Moses was a big-time Bible guy, used by God for big-time things. Based on what his mother did to him when he was a baby, you could say he was a “basket case.” From an obscure beginning as the original “water boy” (Moses means “I drew him out of the water”), little Hebrew Moses learned to walk like an Egyptian and indeed became a prince of Egypt.
Then one day he bashed in the brains of an Egyptian slave boss when he thought no one is looking. The text says he “looked this way and that” before he buried the guy in the dirt, believing he had also covered his own tracks. I’m thinking a guy who loses his cool to the point of murdering someone probably has a bit of a patience or self-control issue. Maybe not surprising for a spoiled kid who grew up in a palace, used to getting things his way, and fast.
But then Moses learns that his secret is out, the jig is up, and his little run with royalty is over. Suddenly, instead of getting whatever he wants in the palace, he’s wanted by the palace guard for treasonous murder. So he flees to the hills, disappearing like Osama bin Laden amidst the dusty, rocky countryside. He gets hired on by a guy named Jethro, who is not the same Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies. Moses works out a deal with Jethro to marry his daughter, Zipporah, and watch a bunch of his sheep. It’s not glamorous (and for some reason, I feel like Zipporah probably wasn’t either), but it paid the bills. So Moses goes from dining with heads of state to counting heads of sheep – just like that.
Richard Foster says, “More often than we know God works in the uneventful routines of our lives.” For four decades, Moses fed and protected animals for his father-in-law. Talk about uneventful routine. Day after day, it was business as usual. Forty years in the desert watching sheep. That’s a long time. Forty years ago was 1973. That’s when Elton John came out with Crocodile Rock. Think about all the things you’ve done since then. Then think about Moses watching sheep that entire time.
But that’s not really what we remember Moses for, is it? No, we remember him fumbling to get his shoes untied before a holy God speaking to him from a bush-torch. We remember him for the heroic way he poked his finger in Pharaoh’s chest, demanding release of God’s people. We remember him painting blood on his doorposts with the other Israelites while death passed over. We remember him on the shores of the Red Sea, all Charleton Heston-like, beard waving in the wind, staff extended, leading throngs of people through the defining moment of Israel’s faith. We remember him descending from thundering, quaking Sinai with ten words from God. We remember him as the sole leader who was invited so close to God’s presence his face glowed like a halogen headlight.
Here’s something to consider. When Moses was eating royal crab cakes and drinking Dom Perignon in the king’s court, he didn’t see the mundane days coming. And when he was out there poking his stick in the dirt for four decades, he did not see the immense challenges and great God-moments coming. But they did come. His moment came. God needed him, called him up from the farm team, literally, and put him in the game in a big way. And there was no time to prepare.
But for forty years God had been preparing him. Every day he pulled his aching bones out of bed under the chilly desert sunrise, God was preparing him. Through the routine breakfast with his wife and kids, splashing water on his face, saying his prayers, doing errands, washing sheep spit off his clothes, God was preparing him. Seems God knew Moses would need forty years to be ready. And in the midst of his mundane routine, God was there every bit as much as God would be in the pillar of smoke or burning bush later.
We know this because even though Moses did his level best to get out of the job, he allowed God to draw the best up out of him. Something strong had formed inside Moses in those desert years that enabled him to rise to huge challenges. This is the guy who marched back into the court that had a warrant for his arrest, declaring, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go!” Who Moses was in the big moments, he became in the small ones. As Foster says, “God often works in secret and silence.”
Long before the burning bush, the divided sea, and the tablets of stone, the inner person of Moses was being shaped by God.
And God used everyday life to do it.
It’s the same for us.
If you’re not on the mountain top with God right now, or if life seems particularly low-key, hum drum, or even stuck — take heart. Rather, take heed. It is precisely in the desert years that God is busy at work, quietly, invisibly, preparing us for the work he has for us to do one day. The mundane is the preparation for the momentous. Everyday faithfulness in uneventful life is the way God shapes our soul to be the person he needs us to be one day. Don’t miss it.