Made in Midian
His already battered fist extends into the heavens. Time seems to freeze for the split second the tightly clenched hand hovers — gaining impetus for its collision. The small fist casts a peculiar shadow on the face of the man it is destined. Punch drunk from the unannounced abuse, the victim’s once flailing arms, rippled with waves of muscle, go limp. A final blow secures his fate — death. The attacker jumps back from the breathless body as if jolted awake from some bad dream. The adrenaline pulsating through his veins causes his hands to tremble. His skinny legs and pampered feet shiver as if he’s been caught unprepared on a cold, frosty morning. He peers down at the lifeless body; his blank stare suspends time. Frozen in that moment as though his gaze could will life back into its lungs. The fact of the matter, however, is that the limp fixture laying on the burning sand is dead, and Moses killed him.
The story is one of those moments in the Bible where you seem to have to go back and reread what just happened. Wait, wait, wait… this is Moses right? The Moses that’s suppose to open the Red Sea with a staff — that Moses? The guy who literally gets to see the back of God as he passes? What? This cannot be the same guy! #PlotTwist The fact of the matter is that the Bible is sometimes brutally real, too real. We are faced with the reality that Moses, the patriarch and chosen vessel of God, was a human being.
As the account of Moses’ life continues we find the adopted prince flees for his life to the nomadic wasteland of Midian. Exodus 2:15 explains the situation “Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well” (King James Version). He sat down by a well; that sums up the plight of Moses pretty good.
In a single moment, with the blow of a few punches, Moses has kicked himself out of the palace. The poor guy went from Egyptian cotton sheets (literally) to sitting by a well in the middle of the desert. His feet hurt. His hands were aching and bruised. His face was sunburnt. The Prince of Egypt was on the run, and he called it quits when he found a well.
Let me just digress here to say that if life has been difficult lately, don’t stop walking until you find a well. Don’t give up in the desert of despair! Don’t accept a life of depression or anxiety or disease — keep walking, you can make it. There’s more to your life than whatever dry season you might find yourself in today. Just in case you haven’t made the connection yet, the prophet Isaiah penned this promise, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (KJV). It doesn’t matter how parched your life might seem to be; there is a well for you! And it’s found at the foot of the cross — where the blood of perfect love kissed the dirt of sinful humanity.
Back to Moses. He eventually gets discovered by the priest of Midian and begins to establish a life in the desert. Moses got married, the priest became his father-in-law, and he started a new career as a shepherd, which brings us to my favorite part of the story.
I don’t know how it was discovered or where it originally grew — maybe it first sprouted sometime around the day Moses was placed on the Nile. Somewhere out in a desert oasis there grew a tree. One day, whether of natural causes or human intervention, the wood of the tree ended up in the little village where Moses resided. The wood was purchased and given to Moses as he began his meager career as a shepherd — after all, every legitimate shepherd needs a staff, right?
I like to think that one night, after receiving a few lessons, Moses picked up the long, slender chunk of wood and began chiseling away the layers. It was in that nomadic wasteland; that barren expanse of pain and rejection that a new promise was born. The piece of wood slowly began to take shape. The rough edges were hewn, and the eventually a sturdy companion emerged — a staff. Mind you, this wasn’t just any staff. Guess who got a free ticket to see the burning bush — the staff (Exodus 4:2). Guess who would become a snake — the staff (Exodus 4:3). Guess who would be lifted above the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16) and be raised above fighting armies — yep, the staff (Exodus 17:11). Oh, it also struck a rock and water flowed out — bet that’s not on the resume of your walking stick (Numbers 20:11). That remarkable little piece of wood was quite important to the Israelites and guess what, it was whittled in a place of pain, rejection, despair, and fear. A place where Moses no doubt questioned the God of his ancestors. A place where Moses questioned his life — questioned his decisions. Moses had to have replayed that moment of killing the soldier over-and-over-and-over for months, maybe years. It was a single moment that changed everything about his life, and his future. However, it was during the middle of Moses’ greatest time of heartache that a staff would emerge to support him years later as he climbed Mt. Sinai. The staff was made in one of the hardest seasons of Moses’ life — it was made in Midian.
The word providence means, “the protective care of God…” or, my personal favorite, “timely preparation for future eventualities” (New Oxford American Dictionary). One of my favorite quotes on the topic is by Alan Redpath, in his book The Making of a Man of God, he says, “So often the providences of God seem to run completely counter to his promises.” The providence of God led Moses into an unforgiving wasteland for 40 years, where he would acquire a staff and experience an unconsumed burning bush. That doesn’t exactly sound like the typical path to becoming the leader of the Israelite nation, does it?
Maybe you find yourself in the same situation. Has God’s perfect providence in your life veered you off course to some barren expanse? Do you find yourself today sitting in a place that you have no idea how you have arrived? Have you lost sight of God’s promise? Are you questioning what you’re doing — how you’ve ended up in this place? Are you confused with what God is doing?
We go through tough times — life can be unrelenting and unforgiving. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know why great people suffer terrible circumstances. Frankly, I probably never will. God doesn’t promise us answers to every situation or problem we face; he only asks us to trust him. The simple fact is that answers are easy, but trust is not. Trusting God when you’re facing the insurmountable might seem tough (we’re masters at figuring out what’s best for our lives, right?) but it’s the only way you’re going to endure it.
In the book Thinking! Loving! Doing! R.C. Sproul (2011) makes a statement that I have never forgotten from the day I first read it, he says, “In reality, you are not a human being but a human becoming” (p. 73).
My friend, you are not simply being today. You’re not stuck in some stagnant state of existence. Whether it feels like it or not, God has plans for you and he’s orchestrating your life to perfectly fit those plans — like Moses. Allow the foreboding clouds of whatever situation or circumstance that is facing you to water the seeds of your dreams. Become today. Don’t allow a present season to rob you of future dreams. Moses’ staff was made in Midian — what are you whittling? Like Moses, you’re going to come out of this! What will you be carrying? What will be made in your Midian?
Piper, J., & Mathis, D. (Eds.). (2011). Thinking, loving, doing: Glorify God with heart and mind. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Redpath, A. (1962). The making of a man of God: Studies in the life of David. Westwood, NJ: Revell.