Moses, the former Prince of Egypt, slept each night under shepherd’s cloth, lulled by the sweeping sounds of sand blown across the desert, woken by the bleating of sheep. It was a rough existence, with calloused hands and dirtied feet, far from the glistening pools of Egypt. It was a barren existence, devoid of the colours of royalty, the dulcet sounds of the musicians, the masterpieces of the artisans.
How did a man with so much potential end up here? How did a man with the world before him spend the prime years of his life scrambling up rocky outcrops, scouring the scorched earth for signs of grass? How did a man raised in the courts of power, learned in the ways of wisdom, get reduced to humming ditties to fussing sheep?
What was he doing here?
When looking for an example of someone who hasn’t lived up to his potential, look no further then Moses at this time in his life. He is the epitome of a washed up failure.
One wouldn’t judge so harshly a Hebrew slave who flees from the whip to take up the shepherds staff. Trading a scourged back for a scorched throat in the wilderness with the rod in your own hand can be understood. But for someone to have such a special head start in life, such a miraculous opportunity, to be the son of slaves and yet somehow raised as the son of royalty—such an audacious, golden opportunity – and to end up here? In the desert, minding sheep? What a wasted opportunity!
Moses had felt so called of God to lead his nation into a new era. But when he made his move it fizzled like an untied balloon, releasing its air in a torrent of smelly sound before flopping to the ground as a piece of discarded plastic. His own people had rejected him, and Pharaoh was now pursuing him for murder. So Moses fled, tail in hand, to the backside of the desert.
A humbling experience
As days turns to weeks, weeks turn to months, and months turn to years, his confidence in himself started to fade away. Little by little, the proud and mighty Moses, Prince of Egypt, became a humble and meek shepherd.
Moses seemed resigned to accept his fate, content to let his potential crumble to the dust. He settled down into his new life, married, and had two sons. Forty years in the desert slowly went by and there came no summons from his people, no call from his God. He resigned himself to have been forgotten by both—he was yesterday’s man and must content himself with his lot.
Do you relate?
I can identify in a small way with Moses, the feeling of being in a spiritual rut, in a routine that ticks along in a monotony of inactivity. Moses settled into a routine that lasted 40 years. After that much time, it is hard to expect much to happen—but that’s without reckoning on God.
During this time the Israelites were crying out to God. And God heard them. The time came to act. But who will be the man he calls to be his messenger, his prophet, the leader of his people? Surely not the burned-out candle living out his days leading a flock of sheep?
But if there is one thing I can be sure about God it is this: God loves working with the meek, the lowly of heart, and the humble.
1 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 27-29 says: ‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.’
Strength in our weakness
God is great, and his greatness is shown all the more powerfully when His will is accomplished through broken, empty vessels. Moses lost faith in his ability. He knew his strength was limited, that he was no match for the power of Egypt. And that is precisely the type of man God was looking to use to deliver his people.
The great power and might of Egypt would soon find it is no match for a weak, empty vessel—a vessel filled and overflowing with the power and greatness of God.
And so there is hope for me too, even as I run the treadmill of life, a mouse in a cage, running a race with a finish line that keeps on moving. Trying to balance work and family, hanging on to life by the thread of my unwashed sneakers—I feel like I was created for more than this, for greater things. But as I tend my modernised sheep I know this is not the end for me. I’m finding my limits, and in doing so I’m readying myself to see the power of an unlimited God.
Thomas Devenish lives in Hobart, Tasmania. He works as a motion designer and enjoys the diverse experiences life has to offer, from wake-boarding to curling up with a good book on a rainy day. More recently, cuddles with his new baby girl have become the favourite thing to do.
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