Have you ever heard the ice-breaker question, “Which literary or biblical character do you most relate to?” My answer is never the same. Now, I love good literature. I am fascinated by dynamic characters and drama of biblical proportions. Perhaps that is why tonight I find myself drawn to one of the most well-known characters of the Old Testament—Moses.
Now, I won’t go into hyperbole.
Pushing the boys through the grocery store, basic errands, and appointments into bed is like herding a population of grumbling Israelites through the desert.
Breaking through medical care and military bureaucracy doesn’t really look like this.
The diseases the germs brought home by the boys aren’t really the 10 plagues of Egypt.Loving family members have had to tell me to slow down and delegate. I often feel comfortable in two different cultures. The people under my authority don’t always listen when I bring down the law the first time.
Tonight the part of Moses’ story that I am feeling drawn to tonight is the point that actually doesn’t get much pulpit time or a lot of ink. Let’s set the stage:
In Exodus 3, Moses has the famous encounter with God and the burning bush as he tends his flocks. He has run away from a colorful past as Egyptian royalty and has made an entirely different life for himself. He is now married to a woman who is neither Egyptian nor Hebrew, is a shepherd, and has no contact with either his adopted or biological family. In this amazing encounter, God lays out radical instructions return to Egypt and be the face of a liberation effort that mirrors Christ. After this life-altering call in Exodus 3, Moses returns to his home and breaks the news that a major life change is about to happen.
19 Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
(We won’t even go into how his poor wife probably reacted to the news while making dinner. Life changes out of nowhere with little warning and minimal instruction? Oh wait…military wife. But I digress…)
It’s one of the hardest trips Moses had to make—and it wasn’t the one that took 40 years. It was the one going BACK to Egypt. He had run away from the life he knew and taken a breather. Moses had a lot to handle. Moses had been set an on extraordinary path. He then cracked under pressure, freaked out and ran from a murder conviction and a guaranteed family feud. He ran and regrouped. God himself had audibly spoken and would direct his path. Moses had to go back.
He packed up his family and set out back to where he had come from. God later tells him that those who wanted to kill him had died. God promised to send help. Moses regrouped with his first family. After all, you want family around you if you’re going to overthrow a government’s political rule and economic structure. Especially when the government is run by your family and when you ran away from home you were wanted for murder.
This past year has been what I call a ‘desert year’. It’s been extremely difficult; full of trials and refreshing places of oasis. There were times I was on the Crazy Train, times I was the conductor and others where I felt tied to the track. Like Moses, I grew increasingly troubled, lashed out a bit, and ran. I came to Texas to places that were familiar, worn-in, and full of love. People know me by my old self. I could get back to where I had come from—the opposite of Moses. I rested, felt restored, and watched all the members of my little family flourish. It’s been wonderful. Now I look out on a packed up mini-van and know that tomorrow I too will pack up my family and head out. I will have to go back to where I came from, slightly changed and full of anticipation.
I am afraid that when I go back, things will go back. That all the progress my boys have made will fly out the window. That my stress level will return, that the efforts to simplify my schedule will fail, that my best-laid plans will crash and burn. I’m exhausted by the magnitude of it all.
As Moses returned to Egypt, I wonder what thoughts ran through his head. I wonder what he told his children Egypt was like—did he tell them about the lifestyle of growing up as Pharoah’s grandson? Of the life of a beaten slave? Did he fear for the safety of his family? Wonder how the reuniting with Aaron would go? Did he cling to his staff for comfort, trusting that God’s power and authority would be revealed through it?
Moses wasn’t the guy who said, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!” right away. Wrong book. That’s Isaiah 6:8. Moses asked God, “What if they don’t believe me?” Yep. I understand that. When I consider, “God is fully able”, I am painfully aware that I am not God.
Moses had to go back to be on display, analyzed, questioned, and pushed around a bit. He had to stand up for God’s children, not back down, and try to cope with a total life-change. That sounds familiar. On the journey back there was a marital dispute, a surgery on a son, a family reunion and a bit of plotting. I sincerely hope my travel is less eventful.
I’m constantly asked why I don’t just stay here, where I have help and family. I am sure Moses asked himself that repeatedly. Why not just stay where it is safe, secure, comfortable, and familiar? I want to. The red tape of insurance is the short answer, but the real one is that I followed’ God’s instructions to follow my husband to the East Coast and I have to stay there. There is a church family there I want to become closer to. There are friendships to build, lives to change, and tests to pass. When we are totally unable to handle things on our own, God gets the glory.
God never outlines the whole story to those he calls. I’m quite certain Moses had days when he would rather be back in Midian minding sheep rather than herding insubordinate Israelites. The fact is, Moses didn’t free the Israelites. The wailing in Egypt over the death of the children was no more his fault than the victory of parting the Red Sea. Moses didn’t give the Law. Moses didn’t bring manna. Moses didn’t provide salvation from serpents by lifting up the golden staff (read ahead to John 3). GOD did it. He could have done it without Moses, but Moses went and got to see what God can do. Soon the glory of God spread so far that Rahab would later report that the whole city was terrified of the Israelites because of what God had done. I can’t wait to get to that part of my story.
There will be days when, like the Israelites, I will wish I’d never left. In the long run, I’ll be glad I did. When Moses considered the task of returning home and facing what waited there, out came Exodus 4:13 . “But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” But he went. He saw the Living God and sat in his presence. I desperately want that. That is why I have to go back… even if I have to leave the “Promised Land” (Texas) to face Egypt.