Andrew preached an excellent message yesterday on Moses’ flight to Midian. If those words – “flight to Midian” – bring to mind Moses waiting impatiently at Gate B22 to catch the first plane from Cairo to Qurayyah, you’re on to something. Exodus 2:15 covers a lot of ground (literally): “When Pharaoh heard [that Moses killed an Egyptian], he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian…”
The sparse text (and the image you might have from The Prince of Egypt) might make it seem like Moses ran until he was out of breath. But Midian is all the way across the Arabian Peninsula, on the other side of the Red Sea, at least 750 kilometers away!
To say that Moses was out of his element is an understatement. Sometimes that’s what it takes for God to shape us.
Even writing that short sentence can make it seem all too quick and easy. I’m referring to shaping, as in geological time, like the way a canyon is formed, like the way mountains rise. I’m guessing that’s more like what Moses experienced in Midian.
Shaping is a prominent idea in life…and in the Bible: God forms the world out of chaos. Moses is shaped in Midian. Israel is shaped in the wilderness, and in exile in Babylon. We are to be formed into the image of Christ, and he is formed in us (Galatians 4:19). We are all being shaped – profoundly, slowly – by the forces and experiences that act upon us.
It’s all very humbling. To be shaped puts us into the passive the way a valley is passive in relation to the glacier. It seems as if we have no say in the matter. Moses almost certainly felt this way as he looked around himself at the unyielding, unending landscape of Midian.
But we do have a crucial part to play in the shaping: we can choose, over and over and day after day, what we will allow to shape us.