In reading the scriptures, there is a tendency to lose a sense of time. The brief mention of Enoch in Genesis, for example, makes his 300 years of walking with God seem like a footnote in time. Do you realize the United States hasn’t even been around for 300 years?
It’s easy to overlook the 25 years Abraham waited for Isaac or the 13 years Joseph spent in slavery as some brief season, but again, once that time is placed in perspective, their faithfulness grows in our estimation.
Moses is one of the most revered figures in the Old Testament. In Jesus’ time, the Jewish leaders made much ado about Him. We know from the scripture that Moses appeared on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus. Moses’ name became synonymous with the Old Law. Moses, by God’s direction, confronted a powerful Pharaoh and led the Israelites triumphantly out of Egyptian captivity. Even non-believers have heard of the great Moses.
The Hebrew writer says of Moses:
“Now Moses was faithful in all [God’s] house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later…”
~ Hebrews 3.5, ESV (emphasis mine)
This passage doesn’t praise Moses for being a mighty man of valor or handsome or strong. He is commended as a faithful servant. Considering the many movies made about Moses—glamorizing his princely status in Egypt or portraying a strapping young leader confronting an equally strapping young pharaoh—His life looks so exciting!
Unfortunately, those movies overlook the vast amount of time Moses spent plodding through obscurity.
Forty Monotonous Years.
According to Stephen’s sermon in Acts, Moses was “approaching the age of forty” when he killed an Egyptian, hoping to begin the process of deliverance. Stephen describes the pre-Shepherd Moses as, “a man of power in words and deeds.” Educated, powerful, charismatic, Moses possessed all the qualities of a celebrated leader, but instead of starting a rebellion, Moses found himself doing grunt work for forty years. By the time Moses returned to Egypt, he was 80 years old.
Think about the last forty years. (If you’re my age or younger, you may have to do a bit of research!) Here’s a little perspective:
Forty years ago, the “personal computer” as we know it hadn’t even made it’s debut, and those on the market were sold in kits. The handheld smart phones we use every day were simply a gleam of imagination back then.
Forty years ago, Star Wars debuted for the first time and was expected to be a total flop. (Who’s got the last laugh now?)
Forty years ago, the average price of a home in the United States hovered around $62,500. (Good luck getting any house in San Francisco at that price.)
Forty years is a long time.
God is a wise Father, preparing His children for the service to which He calls them. God knew that Moses, like us, needed to spend time learning valuable skills in order to be the leader God required.
Moses Learned Humility
Nothing will teach humility like doing “grunt work.” For starters, it teaches one to appreciate the bodily toil that others go through to build houses, do lawn care, install fences, fix plumbing, etcetera. One also learns the disdainful attitude society tends to hold toward “labor” as a “lesser” means of employment. It’s challenging to work such jobs and feel appreciated or even important, even though such jobs are the backbone of a functioning society!
Moses—an educated, charismatic, man of royalty—delivered ewe lambs, stepped over sheep dung, scanned for predators, and slept beneath the stars. He was no longer powerful in the world’s estimation; he became a simple shepherd in simple garb enjoying simple pleasures. In his forty years of dutiful shepherding, the Lord developed within Moses the priceless virtue of humility.
Moses Learned Patience
Sheep are notoriously dumb animals. They need a fair balance of prodding and patience. Moses learned to put up with dumb sheep so he could learn to put up with human “sheep.” Moses shepherded the Israelites from watering holes to mountainsides until they reached Canaan. When they, like scared sheep, refused to enter, Moses wandered with them for another forty years, gently instructing them in God’s commandments.
You might be waiting on the Lord as you take care of toddlers, tend an elderly parent, or wrestle with difficult co-workers. No matter where the Lord has you at this moment, submit to His shaping. He is helping you to bear the fruit of the Spirit and preparing you for something down the road.
Moses Learned Faithfulness
Being a shepherd is hardly riveting.
Moses’ sheep always needed his vigilant care. They needed daily food, daily watering, daily herding. If you’re a mom or dad with children, you can relate:
“We’re having that again?”
“What’s for dinner?”
“I’m out of jeans!”
“Can you take me to my friend’s house?”
“Don’t forget to drive me to piano!”
Parent life consists of daily feeding, daily watering, daily herding, and daily disciplines. Children draw comfort from consistency.
It may feel like everyone else is scaling mountains of glory while we’re feeding, watering, and herding in the valley. It’s easy to glamorize what someone else is doing and despise your own assignment, but God calls us to have a different attitude:
Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (v. 3-8)
Further on in the same chapter it reads:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing,that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (v. 14-15)
Do all things—fixing the plumbing, folding the laundry, taking out the trash, mowing a friend’s lawn, carrying soup to a sick neighbor—without complaining.
Do all things without worrying about appreciation or prestige.
Do all things faithfully as would for the Lord.
Give to others the same affection you would give if our Lord Jesus were the one sick, ailing, or in other need. Let your Father who sees these small acts, carried out dutifully, reward you in His own way and His excellent time.
Moses learned faithfulness through forty years of dutiful labor, and the Lord raised him from lowly shepherd to legendary leader. The Lord may not have plans to make you a renown speaker or the next president, but He has made you a royal priest in His kingdom. Whatever task God assigns you is a royal commission… even if all you seem to do is wipe noses, prepare food, or clean up after people.
God has the power to take what is ordinary and make it truly extraordinary. Give every task—significant or insignificant—to the God who sees in secret.
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
~ 1 Peter 2.9-10, ESV
This is Part 2 in a series on Dutiful Service. To read the previous post, click here.