God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.” Exodus 3:12 NLT
Jackie was a cute, red-headed little 9-year-old. She loved playing school with her dolls: reading to them and teaching them math. One afternoon while playing she had a momentary thought, “someday I am going to teach children in Africa.” The thought, she felt must have been given to her by God. Jackie bounded into the kitchen and announced to her mother, “someday I am going to teach school in Africa!” That was 18 years ago, and here she was, happily reading to her little class in her tin-roofed schoolhouse in Kenya. Jackie paused for a brief moment as she remembered that little red-headed girl who confidently told her mother about her “thought from God.” Now she knew it had been a sign from God, one which would be years in the making.
Moses had been caring for his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years. It seemed like it had been a long time since he had frantically fled Egypt because of his angry, fatal outburst with the Egyptian. After exiting Egypt, he had stopped and helped some young shepherdesses draw water from a well for their flock. And from that time on, Moses had become a part of this new family. A Midian family; headed by a Midian priest
Moses had married Zipporah, one of Jethro’s seven daughters, and together they had a son named Gershom. Gershom meant, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.” According to Scripture, except for a few formative years, Moses spent his life in the palace mostly apart from his people, the Israelites. Even though he had lived as a privileged prince in Pharaoh’s household, he probably hadn’t had a chance to get to know much about his own people and their God, these people who were the apple of God’s eye. And now here he was living with a Midian family, trying to eke out a living with some sheep in the wilderness. How hard it must have been being a foreigner!
I imagine for Moses this situation must have been a bit confusing. He might have questioned, who am I and is being a sheep-herder my final lot in life? I imagine Moses must have known his history. He must have heard stories of how he had been a babe hidden in the bulrushes. He certainly would have remembered what his life had been like as an Egyptian prince and how it felt to flee Egypt as quickly as he possibly could. And now this current situation, a sheepherder for a Midian family? He might have assumed this was all that life had for him. But God had so much more.
One day, far out in the wilderness, Moses with his herd of sheep came to Sinai, the mountain of God. In the distance, Moses saw an astonishing sight. A bush was burning but not incinerating. It was red-hot but not turning to ashes. Moses moved in a little closer to see what this strange spectacle was all about. The Lord saw Moses coming, and he called to him, “Moses, Moses!”
“Here I am,” said Moses. God said, “Do not come any closer, take off your sandals because you are on Holy Ground.” And then God identified himself to Moses, “I am the God of your father…” When Moses heard this, he hid his face. He might not have grown up with his people, the Israelites, but he knew enough to hide his face when God was speaking. God told Moses what he was about to do and how Moses would be a part of that remarkable plan.
God informed Moses that he would be the one to lead God’s people out of slavery and out of Egypt, right out from underneath Pharaoh’s nose. The entire nation of 600,000 men, all their families, livestock and possessions. Just like that! Several million people marching out. All Moses had to do was take the lead! And oh, by the way, God told Moses, “I will be with you.”
Moses had, what I think is the normal reaction to an assignment like this. He said to the Lord in the constantly blazing bush, who am I to do this task? Implying, why me? And, here are the words that I want you to see, “and this is your sign that I am the One who has sent you, when you have brought the people out, you will worship God at this very mountain.” Did you catch that? The sign was going to be understood fully ONLY AFTER he returned to Egypt and AFTER he had met with Pharaoh numerous times, and AFTER he led the people across the Red Sea while being chased by a professional army, and AFTER all of this, God would make the sign meaningful to him! Once Moses was standing at the mountain with several million Israelites, Moses would remember the moment he saw the burning bush, and then he would realize what an amazing sign that was. Moses would then be able to remember how God had been with him. How God spoke to him and led him. Then he would truly worship.
AFTER- the sign would only be fully understood AFTER Moses acted! AFTER he did all those things!
WAIT- I want “God’s sign” to me to have full, extensive and comprehensive meaning immediately, up front, right away, without delay, before I take action, don’t you?
Moses was learning to live by faith. I need to learn this lesson, too! What about you?
Hmm? This is where faith develops into action. God’s word instructs us to walk by faith and not by sight. We are assured that God’s word is a light to our path and a lamp to our feet. We are told to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our understanding. And there are so, so many other words of Scripture, words like these, in the Bible to remind us we must follow God by faith as he faithfully leads. Scripture is full of beloved and precious words to help us move out boldly, in faith, and do whatever God is inviting us to do, even if “the sign” doesn’t seem fully meaningful until AFTER we do.
So, where are you today? Is God asking something of you, but you are pausing, waiting, lingering a bit for a sign to clarify the message- to make it as plain as day. Sometimes God provides us “a sign” upfront, but many times, as He did with Moses, he calls us to take steps of faith and only then will we understand. Moses had to move out in faith and complete the job before he could fully comprehend the amazing sign God had given him many months before.
On that day when Moses stood at Mt Sinai, with several million weary travelers alongside, he must have thought back to the burning bush and remembered the scene, and then and only then, did he fully understand. And that complete understanding would develop in him an awesome awe of God and what He could do.
Often, we are invited to take steps of faith. To go forward trusting God’s call even when we can’t see the entire picture. Are you willing to abandon the comfort of seeing the complete picture up front, for a life of action? What assignment has God given you? What is he asking you to do in faith?