Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert…
I. THE CALL OF THE CHOSEN LEADER. Moses was already a believing man, walking in favour and fellowship with God, and in sympathy with his down-trodden people. We must carefully distinguish between Moses' decision for God, and God's disclosure of duty to Moses. The one took place in his early manhood; the other was deferred till the threshold of old age, when God gave the charge of the story before us, and the servant's self-denying choice was rewarded by the sovereign's honourable commission. The two experiences differ, you see, as conversion from service, as personal consecration from official appointment, as entrance on a life of holiness from entrance on a life of work.
1. And here comes our first lesson — a lesson for all who, like Moses, await God's call — the lesson, namely, of faith and of self-restraint. Are we struck with the fact that of the hundred and twenty years assigned to Moses, eighty were spent in preparation, and only forty in work? But it is God's way. What seems a time of uselessness as regards the world may be a time of probation as regards yourself. And the time of probation, if quietly endured and conscientiously improved, may issue, ere God has done with you, in a work of deliverance on the earth, whose concentration, rapidity, and success may amply explain the preceding delay.
2. Take a second lesson at this point in passing — a lesson of diligence. I know not how God means to meet and to summon you, if, as in Moses' case, He has special service in store for you; but I am sure of this, that revelations of special service are given only in the midst of conscientious application to ordinary duty.
3. Learn here yet a third truth — a lesson of constant watchfulness. For though Moses was at the time unexpectant, he was not upon that account heedless. His mind was in sympathy with the spiritual and eternal, and his eye was kept open to discern it: Be sure that, for all his industry in his worldly calling, the mood of Moses was such that no indication or hint could escape him from the world that is unseen and Divine. And let us take that spirit along with us, if, like Moses, we would find the lights and the beacons of God on our path — a spirit of devout and careful attention, of inquiry, and of vigilant thought.
4. The lesson of reverence is needed too. While the secret of the Lord is for those that seek Him, it is also for those that fear Him.
5. Holy diffidence. Much of the best work with which the Church has been served has been rendered by men who, like Moses, were at first overcome by the thought of it, and would fain have drawn back had Providence permitted. Take the example of the great pioneer of the Church in Scotland — the leader of its glorious exodus from the superstition and tyranny of popery to the heritage which God had prepared for it, in the light wherewith His Spirit illumines, and the liberty wherewith His truth makes free. When Knox was called to the pastorate of the church of St. Andrews, and the first step was disclosed to him of a road that led onwards to service and fame, we read that a strange thing happened. The audience were gathered, the service was proceeded with, the wish of the people was announced by the officiating minister, and echoed back as he spoke by the cries of the people themselves. But when Knox rose to speak in return, he broke clown into tears, left the meeting-place abruptly, and enclosed himself in the privacy of his house; "and from that day," as the chronicler tells of him, "till the day he presented himself to preach, his countenance and behaviour did sufficiently declare the grief and the trouble of his heart, for no man saw any sign of mirth from him, neither had he pleasure to accompany any man for days together." Such feelings of diffidence and misgiving will a true man feel whensoever he is honoured with special service; nor, if he is wise, will he seek to repress it.
II. THE REVELATION OF THE CHANGELESS GOD. Nothing will establish the Church, nothing will support and encourage its leaders in times of trial such as those through which Israel was passing, like the thought of the changelessness of God, and in especial the changelessness and eternity of His love, of which trials, however grievous, and temptations, however scorching, form only a brief and a passing phase. The processes God employs may be many, but the principle He acts on is one. The manifestations He makes of Himself may be various, but the character that underlies them is the same.
(W. A. Gray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.