Bending at the waist and placing his hands on his knees, Moses gasps for air. For the last hour he has been running. He is a murderer on the run.
As his labored breathing finally eases, he raises his head to look in the direction from which he came. Seeing no one following him, he slowly pushes himself erect.
Dropping his staff in the sand, Moses unslings the sheepskin of water from his shoulder, lifts it above his head and takes a refreshing drink. Putting the stopper back in, he slings the sheepskin vessel back on his shoulder, picks up his staff, and begins walking.
No stranger to change, Moses wonders aloud, “So, what’s next God? As an infant you saved me from death by having Pharaoh’s daughter pull me from the waters of the Nile.
“I’m thankful that you influenced Pharaoh’s daughter to hire my mother as a nurse, allowing me the blessing of living with my mother until I was weaned. Without her influence, I never would have known who you are. And I would have never understood that I am a member of the Hebrew nation.
“You allowed me the privilege of growing up as a prince in Pharaoh’s court, my adoptive home.
“Now I am forty years old and alone in this desert. Tell me, what is your plan for me?”
Growing silent, Moses continues his journey to an unknown destination across the desert sand. He chooses not to verbalize to God the event that had turned him into a fugitive – the murder of an Egyptian.
Three months later, having traversed the Sinai Peninsula, Moses enters the land of Midian. Weary and lonely, and still uncertain of what God’s plan is for his life, he finds a well so he can quench his thirst.
Wiping his beard, he finds some dense shade and reclines against a tree to nap.
Dreaming a pleasant dream of his former life in Pharaoh’s court, Moses is unhappily aroused by the bleating of a heard of sheep. Opening his eyes to let in a slit of light, Moses is surprised to see several women leading the sheep to the well.
They begin drawing water for their herd when another approaching herd comes over the hill lead by three burly men. The men yell at the women to get away from the well and take their sheep with them. Moses’ hand grips his staff reflexively.
At first the women refuse to leave. One of the men slaps one of the women and another strikes her with his staff.
Moses hesitates, weighing the odds, then slowly rises and walks purposefully toward the well. His unexpected emergence from the shadows of the deep shade causes everyone to pause and look in his direction.
His clothes identify him as an Egyptian, but they are tattered and threadbare, casting doubt that he came by them honestly. His unkempt hair and beard frame his face. The herdsmen take him to be a homeless beggar.
“Take a look at what the desert sand coughed up,” the one who struck the woman with his staff taunts. “It’s a sand flea.”
The others point and laugh loudly.
Stopping a few feet from the men, Moses says calmly, “Is it not customary in this land to take turns at watering wells?”
The largest of the three men steps toward Moses. “Why don’t you mind your own business.” He starts to raise his staff to strike Moses, but before he can react, Moses strikes him with his staff across the bridge of his nose, sending him howling to his knees.
In one motion Moses drives his staff into the midsection of another herder and cracks the third one on the head, sending both of them reeling.
Huddling together, the women herders fear what may come next from this wild man of the oasis.
Moses turns to them and calmly says, “I think you can finish watering your herd now.”
With a dozen strides Moses disappears, seeking the comfort of the deep shade of the trees.
That evening the female herders, who are all sisters, excitedly tell their father, Reuel, what transpired at the well.
“Where is this savior of my daughters?” Reuel asks. “Why didn’t you ask him to come here with you and meet me? That way I could properly thank him.”
The oldest daughter, Zipporah, replies, “We were so stunned by what happened and he disappeared so quickly, that we didn’t think of that. Should I go try and find him and bring him back?”
“Yes. Yes,” Reuel says.
The next day Zipporah and her sisters find Moses and bring him to meet their father.
Reuel is so thankful for Moses’ act of rescuing his daughters that he gives Zipporah to Moses as a wife. He also offers to let Moses live among them.
Assuming that this is God’s plan for his life, Moses spends the next forty years living the rugged, sometimes lonely life of a shepherd and raising a family.
One day, while leading a herd of sheep, Moses’ ever watchful eye scans the rough terrain, alert to any signs of danger from four-legged or two-legged predators. A flicker in the distance grabs his attention. Holding up his hand to shield his eyes from the blinding sun, he squints in order to see more clearly.
At first it looks like a fire, a danger to him and his flock, but he sees no smoke. Unclear in his mind exactly what it is, he walks cautiously toward the light.
Fifty feet away it is clear to him that there is fire in a bush, but the bush appears untouched by the flame. Standing and looking, he scratches his head and strokes his beard a couple of times.
Glancing left and right, he slowly approaches the burning bush. With eyes wide, he reaches to touch the bush.
Suddenly there is a voice that seems to come directly from the flaming shrub. “Moses! Moses!”
Dropping to one knee, Moses replies, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” the voice says. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”
Immediately, Moses covers his face with his heavy cloak, fearing he will see the face of God.
God tells Moses that he has been aware of the misery of his children, living as slaves under Pharoah’s rule. He says, “So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Moses smiles broadly and his heart warms as he hears God’s promise of deliverance for his kinsmen.
But then God surprises Moses by adding, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
Moses’ smile is replaced with a look of shock and disbelief. He regresses from the strong, vibrant shepherd of the desert and transforms into a fearful child. “Who am I to do such a thing?” he whines.
Repeatedly he implores God with the excuse, “Who am I? I am nothing.”
Each time, God replies, “It really doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is who I am.”
Eventually, Moses becomes the reluctant hero when he realizes that for every excuse he has, God has an answer.
Moses will spend the next forty years of his life making a difference in the lives of millions of people.
When searching for God’s plan for our lives, we often fall into the trap of framing the question in the context of our small life. In doing that, we limit God. God’s plan for us may involve people we don’t know and circumstances we have never thought about.
If we’re smart, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for burning bushes. We’ll take the time to investigate them. And we’ll be willing to follow God’s lead in whatever challenge he presents us with.