Sunday, February 11, 2018

ASPIRATIONS OF A YOUNG MAN

By the time that we first read of God speaking directly to Moses, Moses was no longer young. In fact, he could already be called an old man. He was fully eighty years old when the Lord God called him from his life of tending sheep; and the manner in which God called him was designed to awaken Moses out of forty years of the slumber.

Moses had been living a quiet life in the country. We know very little of this forty-year period of his life, but they seem to have been years in which he did little more than caring for the flock of sheep and goats of his father-in-law.

When God appeared to Moses, he did not do so in a dream. Moses may have dismissed a strange dream as simply the result of some undercooked mutton that he had eaten. Rather than this, so that there would be no misunderstanding of the certainty of the calling, the Lord appeared to Moses in a way that he would not be able to forget. God spoke to him from a blazing fire in the midst of a bush.


At the time, the old man was merely walking along in the wilderness, tending to his goats. As he walked, he saw a bush that had caught on fire for no reason that was immediately apparent. This alone may have been unusual enough, but to his amazement, he saw that although the bush was burning with a bright flame, the foliage itself seemed not to be consumed in the fire. This unexplainable event was marvelous enough that it caused Moses to stop and investigate this phenomenon. 

The Calling

God had gotten his attention. When Moses approached the bush, God addressed him by name. “Moses, Moses.”

When Moses heard his name being called from the midst of a burning bush, it seems that he may have immediately supposed that it must be the voice of God that was calling him—but perhaps he did not. The account tells us that it was when God told him that it was he, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who was speaking, it was only then that “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:6).

But the fact that whether or not Moses first realized it was God who was speaking is not really important, for he surely realized it now. God had also told Moses, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5 NAS).

God then proceeded to tell Moses the reason for this meeting. The Lord said to him: 

I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians...

Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:7-10 NAS)

Moses was to be the man through whom God would deliver the children of Israel from the bonds of slavery in Egypt.

But Moses hesitated and even argued with God. 

The Aspirations of a Young Man, and the Despondency of an Old One

“Perhaps at one time I would have considered myself up for the job,” Moses thought, “but not now.

“When I was a younger man, I dreamed of being the one who would liberate my people. I felt that I was a leader. I was spared by the hand of God from being murdered as an infant by the Pharaoh, as were the rest of the male children of my people. It was even Pharaoh’s own daughter who rescued me from the basket in the Nile River and raised me in her home.

“I thought that perhaps God had preserved me for the purpose of delivering my true people. My whole childhood seemed especially preordained to prepare me for that role. By a miraculous twist of fate, I was even raised and educated in the house of Pharaoh, the man whose edict would have killed me. All these things made me feel I was set apart for a special purpose.

“But that was long ago. I tried to show my people that I was ready to be their leader. I visited them at their work and homes. When I saw one of my Hebrew brothers being beaten by an Egyptian taskmaster, I defended the Israelite and slew the Egyptian.

“I actually thought that my people would rally behind me and that I could begin a movement of liberation that would eventually bring them out of the heavy yoke of slavery. Instead, the Israelites turned against me. In addition, although I had tried to conceal what I had done to the Egyptian taskmaster, Pharaoh found out about the murder and I had to flee for my life.

“It almost seems like another life. It was forty years ago. I once dreamed of being a great leader of my people, but no more.

“I have a peaceful life here in Midian. I have a wife and a family. I am far from Egypt not only in distance, but also far from the struggles and troubles there. Those ambitious dreams of my youth are now gone. I am just a shepherd.

“Who am I, my Lord God, that you should entrust your people to me? I think you would be better off appointing someone else to the task.” 
*********
“Do you feel yourself so inadequate?” God might have answered, “If so, you are now ready to accomplish this important task.” 

Not Greatness, but Humility

It is not the dreams of greatness of a young man that God desires, but a servant through whom he can demonstrate his glory. In fact, in speaking to Moses, God made quite a point of this. Up to this point in the conversation, Moses knew that he was speaking to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but he wanted more information. He was looking for some assurances.

“Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel,” Moses said, “and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they will say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”

 In response to this question by Moses, God made it quite clear who he as God was, and who would actually be doing the liberating from the heavy hand of Pharaoh. The rescue operation would not be done by some hot-shot, self-confident young hero who would rally the people. It would be done by God Himself. 

The Assurance of God

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

“Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt...”’

They will pay heed to what you say (Exodus 3:14-18a NAS). 

Youthful Dreams

In his younger years, Moses had been eager to begin. In many ways, in those days he had felt that he was prepared and ready to begin the work into which he believed the Lord God was leading him. But when events did not progress the way that he envisioned, he fled.

In those early years, Moses confronted opposition, so he retreated into the wilderness. He found a wife, settled down and began raising a family. He tended the herds of his father-in-law and tried to forget the dreams of his youth. Moses had given in to the events of life that had seemed overpowering to him.

However, I wonder if Moses, during the long nights when he watched over the flock of sheep, sometimes let his mind return to those earlier days and thought of how things might have been different.

I say that because I think that the experience of Moses in his younger years may have something in common with many of us in our own youth. Like Moses, in our early years we may also dream of doing certain things. Perhaps our aspirations do not reach the level of leading an entire nation of people out from the bondage of slavery, but our own ambitions may be lofty in other ways. It might even be said that if we do not have lofty goals of some kind in our youthful years, we should re-examine the stewardship of life that has been given to us.

The Apostle Paul, in his older and more experienced years, wrote to his young ministry partner Timothy, and set some rather lofty goals for Timothy to pursue. They were youthful goals. 

…Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all men, especially for believers. Prescribe and teach these things (I Timothy 4:7-11 NAS).

Then Paul told him, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (I Timothy 4:12).

Spiritual Gifts

Every Christian worker has been endowed with spiritual gifts that should be allowed to mature. As we grow in our spiritual lives, just as in our physical bodies when we began to mature into adulthood, In our spiritual lives also we begin to become aware of new potentials within us. Part of our spiritual maturity is learning how to manage and be in command of these new abilities so that they will be used to their finest and fullest measure. In some ways, it is true that we need to learn to curb the unbridled enthusiasm of youth.

However, that does not mean that we deny these abilities. It does not mean this in our physical lives, and neither does it mean so in our spiritual lives. If our youthful plans do not progress exactly how we first envisioned them, we should not give in to loss of the vision, as did Moses.

Paul continues with his advice to Timothy, 

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you...Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:14-16 NAS) 

What We Need to Learn

We all have (or should have) youthful dreams of doing great things for the kingdom of God. As we begin to develop into maturity in our spiritual lives, we sense the awakening of abilities of which we were previously unaware. Our years are in front of us and we look for the way in which we will make our life meaningful. We prepare ourselves the best that we can, as did Moses in the house of Pharaoh.

We are eager. Sometimes we are too eager. We may attempt to begin our task well before all the preparations have been made. We are depending upon what we see as our own strengths rather than depending on God.

So we fail.

With failure often comes depression and self-doubt. “Perhaps,” we think, “I was mistaken. Perhaps my dreams were only dreams. They were only fanciful thoughts of a small person with big plans.”

Thinking this, we abandon the idea altogether. We flee into a wilderness of some kind and try to forget the dreams of our youth.

However, the dreams of one’s youth may be more than just youthful fancies. The life of Moses certainly seems to indicate this. His thoughts of leading his people out of slavery were indeed something that had been placed in his heart by God. His mistake seems to have been that he did not wait for the appropriate time--for the time that all had been prepared beforehand by God. 

What We Learn from Moses

Moses was ready to move forty years before, but when that first failure came, he abandoned the call altogether. Then, by the time God had made all the preparations to move, the enthusiasm of Moses to involve himself with the task had died out. The eagerness of his youth had turned into a meaningless complacency of age. He thought only of some retirement years and of spending his days playing golf.

Perhaps we all dream of accomplishing certain things when we are young. At one time it even became our quest—the goal for our lives. We began our preparation and believed that the completion of our task was within our grasp. But when it did not immediately occur, we became discouraged.

Of the many lessons of the life of Moses, an important one is this: God has a proper time for our calling and when he will act. In the beginning, Moses was enthusiastic about what he believed he was to do, but he was not patient enough to allow God to bring it about at the proper time. Encountering failure, he gave up hope entirely and abandoned his call. It was only with great argumentation that God again put him on the proper path. 

What We Learn from God

One of the most inscrutable concepts of history is expressed in Galatians chapter 4. There, the apostle Paul tells us this: 

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5) 

Why God waited so long to send Jesus Christ is unknown to us. For thousands of years, men and women lived in a condition of sin that had no perfect solution. That perfection came only with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer.

And yet, God “sent forth his Son” at the perfect time—when the fullness of time had come. We do not know why that moment of time two thousand years ago was perfect, but four thousand or five thousand years ago was not yet perfect. It was only at that specific moment that Jesus was born two thousand years ago that was perfect. God always has his perfect time for acting.

We do not know all of the reasons why God did not rescue the Israelites out of Egypt when Moses was forty years old, but rather waited until Moses was eighty years old. We only know that it was at that time that he told Moses, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.”

Enthusiasm of youth is a wonderful ally, but we must learn to temper it with patience. God brings things about in his desired fashion and at the proper time. 

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was also wondering why God delayed in acting. God told him this:
 
Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3 NIV)

We also are to be prepared and waiting—enthusiastic and yet patient.

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