It was kind of interesting that last Monday our Governor used the words, The COMEBACK to describe the plan to reopen our state. A few of you messaged me to say he must have listened to last weeks message. While I highly doubt that, I do believe God can speak to multiple people on the same theme at the same time no matter what their role may be in the life of any given community. His words about COMEBACK were confirmation to me that God gave me the series we are in and that what will be happening in our state as we reopen in phases, parallels some spiritual happenings that are about to take place in many hearts and lives. In other words, what is happening in the physical is a sign of things that God is also at work to prepare us for and they deal with a return or COMEBACK of His people. Take that for what you think it is worth and pray about it.
When we left Moses last week, he had fled from Egypt and landed in Midian. He had witnessed a terrible injustice, got very angry over it, impulsively took matters into his own hands, killed an Egyptian slave master who was beating one of the Hebrew slaves and attempted to cover it up by hiding the body in the sand. The day after that, Moses decided to step in when he witnessed a fight between two of his fellow Hebrews and he called the guy down that he believed was in the wrong. When he set himself up as the judge that situation it didn’t go well, and he learned that the murder he had committed the previous day had actually been found out. That news was subsequently leaked to Pharaoh. At that point, he had messed up with his adopted family, the Pharaohs family, and he had messed up with his biological people, the Hebrews, and had to run for his life.
He ran to Midian, and when he arrived there he was given an opportunity to save some damsels in distress who were being harassed by some shepherds near a well. This was the start to his COMEBACK story. One of those damsels in distress became his wife and they had two sons. The New Testament tells us that Moses was in Midian for 40 years and became a shepherd of his father-in-law’s sheep. Instead of leaving Moses alone in the desert, God gave Moses a new family, one that would help further prepare him for his COMEBACK. Look at Exodus 3:1-22 1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian,
I submit to you that when God is readying you for a COMEBACK you will find yourself in places you had not intended to be surrounded by people you had not previously known or considered could help. Both will be preparation for your COMEBACK.
For Moses, the place of his preparation was a PASTURE.
Remember, God was preparing Moses to become a leader of the Israelite nation. How did God prepare him for that assignment by placing him in a pasture with sheep? Well, he was going to have some good alone time to think wasn’t he? Sometimes one of the best things we can do on the heels of failure is to get alone with our thoughts to think about our contribution to the setbacks we suffer. Time alone with his thoughts would be good for Moses.
Now remember, Moses had grown up in the palace. What could he know about the pasture life? I hardly doubt that sheep herding 101 was part of his educational curriculum. He would have to learn about how to find places to water a flock in the desert, how to feed and protect sheep in a vulnerable pastureland. In addition, Moses would have to deal with the frustration that comes from having sheep want to wander off and do their own thing.
Those of you who know the rest of the story know that once Moses was able to secure the freedom of the Hebrews, the Israelite nation, he would lead them for another 40 years through some wilderness wanderings. He would have to figure out food and water for them. He would have to know about the hazards that come with living in harsh and vulnerable conditions. He would basically be “herding“ a couple million people for the last forty years of his life. I can see how shepherding would be good preparation.
Listen, when you find yourself in an unwanted place don’t assume it is a wasteland or a place without a purpose. It may be the very training ground for your next assignment, and if you have suffered a personal failure, it may be the perfect place for God to ready you for your COMEBACK.
It wasn’t because of a personal failure, but I found myself in an unwanted place for three years. It wasn’t a bad place, but it wasn’t the place I wanted to be. When God called me to preach and be the lead pastor of a church, I was ready to go, or so I thought. I informed my Senior Pastor of my call and intentions, and buddy, I was ready to put the house on the market. The pastor I worked with said why don’t we put some measures in place to get you ready? Get me ready? God had called me, what more needed to happen? He suggested I take over more administrative duties and do some more pastoral care. He said, Lets change your title and the focus of your current ministries to help you grow. He gave me an incredible opportunity to get ready in a place where people already knew and loved me and supported my ministry. While God was preparing me, God was preparing y’all for the likes of me. During that three year period, your previous senior pastor transitioned out, and you had a healthy interim time period which created a good environment for me as I came in to lead.
Even though it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with my call to preach, I was growing into the leader that God wanted me to be as I began with you. Listen, you may get wind of your COMEBACK months or even years before the appointed time. Don’t let the passing of time discourage you, but let it cause you to determine even more to work harder to prepare for the place God is taking you because if you are walking with God, you are always headed somewhere. Nothing is random. You aren’t just spinning your wheels or putting in your time. You are being prepared for greatness. Listen, I learned some things in those three years of additional pastoral duties that have been invaluable for me in this role. Because I waited on the place of Gods preparing and didn’t abandon my call or take another position that wasn’t the right fit, God has blessed me to pastor one of the most healthy and exciting churches in America. Talk about exceeding my expectations!
What is your place of preparation? Is it in a job that you don’t particularly like, but where you are learning some skills that will actually become the catalyst for you to get the next position? Is it in the classroom where you are studying something that seems to have no bearing on your future endeavors, but it is teaching you how to systematically study or is it refining your speaking or writing skills to make you the standout in the upcoming interview?
If you stay open to Gods leading, you can be assured that wherever He has you, wherever He leads you, you are on your way to a COMEBACK or a step up!
Back to verse 1 of chapter 3.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian.
Not only was God at work in the place of the pasture to prepare Moses, but He was also at work through the people that He placed in Moses life, namely his father-in-law, the priest! It wasn’t random that Moses wound up marrying the daughter of a priest. For forty years he would be in and around someone who was obviously devoutly religious. If his role in Midian was to be the priest, there would be sacrifices made and worship and teaching going on.
Scholars don’t agree on whether Jethro worshiped the one, true Living God when Moses met him, but it is likely. Jethro had two names. His other name, Reuel, which was used in Exodus 2 and 18, means “Friend of God,” and the fact that the Bible calls him by such is a good indicator to me that He did worship the God of Moses. Whether he did when they met or not, there is solid evidence he did after they met.
Exodus 18 talks about an exchange Moses and Jethro had after the Israelites were freed. Listen to the encounter beginning with verse 7 7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them. 9 Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God. Jethro was a priest who was all in for worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
We know Jethro was a man of good judgment. He gave Moses advice on how to govern the people once Moses took the helm. He suggested a way for Moses to organize the people and told Moses to appoint capable men to become judges over groups of people in order to lighten Moses’s load and Exodus 18:24 says, Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.
What does that tell you? It tells me that Moses respected his father-in-law, believed he was wise and that he could trust his counsel. Trust like that doesn’t happen overnight. Moses had grown to trust his father-in-law because during that forty-year period, his father-in-law had proven to be wise and had proven to be someone Moses could count on. Exodus 18 tells us that after Jethro gave his advice to Moses about how to lead the people, Jethro went back home to Midian. He supported Moses when Moses needed help and then he got out of the way and let Moses lead.
Why do I share all of that about Jethro? I share it because Jethro undoubtedly played a strategic role in Moses’s COMEBACK. How good was it of God to lead Moses to marry into a godly family? What did Moses learn about commitment to God and worship from his father-in-law? How strategic was it that God paired Moses with a father-in-law who made good decisions and knew when to step in and mentor Moses and when to let Moses lead?
They obviously had a healthy relationship, one that enabled Moses to learn to take some orders, to listen to some feedback, something he hadn’t done when he failed to lead appropriately when he had witnessed the injustice going on back home in Egypt. I am definitely not reaching when I say that the relationship Moses had with Jethro was a good one. It was a relationship that benefited and further prepared Moses to lead.
When you have a setback, be on the lookout for the people God wants to use to equip you for the next phase of your life. There are people you need to listen to and learn from. There are people who have good and godly advice that you would do well to follow. There are people whose lives you can study, whose habits you can take note of, and who you can learn from simply because of their example.
I believe Moses was led to Jethros house because Moses needed a mentor. Quite frankly, we all do. We can learn from the mistakes, the life experiences and the wisdom of others if we are willing to be taught. Proverbs 15 and 32 says that we gain understanding when we are willing to learn from others.
A teachable spirit is a stepping stone to a COMEBACK. What would have happened to Moses if he had not recognized the God-thing that his relationship with Jethro was? What if he dismissed Jethros advice and distanced himself from him? If Moses was going to be a leader, he would first have to learn how to follow, how to slow down and not rely on his impulses, but how to seek the wisdom of others.
Moses’ COMEBACK involved time in a pasture and time with the person of his father-in-law.
Look at all of Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Here we are again talking about a unique place. For some reason, Moses led his flock to the far side of the desert. Doesn’t that sound as if he was going beyond where he would need to? Wouldn’t that make for a longer walk back home? It is interesting to me that that detail is there, but what is even more intriguing is where he stopped. Do you see it? He stopped his flock at Horeb, the Mountain of God. What is this place, the Mountain of God?
Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai, the mountain where the Jewish nation would meet with God when they became free. There they would enter into a covenant with God. It would be the place where Moses would receive the Ten Commandments and all of the laws, rules and instructions for the people to abide by on their journey to the promised Land. It would be the first of many conversations with God at Mount Horeb! Somehow, Moses stumbled into Gods boardroom, the place where God revealed who He was to His people. Again, this new place was another sign of his COMEBACK.
What we see next is that God was going to propel Moses into his COMEBACK.
2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
This burning bush was unlike anything Moses had ever seen in the desert. This was a theophany, a God-sighting. God presented Himself as fire, a symbol of his holiness. Moses would approach God differently and encounter Him differently than he had ever experienced anyone Him or anyone else. God told Moses to keep some distance, indicating that there was a gap between God and man. They were not on an equal playing field. God was the One in charge in this situation and He had a message to deliver to Moses.
6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.
Do you see what God was doing? In that moment God was connecting with Moses’ sense of justice. It had been an injustice that had led Moses to do what he did. Even though he had gone about it the wrong way, his initial motivation and inclination was right and good. God was saying to Moses, “I see what you saw, Moses. I am concerned about the suffering you were concerned about, and the desperate situation of my people has caused them to seek My help. Here I am to help, Moses, but Moses, you are part of my plan to bring help. You are going back to Egypt, Moses. I am sending you back. Moses, ITS TIME FOR YOUR COMEBACK, and your COMEBACK will involve you going back to the place you fled.”
Gulp. Moses had gotten used to a different life. He was now content to do what he was doing. After all these years, God wanted him to go back? Oh God is the Great Disrupter, isn’t He? Just when we settle into a new normal, He says, “Let’s go! I have something bigger, something better. I have been preparing you for this moment, Moses.”
10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “WHO AM I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
You can almost read Moses’s thoughts. “Who am I? I am the guy who took matters into my own hands, and it backfired. I am the guy who tried to become the judge and jury of my own people, and it backfired. I am the guy who angered the Pharaoh to the point where I had to run for my life because he wanted to kill me. I am the guy who has been tending sheep for forty years. I am a nobody, that is who I am, and quite frankly, I am better with sheep than I am with people! I am a mess up, a screw up, a failure. You don’t want me talking to anyone, especially not the Pharaoh.” God was not deterred.
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” 13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
What God was saying to Moses was this, It doesn’t matter who you have been or who you think you are, because I am who I am, and I have determined that it is time for your COMEBACK.”
Our ability to step up or step into our COMEBACK will never be dependent on our track record, our reputation, our clout or our skill. It will always depend on Gods sovereign plan and His abiding presence. He said to Moses in verse 12, “I will be with you.“ Friends, your COMEBACK is a sure thing when you are escorted into it by the presence of God.
What are our takeaways?
Consider that your current pasture is a God-appointed placed of preparation for your COMEBACK.
Consider the people God may want to use to equip and mentor you for what is ahead.
Look for the supernatural signs that might indicate God is getting to propel you into your COMEBACK.
Get your eyes off of who you have been and what you have done and get your eyes onto the Great I Am who is readying you for your COMEBACK!