“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.” (Exodus 3:1)
I’m sure we are all familiar with the story of Moses and the Exodus by Israel from their bondage in Egypt under the providential guidance of the LORD. The story is the stuff of legends and a host of Hollywood movies and Broadway like productions at Christian theaters like Sight and Sound in Lancaster, PA.
Moses was a man of privilege who for his forty years of life grew up in the royal court of Egypt and was known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:8-10; Acts 7:23). The final forty years of his 120 years was spent leading the Nation of Israel through the Arabian wilderness to the brink of entering the land the LORD promised to Abraham (Acts 7:30-50; Hebrews 11:23-29).
But what about the forty years Moses spent in the wilderness of Midian. The biblical text doesn’t tell much about those years aside from recording that he was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, a priest of Midian, that he married Zipporah, Jethro’s daughter, and became a father of a son named Gershom (Exodus 2:21-22).
When today’s text says that Moses was keeping the flock, it means that he was driving the flock out to pasture in order to graze. In other words, Moses became a shepherd. His focus was one of providing grazing pasture for the flock and moving the flocks around to the grazing grounds (Genesis 30:29-31). It should be noted that a shepherd not only cares and tends for the sheep, but also has authority or rules a flock as a superior.
Dr. John MacArthur comments that, “Moses worked as a shepherd while living with his father-in-law, a life and occupation quite different from the privilege and prestige associated with his life in Pharaoh’s court.”
I wonder what Moses must have thought during those 40 silent years. I wonder if he thought about what he had been and what he had become. I wonder if he thought about God’s plans for his life and if this was all there was in the mind of God for this divinely protected Hebrew son. Did Moses become bitter or angry at times at his relative obscurity, or did he find happiness with his wife and son. I wonder how long it took for him to become a proficient shepherd.
There are often times in our lives when God leads us, like a shepherd, into pastures in which we never thought we would graze. David referred to one such pasture as the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). However, it is even in those times of darkness that we need not fear for our Good Shepherd is with us and His rod and staff will comfort us.
How fitting is it that as Moses learned to be shepherd of sheep, God would soon use him to be a shepherd of a nation. In many ways, the Israelites Moses would lead from bondage into freedom tended to be very much like the lambs from Jethro’s flock. They were unruly, complaining, disobedient and often rebellious. What a training ground God provided Moses during the middle forty years of his life to prepare him for the final forty.
Training in the courts of Pharaoh and in the wilderness of Midian as a shepherd prepared Moses for the ultimate task God had prepared for him. Such may be the case with the Lord’s work in your own life. You never know, but He certainly does.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!