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The Making of a Man of God

Moses and the burning bush

by Dennis Pollock

The process by which the Almighty takes an ordinary man or woman and over time shapes them into an instrument for His service is well worth careful study. Being the master craftsman that He is, our Father does very thorough and fine work, but that work can only be accomplished in cooperative and yielded vessels, clay though they may be.

In the lives of many of the prophets of the Bible we are not allowed to peek into that process, with them arriving on the scene with very little description of those critical, earlier times where the breaking, molding, shaping, and pruning were painstakingly applied to their lives over years and decades. Elijah bursts onto the scene out of nowhere, and while we are told of John the Baptist’s birth, we know little more of his early days than the terse declaration that “the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.”

It is in the life of Moses, the greatest of all the Old Testament heroes, where we find detailed information about the ways and means by which the great I AM transformed a lump of clay into a vessel fit for the Master’s use. And although thousands of years have elapsed since those dramatic times, the process is essentially the same. God’s methods have not changed. He still looks for men and women who will yield, He still takes His time (craftsmen never rush), and He still does exceedingly fine work.

The Beginning

Moses was born a Jew, but due to the providential hand of God, he ended up being raised in the home of Egyptian royalty. In his earliest days he led the life of privilege. He was trained in the finest schools of Egypt. He wore the best clothes, attended the best parties, and hobnobbed with the movers and shakers of the greatest nation in the world. He spoke fluent Egyptian, and looked for all the world like the young Egyptian prince that he was. His future was bright as he contemplated a life of privilege and luxury such as few people could ever hope to attain.

One day, at the age of forty, Moses made a decision that would alter his destiny forever and force him to exchange his Egyptian robes for the humble garb of a shepherd. Apparently having been told by his adoptive mother that he was born of a Jewess, we are told, “when Moses was grown… he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens.”  It is strange that it took him until his fortieth year to finally pay attention to the people who were his true kinsmen. It was no accident that the Scriptures declare that it was when Moses was grown that he went out to see the plight of the Israelites. Concern for others is always one of the primary trademarks of maturity. The selfish preoccupation with pleasure and fun that especially marks the years of youth and often runs through the entirety of life must at some point burn out before God can begin to do the work He does so well.

While out among the enslaved Israelites, Moses encountered a small taste of the ugly brutality that his people had been living with for years. He came across an Egyptian beating an Israelite. The man who would become the great liberator of the oppressed Jewish people already possessed a hatred for injustice deposited at birth by the God who knows all things from the beginning. This grace gift of God that had, until now, lay dormant deep within as he played the rich, Egyptian playboy now burst to the surface. Overreacting in a rage Moses killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.

We are told a curious thing by Stephen in the book of Acts as he recounted the story – that Moses “supposed that his brothers would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.” The calling of God was already at work in his heart. In fact Moses felt so certain of his calling that he figured it would be a no-brainer to all the rest of the Jews that he was God’s man to deliver Israel from their bondage – which, of course, was not at all the case.

Moses was not wrong about his calling. He was indeed God’s chosen deliverer, but he was about forty years too early. He was right about the call but wrong about the timing. He was still too young, too rash, and too full of self. He had just now figured out that his place was with the people of God, and there was much work in him God had yet to do. On top of that his “plan” was not the best. There is no way you are going to deliver a couple of million Hebrew slaves from the greatest empire in the world by killing off Egyptians one at a time with your bare hands. Forty years later God would set His people free by slaying all the firstborn Egyptians in a single night, which did the job nicely. Moses’ way was the natural way; God’s was supernatural. Moses’ way depended upon human effort and energy; God’s way depended upon His own omnipotence.

As word spread of Moses’ murderous act, the young firebrand quickly becomes persona non grata in the eyes of the Egyptian leaders. A price is put on the young prince’s head and he flees for his life to the land of Midian. Overnight Moses the great becomes Moses the nobody. His money, his status, his authority, and his fun are all stripped from him in a day’s time.

The School

I have always contended that it is an absolute necessity for anyone who would be used by God to any great extent to attend university. It is difficult to find an exception to this rule, either in the Bible or in the history of the church. But the university to which I refer does not consist of brick and mortar buildings, tenured professors, and multiple choice tests. I like to refer to this great school by which God raises up his servants as Wilderness University. This is the school Moses found himself automatically enrolled in at the age of forty.

It is a school for unlearning as well as learning. The Scriptures tell us that Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” The problem with this is that much of his Egyptian learning was not going to be the least bit useful in accomplishing the purposes of God in his life, and in some cases it could have been downright counterproductive. Thus the need to unlearn.

When Moses arrived at the place God had providentially ordained to be his home for the next forty years, he went to a local well and found the male shepherds from the area rudely driving off some of the women who had come there to water their flocks. Again Moses’ hatred for injustice kicked in, but this time (perhaps having learned something from his Egyptian experience) he did not kill the offenders, but merely forced the shepherds to allow “ladies first.” (Moses was obviously no wimp!)

The daughters of Reuel went back to their father and told him that “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds.” Of course, in truth Moses was no Egyptian; he was an Israelite. But he looked like an Egyptian, talked like an Egyptian, and probably smelled like an Egyptian! And God could not use an Egyptian to set Israel free; He must have a man that not only is an Israelite, but looks like one as well.

Egypt is universally recognized by Bible teachers as a symbol for this world. The parallel between Moses’ experience and ours is not hard to figure. When we come to Christ through the new birth, we are in every respect a child of God. Old things have passed away and all things become new. The problem is that we often don’t really look, act, or smell all that new. Sometimes the ways of the world, the carnal attitudes and even habits are still all over us. We may often be mistaken for “an Egyptian.”

God loves us just as we are, but He loves us far too much to leave us the way that we are. And as we become aware of the calling of God on our lives, He often (without so much as an “if you please”) automatically enrolls us in our own version of Wilderness University.

Quiet Classroom

The major curriculum, in terms of textbooks, is the Bible. But Wilderness University involves more than just reading. Moses would spend the next forty years in relative isolation. The sights, sounds, and smells of Egypt were a distant memory. There was no Egyptian radio station to listen to, no Cairo newspaper to be delivered to his door, and no nightly phone calls to his girlfriends. Over the next forty years the memories of Egypt grew fainter and fainter as God began to shape for Himself a vessel of exceedingly fine craftsmanship.

Wilderness University is not especially fun, if fun means loud and crazy activities, and constant busyness. God’s voice could never be heard in such an environment. Quietness, solitude, and time to pray and reflect upon the greatness of God make up the necessary classroom environment in this great training facility. Jacob experienced it for twenty years while watching Laban’s flocks, David knew it as he wandered the wilderness while avoiding Saul, John the Baptist experienced it growing up in the hill country of Judea, and Saul, who would become Paul, had his training in the deserts of Arabia.

One of the results of God’s basic training is something most of the world would consider a great weakness – the loss of self-confidence. Moses learned his lessons well. After forty years of time with God, he was no longer the self-confident, powerful prince who thought he could liberate the Jews with a little self-effort and positive thinking. By the time God appears to him in the burning bush, and confirms that the dream he has carried in his heart most of his adult life was indeed a divine calling, Moses is no longer so sure. He reminds God of his poor speaking ability, and suggests He find another, more capable man. His loss of self-confidence is wrapped up in his question, “Who am I?”

God settles the issue with a short but profound declaration: “I will certainly be with you.” It is not self-confidence but God-confidence that will carry the day. Moses takes a little more persuading but finally submits and becomes the man God had always planned for him to be. At eighty he may not look as pretty as he did at forty, but he no longer looks like an Egyptian. He is Hebrew through and through – a chosen man from the chosen people.

Moses goes to Egypt fully equipped for the task God has called him to do. He carries the rod of God in his hand, but more importantly he goes to Egypt as a man who knows the living God. The revelation of God that he carries in his heart, and the inner character that has been shaped by years of wilderness living will see him safely through all the dangers of Pharaoh’s rage and Israel’s complaints. He not only has the character to withstand hardship and danger, but the compassion to be the great intercessor for his people. As these ungrateful Israelites complain and moan about wilderness fare, they have no idea that the only reason they haven’t been wiped out by an angry God is that their leader has been on his face begging God for mercy upon His whining, sniveling children.

I am so glad that for most of us, it is not necessary to go through forty years of training before God can begin to use us. But God’s most powerful ministry will always be exercised in men and women who have, either of their own volition or through automatic providential enrollment, spent the necessary years with God and Christ in the quiet places. This does not demand that we go and live on some island. We must be willing, however, to turn off the television at times, and trim our busy lives of innocent but unnecessary activities in order to spend time with our Lord in prayer and in His word. Salvation is free and is accomplished in a moment’s time, but the sanctifying process that leads to usefulness takes time and has a cost attached to it.

May our Lord raise up a generation of men and women whose hearts burn with holy passion, and who carry the knowledge of the God of Israel and His Son Jesus Christ to our ever darkening world in these last days!

 

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