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Shemot/Exodus 3:1 And Moshe was grazing the flock of Yitro, his father-in-law
Forty years have now passed since Moshe fled from Egypt after killing an Egyptian overseer who was abusing one of the Israelites. What has he been doing in the meantime? He married Tzipporah, one of the daughters of Yitro, the priest of Mid'yan and has been blessed with a son, Gershon. But what has he been doing, this man who was brought up and educated in the palace and household of Pharaoh, king of Egypt? How has he been using his time; how has he occupied the years; what skills has he been developing; how has he advanced his mind? The Scriptures are silent, save for the news of his marriage and son, until we reach this verse: Moshe was grazing the sheep - he was a shepherd. Like Ya'akov and his sons before him, Moshe learnt to walk vast distances, leading the sheep to pasture; he slept rough out with the sheep, guarding them from predators; he tended to their physical needs and took care of the sick; he picked up the stragglers and kept the flock together. After forty years - which to a keen, intelligent mind like his must have seemed an eternity -HaShem called him from shepherding the sheep of his father-in-law Yitro to shepherd the people of Israel out of Egypt - from a hundred or so sheep to a people of two to three million - another forty years, to the Promised Land.
When King Saul heard what David had been saying about Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, he questioned whether this ruddy youth would be able to fight. David's answer showed how G-d had been preparing him: "Your servant was tending his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him" (1 Samuel 17:34-35, NASB). It could not have been easy, particularly as a youth, being a shepherd in those days before quad-bikes and .22 rifles, defending the sheep from bears and lions, yet David knew that the L-rd had been with him and making him ready for the fight with Goliath, as he continued: "The L-rd who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37, NASB). Even though he was still many years of further preparation away from being king, David knew that G-d had His hand on his life and would not let him fall, so that eventually Nathan the prophet could say to David, "Thus says the L-rd of Hosts, 'I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be ruler over My people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you'" (2 Samuel 7:8-9, NASB).
Centuries later, another Saul - this time the great rabbi and Jewish theologian, Rav Sha'ul - was to say, "If anyone think he had grounds for putting confidence in human qualifications, I have better grounds: b'rit milah on the eighth day, an Israeli by birth, from the tribe of Binyamin, a Hebrew speaker, with Hebrew speaking parents, in regard to the Torah a Parush/Pharisee" (Philippians 3:4-5, CJB) and "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] and trained at the feet of Gamli'el in every detail of the Torah of our forefathers" (Acts 22:3, CJB). G-d had uniquely prepared and placed Rav Sha'ul for the witness he was to bring to both the Jewish and Gentile worlds.
Even Yeshua Himself, born into an artisan family; Yosef was a - normally translated 'carpenter' but having more the sense of 'builder' - a craftsman working in stone and wood. Yeshua would have supported both Himself and His family for perhaps 10-15 years before starting His years of ministry. He too learnt and practiced a trade: staying late to finish a job, taking patience and care with sometimes indifferent materials, getting splinters in His fingers and breaking his fingernails; being prepared for the task ahead of Him; a careful and diligent worker as Luke tells us in his gospel: "And Yeshua grew both in wisdom and stature, gaining favour both with other people and with G-d" (Luke 2:52, CJB).
Further Study: Luke 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30
Application: What are you doing today? What is G-d teaching you in the daily events of your life? Look around you and see what skills G-d is developing in you, the people He is using to mould and shape you, and the abilities and gifts that He is building as He prepares you for what is to come. So what are you doing today?
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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