SPECIAL NOTE: In honor of the holiday season, the blog post will NOT be published again, until Friday, January 10, 2020.
Today, we look more closely at the life of Moses, the most humble man who ever lived, except for Jesus. I hope the question on everyone’s mind is what made Moses so humble? In discovering his secret, we, too, may be made humble by following in his footsteps.
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. -Numbers 12:3
HOW DID MOSES BECOME THE MOST HUMBLE MAN ON EARTH?
Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody. –D.L. Moody
Way back when we started this section on “Love is Not Proud,” I wrote about Moses.
Adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ privileged position gave him wealth, education and connections. The most powerful nation on Earth at the time raised him up to be a strong and proud man! Believing God had called him to deliver His people, the Israelites, Moses did what he was trained to do. The strong man tried to deliver them by his own power. Consequently, his first attempt failed miserably. He killed an Egyptian, who beat up an Israelite, and buried him in the sand.
The next day, as Moses tried to get in between two fighting Israelites, one of them confronted him about this murder, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14)
When Pharaoh tried to kill Moses, after hearing about the incident, but Moses fled to Midian. His flight into the desert started the next 40-year season of his life. (Exodus 2:11-15)
THE WILDERNESS IS THE PLACE OF TESTING
What’s most remarkable about Moses’ time in the wilderness is how much we don’t know! I mean, this is where God discipled Moses, where God cultivated humility in him to stay in a low place, even at the head of the line, in the spotlight, with power and authority over millions of people. How come God didn’t spell it out for us??
As we think about how dangerous and damaging pride is, it becomes ever more important to cultivate humility in our lives. As a result, I find myself wanting to cry out to God: “What made Moses so humble?!”
There’s something about the hidden years in a person’s life that reminds me of being formed in the womb, in the secret place. It’s where God makes a new person out of us!
Jesus also had his hidden years. From ages 12-30, we don’t hear anything about his life. All we know is that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) Later on, to prove Jesus was ready for ministry, the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In the end, Jesus triumphed over the devil during His testing time. (Matthew 4:1-11)
GOD PREPARES PEOPLE IN THE WILDERNESS YEARS
Other examples can be seen throughout the Bible.
- Joseph had his time in a barren desert of separation from his family, slavery, false accusations, imprisonment. He was a stranger in a strange land, seemingly far from his youthful dreams of glory. (Genesis 37-50)
- David, too, had his time running for his life through the wilderness to escape the murderous Saul. (1 Samuel 21-31)
- John the Baptist lived and prepared himself in the desert, until the day he started his ministry. (Matthew 3:1) After his miraculous birth recorded in Luke 1, we don’t hear another thing about John the Baptist’s life, until he starts crying out in the wilderness.
- The Apostle Paul spent fourteen years in a hidden place, being prepared by God. (Galatians 2:1)
In the examples given, we know more about what happened with Joseph and David than the others. We can read about the trajectory of Joseph’s life in Genesis, through spotlighted accounts here and there, but the bulk of which we still don’t know.
Since so much has been written about David’s life and through David’s heart (in the Psalms), we have a better understanding of his training through the wilderness.
Regardless, God seems to work individually with each person, and most of the work done is hidden from us.
Yes, I’m sure there are countless books outlining “steps towards humility,” many of which I’m sure are helpful. But, God still needs to do a work in us. Being prepared and cultivating the character necessary in a person’s life seems to go deeper than any number of podcasts, teaching series, books and formulas for success. God can work in conjunction with these things, but he still needs his time with us in the desert.
The bottom line: we all have to go through a process of preparation.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU SKIP OUT ON BEING PREPARED IN THE WILDERNESS
Unfortunately, many Christians have crashed and burned, due to promotion, success and spotlight they were not prepared for and that had come too soon. As we know from previous blog posts, God has embedded types and shadows of different kinds of people in the Bible. If we are wise, we will learn lessons from their life stories.
King Saul is the example of the UNPREPARED LEADER!
Saul, the first king of Israel, never had a time of testing in the wilderness. He never went through God’s process of preparing a person for their calling. As a result, he was insecure and jealous! He viciously clung to his power and position, and tried to hunt down and kill his only competition, David, the shepherd king God had intended to give to Israel. Unlike Saul, God would prepare David through the testing and rigors of the wilderness. We know from Biblical history that David became a very different kind of king as a result.
How did Saul come to power?
The people rejected God as their king and demanded a king like the other nations. (1 Samuel 8) Though it grieved God’s heart, God gave them what they wanted. Saul’s name means “demanded” or “desired.” (Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary; Blue Letter Bible App). In other words, we can prop someone up in positions of authority, leadership and glory, before God’s will and time, when we follow the world’s way of doing things. We can even choose the wrong person, because of considerations antithetical to the way God thinks and acts.
How many unprepared leaders, as a result, have been chosen by man instead of God, because of their outward appearance: experience, influence, connections, followers, charisma, talents, speaking skills, etc.? How many of them crack and fall apart when tested by hard things?
Though Saul had a low estimation of himself at the beginning, he still was the kind of man men would have chosen. He was head and shoulders above everyone in Israel and very handsome. (1 Samuel 15:17; 1 Samuel 9:1-2) A dashing king, he cut a grand figure in his royal robes. The people were smitten. They didn’t care about process. They finally felt like every other nation. From the outside, Saul looked the part and was, therefore, perfect for the role.
Yet, this is what God told Samuel after Saul had failed. Samuel was about to anoint David’s eldest brother king, due to his appearance, instead of David, the youngest boy in the family.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. –1 Samuel 16:7
ANOINTING CAN ONLY GO SO FAR
Saul not only looked like a force to be reckoned with, he was also anointed by God to do the job. Most people would ask, “Isn’t that enough?”
Apparently not, judging from the course and end of King Saul’s life.
Saul was anointed king first by Samuel the prophet, which was customary.
Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?…” –1 Samuel 10:1
Later on that day, the Spirit of God encountered Saul so powerfully that he changed into a different person. (1 Samuel 10:6)
Let’s review! Saul had the outward appearance, which metaphorically can apply to everything man would look at to evaluate someone’s worth. (Check!) Saul was anointed for the job. (Check!) Saul had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that changed him into another person. (Check!)
And, yet, something very vital was missing! The training and preparation that took forty years for Moses was completely missing in Saul’s life.
THE PROCESS MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Here are some things to consider! Note: Throughout this section, I’ve made general statements, which are true to the Biblical text and characters.
1. Moses was humble, persevering and longsuffering with a stubborn, complaining group of Israelites. King Saul strove to keep his kingship at all costs, even by disobeying God, consulting the dead (a no-no for God) and attempting to murder an innocent man.
2. Both Moses and Saul saw themselves as “little in their own eyes” when God approached them for leadership. (Exodus 4:10-13; 1 Samuel 15:17) God had prepared Moses by breaking down his pride, whereas Saul retained all the insecurities of a common man who looked through the eyes of the world. God used the process of Moses’ time in the wilderness to transform him from the inside out, whereas Saul’s one time encounter with the Spirit changed him from the outside in, to whatever degree it affected him at a foundational level.
3. Moses came to this place of natural and spiritual poverty after forty years of molding, shaping and testing in the wilderness. Instead of being proud, arrogant and full of himself, Moses now felt inadequate for what God had called him to do.
4. Saul, on the other hand, had to struggle with all of the fault lines and widening cracks of his unchanged nature from within. Even though he was a “changed person,” Saul still had a broken and inadequate foundation, which was unable to carry the pressures of his calling.
5. Moses ended up caring about the people and his relationship with God more than his position of authority, power and leadership. Saul ended up protecting his kingship over and above the welfare of his people and his relationship with God.
6. Despite the enormous responsibility, pressures and disobedience of the Israelites, Moses was able to walk through every situation without unraveling. But, Saul was constantly plagued with jealousy, insecurity and even demonic harassment.
7. Moses succeeded in bringing millions of people to the edge of the promised land. He handed the baton to Joshua, who then led them to conquer the territory God had given them as an inheritance. In the end, Saul died an inglorious death by falling on his sword after having been defeated in battle. (1 Samuel 31:4)
Two very different tracks of leadership. Two very different leaders. Two very different legacies. One leader went through a process of preparation and the other didn’t.
THE FOUNDATION DEPENDS ON THE HEIGHT AND WEIGHT OF YOUR CALLING
God’s time and process of preparation can also be seen as building a foundation for a building. Since God already knows your calling and destiny and how he will use you, he prepares your life by building the necessary foundation.
Obviously, a fifty story building will need a deeper, stronger foundation than a two story building. Metaphorically, the fifty story building will require deeper digging, with longer amounts of time, material and process to build a strong enough foundation to bear the weight of the calling. This may explain why some of you have been waiting longer to start your ministry or calling. God hasn’t forgotten about you, like Moses also may have felt at times. He’s still building that foundation. And, some day, He’ll crown the work He’s done in your life, by placing the weight of His God-given ministry upon you.
God took forty years to make Moses into the servant leader he’d become, because he had a massive calling, where he’d have to bear huge weights of pressure and responsibility. God sledgehammered and destroyed the old rotten Egyptian foundation out from under him, and put in its place a new foundation, characterized by dependency on God, godly character and a strong sense of humility. The time and effort spent digging and drilling and pouring in a new foundation made this transformation possible.
GOD WILL PREPARE YOU, IF YOU’LL LET HIM
Last week, I mentioned how God will raise up a worthy, equally-yoked bride for His Son. In the book of Revelation, we read that the Bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7) By that time, she will have gone through the process of being prepared and trained in the wilderness.
Is it any wonder that at the end of Song of Solomon, a book describing a bride’s journey, God gives us a preview of the end of His story?
Who is this coming up from the WILDERNESS leaning on her beloved? –Song of Solomon 8:5 (Caps mine)
That will be us, my friends, if we’re willing to go through the process. God not only wants to prepare us for our callings, individually, He’s preparing us to judge angels and rule nations.
Consider: What kind of foundation will it take to bear the weight of that skyscraper?
Just in general, God has already called us to have the right foundation underneath our lives: the rock of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 7: 24-27, Jesus encourages us, in a parable to build our house on the rock instead of the sand. But, first, we must dig deep to find this rock in order to lay our foundation on it. (Luke 6:48) Not everyone is willing to take the time and effort to go through this process of time with God, deep Bible study, and transformation by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:1-2)
The storms of life will undoubtedly come to test us to see how we have prepared. Moreover, there will be huge storm of coming on the horizon called the End Times, and everything that entails. Ironically, the future turbulent times will not only test us, but they will be part of the process God uses to prepare us.
SO, HOW CAN WE HELP PREPARE OURSELVES?
Just like God knew how to prepare Moses for the pinnacle of power, authority and leadership, by making him the meekest man in the world, God knows how to prepare us not only to be humble, but to arise as the future glorious Bride of Christ. But, we need to say yes to His process of preparation. We need to see why it’s necessary and not be distracted and seduced by all the flashing, shiny trinkets of our modern world! If He hasn’t already, God will come knocking on our door to lead us out into the wilderness.
Yes, most of this process is hidden, even to us, as we’re being made in the secret place.
But, I do believe there may be GUIDELINES to follow by using the examples found in the Bible.
For example, God delivered the Israelites from Egypt to lead them through the wilderness in order to prepare them to enter into the Promised Land. We follow a similar journey. We can use the larger points of their PROCESS as an outline.
- We have to leave Egypt as they did. This is the starting point. You can’t go into the wilderness to worship God, unless you’re willing to leave Egypt, which is a symbol of the world. Many Christians try to live both in Christ and in the world. They may go to Church, but the other six days they carry around with them a worldly mindset. They may not realize it, but they live with a slave mentality. They think like the world, without realizing that the world is in bondage to the devil’s lies, deception and darkness. We must make a clean break from it! The Passover lamb has been slaughtered, the blood has been brushed over the doorpost and all that’s left is to make our getaway! (Exodus 12)
- We trust God to lead us through the wilderness, the place of testing and encounter, to make us into His people. Though outwardly barren, God used the wilderness to encounter His people like never before! He supernaturally guided them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He revealed his terrifying majesty with a loud voice coming from a mountain burning with fire. He fed them manna (bread) from heaven and quenched their thirst with water from a rock. Furthermore, God married Israel in that hard, barren place. (Exodus 13 and following)
God wanted to break both the love of the world and a slave mentality off of His people! In the desert, He taught them His Word, His Ways, His Power and His Promises!
Some important lessons!
- God’s people had to learn how to feed daily on God’s word, as pictured by the manna dropping from heaven. It was as important as having food to eat every day. (Exodus 16)
- God taught His people how to be led by Him alone, not by their “bright ideas,” impatience, urgency of the moment, circumstances or a host of other things. When the cloud or pillar moved, they moved. And when it stopped, they stopped, for however long. It could’ve been a day, several months, two years, etc. They weren’t in control of their direction, stops, pace or timing. (Exodus 13:20; Numbers 9:15-23)
- Yet, with all of this training, God’s people still had to learn how to trust God, in the form of faith and obeying God’s voice! Whenever they disobeyed or fell into unbelief, or complained about their circumstances, troubled ensued. (Hebrews 3:15-19)
And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. –Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV)
- Ultimately, we allow God to prepare us to inherit the promised land! Because God’s promises to each of us are different, as far as our individual callings are concerned, my “promised land” will look different from yours. But, each one of us, has territories to conquer and make our own. We will have fortified cities, giants, battles and our own fears and inadequacies to overcome in order to inherit the land God has already promised to give us.
Suffice it to say, each one of these sections can make a whole series of its own.
But, when it comes our time to enter in, God will still be preparing us as He did the ancient Israelites.
- circumcising our flesh to become sensitive to God and the Holy Spirit (Joshua 5:2-9)
- death to self, as symbolized by passing through the Jordan River on dry ground, with the ark of the covenant (Joshua 4)
- studying, meditating and declaring the Word of God as our only means for success (Joshua 1:1-9)
- being led by God’s voice and the Holy Spirit, instead of tradition, what circumstances dictate, common sense, “expert opinion,” etc., etc. (Joshua 6:1-5)
Moses’ story shows how God used the wilderness to fundamentally transform Moses into another person from the inside out, not the outside in. God told the Israelites He led them through the wilderness in order to HUMBLE them and TEST them. (Deuteronomy 8:2) God had worked on Moses through a process, which lasted for forty years. We each, in turn, must all go through our own process with God in the wilderness, if we are to be properly prepared and, of course, humbled. Since God is a perfect leader over our lives, we can trust Him.
Our callings and destinies depend on going through whatever process God has for us!
Since there were many verse and passages covered in this blog post, there are a lot of areas to explore here!
We will continue “Love is Not Proud” after the holiday season on Friday, January 10, 2020. Merry Christmas, everyone! Meditate on Christ and exalt His Name during this season! In the midst of the busyness, please consider stealing away and spending time gazing upon the baby Jesus! Ponder afresh on what it all means! There is more that God wants to reveal to you!
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
1. Do a study of Moses’ life before and after his time in the wilderness? Make a before and after chart. He changed from a proud, strong and wealthy man to a man who felt inadequate and, therefore, dependent on God. Concentrate your study on Exodus chapters 2-4, but also realize there are other verses in the Bible that give us more information about Moses, including verses from the New Testament, especially Acts 7:22 and Hebrews 11:23-39. (Note: there’s an indication of Moses’ sacrifice in Egypt, due to his faith and identification with the people of God in the book of Hebrews. Could it have been that Moses had a strong faith, while being proud and self-sufficient at the same time? Hmmm.)
2. How did Moses’ initial view of deliverance differ from God’s view of deliverance? How did Moses’ ways and power differ from what was actually needed for the situation: God’s deliverance His Way using His Power and Wisdom?
3. Why do you think God prepares us for our callings in the hidden years in secret places? Do you see a pattern of preparation in the lives of the characters in the Bible? We mentioned last week how repeated patterns signal God’s ways of dealing with His people. How has your life been a story of hidden preparation? Does this way of looking at things explain some of the trials, hardship and waiting you have had to endure in your life? Journal your thoughts and pray over what God reveals to you.
4. Choose one or more Bible characters listed in this blog post to study further. Think of the before and after of God’s preparation in the wilderness and the hidden years. For example, study the life of Joseph or David or John the Baptist or the Apostle Paul. How were they successful in doing the will of God, despite whatever obstacles they had to face? Was it largely because of the character qualities God produced in them through the wilderness process? If a preparation process was visible in their lives, journal the things God had used to help them become who they needed to be. (For example, Joseph not only was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was later falsely accused and unjustly sent to prison. How did those trials ultimately build his character?)
5. Do you agree with my conclusions about Saul, that he was an example of an unprepared leader? Why or why not? How can things like outward appearance, job qualifications, natural talent, popular choice and the Spirit’s anointing not be enough, sometimes, to fulfill your calling in God’s way? Does the modern Church choose its leaders more dependent on the outward appearance OR God’s choice and ways of preparation?
6. Take some time and commit to going through God’s process of preparation for your life. Pray and ask God to take you (or continue to take you) through this process. Be prepared to say “yes,” when God calls you into the wilderness!
7. Study the parable of the builders in Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:47-49, who either built their house on the rock or on the sand. Think through this passage.
Here are some questions to stir your thinking: What kind of effort does it take to build your house on the sand? Is there any extra preparation needed before you start building? What does it mean to dig deep to find the rock?” How would digging deep apply to my life personally? My true inner ways of thinking and believing?
What would I have to do to build my house on the rock in every area of my life?
8. Think through the “So, how can we help prepare ourselves?” section.
Do you see a parallel between the ancient Israelites and our lives today?
Everybody may be at a different place through this process. Regardless, think through some action steps for yourself.
- For example, if I know I’m still attached to the world and think, do, say, love as the world does, what steps can I take to make an exodus from the world?
- What if the world has less sway in my life, but I don’t like the idea of going through the wilderness with God? How can I reframe the wilderness experience in order to be motivated to go through God’s process of preparing His people? How would I emphasize the wilderness not only as a place of testing, but as a place of ENCOUNTER? Feeding on God’s Word, being led by the Spirit, cooperating with God to cultivate humility in my life, hearing God’s voice, entering into greater intimacy, etc.
- Maybe, I feel close to God bringing me to the border of my promised land. What steps can I take to sanctify myself beforehand? How can I circumcise my flesh, die to self, become utterly dependent on God’s Word and learn how to be led by God’s voice and Spirit in order to receive His battle plans and strategies? If I’m going to enter into God’s promises for my life, I still have to depend on God and not my own ways of thinking, planning and doing.
Ultimately, to begin and continue in this PROCESS, we need to come to a place where we value the things of God MORE THAN the things of the world. If we’re not there yet, then, maybe, that’s where we need to start. The Apostle Paul said that it was through the cross that he had died to things of the world. (Galatians 6:14)
What’s important to note here is that these things go in order! I can’t be at step three, if I haven’t completed step one. Do you see why preparing oneself and allowing God to prepare you is a PROCESS!https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+6&version=CEB
9. Reread the blog post and look up/study any other verses or passages noted.