Sunday, February 18, 2018


Some time ago on this blog, I mentioned that in the beginning of my overseas work, during the time when my family and I were living out of our suitcases for many long months, I identified with the nomadic man Abraham more than any other individual in the Bible.

That work for me in foreign countries continued for many years. Although my family and I no longer had to live out of our suitcases during that entire period as we did in the beginning, our lives still were far from settled. In those years, our place of residence changed several times. During different periods, we lived in four separate countries. In addition, I was required to travel extensively for my work.

At the end of it all, I was tired, and I was glad to come home. My wife Vivian and I moved home to our own little farm that we had for so long missed. In my mind, I was done with all the activity of the past and was glad to settle in to a simple life. Vivian and I acquired a few farm animals, and we looked forward to living out our lives being small-time farmers—hobby farmers, I guess you could say. We had long desired to return home to live, and we were happy those years had come. We came home and settled in. I was done with the life of such busy activity.

In leaving all of that activity in the past, instead of identifying with Abraham any longer, in some ways I felt what I imagine Moses must have experienced when he had left Egypt as a young man and settled into living a life of a shepherd in the land of Midian. I think that he was actually happy to be away from the palace life where so much was expected of him, and even away from the responsibilities of thinking of helping his own people—the nation of Israel.

All of that was in the past for Moses. He was far away in Midian, living in a rural setting and taking care of his flock of animals. He considered his life as being settled. In his mind, Midian was where he was going to live out his days. 

An Interrupted Life (part 1)
But all of that was about to change. The change begins with his conversation with God, at the burning bush. God suddenly appears to Moses and instructs him to return to Egypt and liberate his people.

It is here that the life of Moses and my own life touch. I will explain in a minute, but please understand that in most ways, the experiences of Moses were unique to him. It is only in some very small ways that I can put myself into his sandals. Nevertheless, I can relate a little with how Moses must have felt when God instructed him to return to that life that he thought that he was done with.

Certainly, I may be putting my own interpretation on what Moses may have been feeling at the time, but if you recall, when God instructed him to return to Egypt, Moses did not want to go. In fact, Moses argued with God for some time about this matter.

In my own case, I have had my own arguments with God. 

The Country Life
At the time when God spoke to Moses, he was living the quiet, pastoral life of a shepherd. He was spending his days roaming the countryside and caring for his flock of animals. His concerns were small ones—perhaps the occasional predator or an illness in his flock. But these were things that he could deal with.

Gone were the years when there was so much expected of him. Back in the palace in Egypt, where he had grown up, there seemed always to be some responsibility laid upon him. In addition, there were those responsibilities that he took on himself! In the foolishness of youth, it had actually occurred to him to come to the rescue of his own Israelite people!

Now, after many years and as an old man, Moses could only shake his head in disbelief over his former actions. He was glad to see those years come to an end, and he was not sad to see all of those expectations cease. As a result of those previous experiences, he realized that he actually did not want to be someone to whom people looked for help and for advice. He was more content being a “nobody.” Simply living with his family and roaming the hills with his flock of animals was more to his liking.

This was the frame of mind of Moses when God suddenly interrupts his life, and this is why Moses began to argue with God when God instructs him to return to Egypt. Moses did not want to be a “somebody.” He wanted to be a “nobody.” 

The Secluded Life
I am not as old as was Moses when God interrupted his life—Moses was about eighty years old. Nevertheless, at the time when Vivian and I returned home, I also considered myself an old man. I was retirement age. Like Moses, I also looked forward to enjoying the quiet life. Not only that, but despite my years of traveling and working in many places, all of that activity had actually never been my preferred lifestyle. It is the quiet life of country living that would have always been my preference.

After all, I consider myself a bit of a contemplative person. I do not prefer a lot of noise and constant activity. In my view, in the retirement years, I should have been able to enjoy this quiet contemplation. Even the word retirement suggest this. It is a time of withdrawal from all of the activities of the world. To a certain degree, it can even be a seclusion from the outside concerns of world affairs.

For Moses, it was roaming the hills with his flock of animals. For me, it was living unobtrusively on my little farm and taking care of my few cows.

But then God steps in. In the case of Moses, a voice calls to him from the burning bush. “Moses, Moses,” the voice said. 

An Involved Life
I will not go into the conversation that took place between God and Moses. I also wrote of that in an earlier blog. I wrote there how Moses, despite his objections, did in the end act in obedience to what God asked of him.

Moses ended up leaving his quiet little life of tending his flock, and submersing himself once again into a life of struggle and conflict. He stood before Pharaoh, brought plagues upon the land of Egypt, and led the Israelites across the Red Sea to escape the slavery in that land.

All of this was of course done through the hand of God, but Moses had to be the “front man.” Everyone considered him to be the one in charge of it all.

I would suppose that once Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and they had made their escape, he no doubt thought that the most difficult part of the task given to him by God had been completed.

Yes, he understood that they still needed to transverse the many miles to the land of promise that God had set aside for them, but if they were to go directly there, it would have been a journey of several days at the most—perhaps as much as two or three weeks. But Moses did not realize all that was ahead of him. Almost immediately upon beginning the exodus out of Egypt, the people began to complain.

“We have no food!”
“We have no water!”
“It would have been better to live as slaves in Egypt rather than die in this wilderness!”

Despite the words of these complaints, God had indeed provided food and water for them throughout their journey. The people may not have entirely enjoyed the fare, but they were not starving. And after all, they were on their way to the promised land of milk and honey!

And even in the barren wilderness they had food. As the Biblical writer Nehemiah would later confess about God concerning the people of that time: “You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger, you brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst” (Nehemiah 9:15).

The bread from heaven was manna. The people described it as reminding them in some ways like coriander seeds. It was rather white in color, and it tasted like wafers that had been made with honey (Exodus 6:31). The manna formed on the ground like dew, and was collected without much trouble at all.

But the people wanted more.

“If only we had meat to eat!” the people complained. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6 NIV)

I suppose that we perhaps can understand the desire for a little variation in their diet, but the attitude in which it was expressed was one like a whining child. There was no appreciation for what God had already done, and no thankful anticipation for the brighter future to where he was leading them.

The Bible says the complaining was started by the “rabble” among the people, and soon had the whole nation wailing. We are told that “every family” was whining in this way as they each stood at the entrance of their tents. They were not happy campers.
A Frustrated Life
As Moses listened to all of this wailing, he became troubled.

God was angry! God had provided for his people, but they had not accepted his gifts with thankfulness. The people only murmured. They complained.

Moses became frustrated, and he expressed his feelings to the Lord:

“Why have you been so hard on your servant?” Moses asked God, speaking of himself… “And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you have laid the burden of all this people on me?”

The complaint of Moses continues: 

Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who gave birth to them, that you should say to me, "Carry them in your arms as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which you swore to their fathers"?

Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, “Give us meat that we may eat!”

I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if you are going to treat me in this way, please kill me at once, if I in any way have found favor in your sight. Do not let me see the wretchedness that surely will come to me. (Numbers 11:11-15) 

I wonder if Moses, in some fleeting moments that he may have had to himself, sat and daydreamed about his former quiet life of a shepherd and living without all of the responsibilities that were suddenly placed upon him.

I don’t know if Moses did this, but through the years in the several places of the world where I have worked, I have spent my moments of daydreaming about my far-away farm more often than I might care to admit. 

An Interrupted Life (part 2)
Certainly, I have found myself identifying with Moses in more ways than this. Again let me emphasize, I do not mean to say that my experience is similar to Moses in every way or even in most ways.

And no, I do not have some sort of greatness complex where I would say that God has given to me experiences and responsibilities that would even begin to approach those of Moses. Nevertheless, the writer of the book of Hebrews, in writing about many of these men and women of the past, encourages us to learn from their experiences.

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” the writer tells us, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). 

God did not speak to me from a burning bush. Nor was it an audible voice, as I assume it was in the case of Moses. The people that God spoke to me about were not some long-lost relatives, nor even people of my own race, and they were not a people who were enslaved.

These are the differences between the situation of Moses and my own, but the similarity is this: God suddenly interrupted my life of solitude to help a village of people. Unlike in the calling of Moses, the people whom God spoke to me about were not a complaining people. They were a thankful people. Nevertheless, they were and they are a needy people. They are a people without sufficient resources, and who needed help.

The people were in the far distant land of Kenya. The village was one about a half an hour by motorcycle taxi from the town of Kisii in the western region of the country. God did not call me to go to live with these people as he did with Moses. Nevertheless, I am a little shocked that God has put this upon me at all.

Like Moses, I was enjoying my quiet life after years of activity. It was not as if I was totally withdrawn. God had given me a ministry of a small, rural church. I was (and still am) also the visitation pastor for another, larger church. Interestingly (at least to me), neither did I seek either of these jobs. I was more or less simply asked if I would do them.

So it was not that I was totally withdrawn. I was busy before God again interrupted my life. I was busy, but I still was able to have quite a lot of solitary time. Nevertheless, I certainly was not looking for another job.

And then God began speaking to me about these people. As it was for Moses, God’s calling to me came suddenly and completely unexpectedly. I did not want to hear it. Again like Moses, I had my own arguments with God about this situation. The matters that I mentioned above were some of these arguments. To me these explanations sounded reasonable. I am sure that the arguments that Moses put forth also sounded reasonable to him.

However, again like Moses, God would hear none of it.

“Just go,” he told me.

“But what will I find? What exactly are you asking me to do? Is this even a legitimate request from these people?”

“Just go,” God told me. “When you go, you will see.”


“Just go.”

So I went. 

A Ministering Life
What I found when I went to Kenya were a people whom God had been preparing. They were hungry spiritually and they were hungry physically. As I said, unlike in the case of Moses, these people to whom the Lord called me were not a complaining people. They thanked God each day for what he provided.

Nevertheless, I learned of some very real needs. I found a church in an area of Kenya were resources were very scarce. Food shortages were common, especially in the times just before harvest, when the previous season’s harvest had been mostly already consumed.

I found a church who had a heart for the orphans of the area, made so by the death of their parents because of AIDS or from malaria. Also included in this group were the children who had simply been abandoned by their parents, who had left the area to unknown parts.

The church was providing housing and food for twenty-one children. Since there was no money to send them to school, the church was also trying to give them some sort of education—teaching them the basics of reading and math. 

It was these people to whom God had called me to help. Like Moses, I felt ill-equipped and even unwilling to do so. I mentioned that the people were not a complaining people, but I must confess to doing my own bit of complaining to God.

“Why have you been so hard on your servant?” I asked God. “And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you have laid the burden of all these people on me?”

I especially identified closely with Moses when, at one point when I learned that the children and all the people had gone without food for entire days, I said to God as Moses had said, “Where am I supposed to get meat to feed all of those people?”

But in the end, we have the words of the Apostle John, when he tells us, “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) 

A Dependent Life
I have worked for many years among people of several poorer nations. In every single relationship, the subject of providing aid comes up either sooner or later. My practice was that I would always help if I thought the request legitimate and if I could. As John told us, it is actually incumbent for us as Christians to do this.

But this is a tiring business. One constantly needs to be asking himself if the need is a legitimate one or not, and if so, how does he make the balance between actually helping, and one of rather creating a relationship of dependency.

However, the fact of the matter is that we all live under a relationship of dependency anyway. We have nothing in and of ourselves. It all is from God. We all are dependent upon him to the very same degree, whether we be rich in the world or poor.

What I have learned by my past experiences is that it is not a relationship of dependency that we are trying to avoid, but rather it is a relationship of dependency that we must instill. The difference however, is that we are to make it a relationship of dependency on the supplier (God), rather than the channel of giving (us). In the end, we all, whether poor or rich, are equally in a dependency relationship with God. 

A Dedicated Life
Lastly, there is yet one more way that I find myself identifying with Moses. I identify with his prayer. It is found in Psalm 90. In part, it reads like this: 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
You turn man back into dust and say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night… 

As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.
So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for your servants.

O satisfy us in the morning with your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days you have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil. 

Let your work appear to your servants and your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;

Yes, confirm the work of our hands.


1 comment:

  1. Two years ago in S.C. we were with Luis Palau at 80. He said he remembered a message by Dick Hillis, "Being available" the Lord dropped another word into Luis's heart, "available again." PTL s&d