God's unexpected interruptions lead to his burning call.
A long beginning
Try to look at this thing from Moses' point of view: it was all just so, well, implausible. Oh, yes, there had been the dramatic circumstances of his early childhood—the threatened baby, hidden as long as possible by his mother and then set afloat in a little basket-boat, in hopes that somehow he might survive: one pictures the desperate contemporary mother leaving her baby on the doorstep of a stranger, hiding in the bushes, watching, desperately hoping that the doorstep was a good one. Moses hit the lottery that time: what could be better than to be rescued by Pharaoh's daughter and reared with every privilege. It was as if that contemporary mother had somehow gotten her child to the very steps of the White House, and Mrs. Obama took a fancy to him. A happy ending, fit for Sunday School stories for ages to come.
Except that wasn't the ending. Not yet. Moses still, somehow, identified with his own people—he was not really an Egyptian; he was a Hebrew; and his first attempt at providing some deliverance for his people didn't go so well. Killing Egyptians was frowned upon, even when done by Pharaoh's adopted son, who was soon a felon on the lam. He landed in Midian, married the daughter of a Midianite priest, and ended up as the shepherd tending his father-in-law's flocks—a job a bit shy of what one might have supposed to be his potential. All the bright promise of his miraculous youth had come to this—tending somebody else's sheep: an outcome that has almost no potential as fodder for the children's sermon or, for that matter, for the motivational speaker's barrel.
Oh, I know, that wasn't the ending, either. But linger here awhile. Moses had to. Forty years. Forty years tending those ...
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Dr. Marguerite Shuster is Senior Professor of Preaching and Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Harold John Ockenga Professor Emerita of Preaching and Theology.