles 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 - watering and grazing sheep. 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.
Bottom line: This is where Moses has come to even if Moses isn’t quite okay with that yet. Moses - The Shepherd of Midian. And, Moses is right where God wants Moses to be. Leading his flock on the west side of the wilderness at Horeb - otherwise known as the Mountain of God.
Which is a cliff hanger. Come back next week, same time, same church.
Processing all that... There are two take aways for us this morning:
First: God’s Purpose For Shepherds.
I Googled “famous people” There were about 57 million plus hits. I Googled “famous shepherds.” There were about 650,000 plus hits. Most of which had to do with dogs.
There are lots of people getting millions - billions - of hits. There are people on shows and filling stadiums and theaters with adoring fans - earning big bucks. Ginormously popular. Most of them aren’t 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 ladder.
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 or goats. 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. It’s 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 - moody and marinating - wondering at the silence of God. 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’s led us to. That God may be at work behind the scenes of our lives - preparing us - preparing to use us in His great purposes - His work of redemption - to bring great glory to Himself. Might even already be doing that even if we don’t see it.
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.
Take away number two: The Sacrifice of Shepherds.
Jesus described what it means to be a shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.” (John 10:11-13 TNLT)
The picture is of a sheep fold - 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 - sacrificing his life for the sheep - even dying on a cross for our salvation.
The sacrifice of a shepherd is total commitment.
First: What flock do you shepherd? What flock has God given you to lay your life down for?
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.
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? What keeps you from being all in to all of what God has for you?
1. Good News Publishers, “The Boy Who Lost His Boat”
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.