When Moses was 40 years old he got a notion to work toward saving his fellow Jewish people from cruel slavery. He figured he could, by his own strength and eloquence free the Israelites. But Moses was a ahead of God’s plan. He was still too proud, too young and strong for God to use him. He’s trying to fix lives that God isn’t ready to fix yet. and he really needs his own life fixed first. Moses ended up murdering a man and he had to flee for his life. It’s never a good thing to get ahead of God. It means He is no longer leading, you are, and that’s a very dangerous place to be, out ahead of God.
So Moses is now a broken man, sought by the law and not even welcomed by the people he wants to save. Off to the desert he flees and to the Land of Midian for forty more years. There he gets married and helps his Father-in-Law tend sheep. This is a far place from the Egyptian palace he grew up in. But God humbles only to exult us. It took another forty years, but Moses was finally weak enough and defendant enough for God to use him. Has not St. Paul written that power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). We have to be weak and dependent enough for God to really use us. Only when we discover our limits and our need for God are we “safe enough” for God to use. Moses needed to learn this paradox of perfect power. St. Paul writes elsewhere:
For it is written “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? ….Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor 1:18-31 selected)
God couldn’t use or call Moses as long as he was among the “wise and powerful” of this world, as long as he drew his strength from his status as a member of Pharaoh’s household. No, first God had to help Moses become a fool to this world, despised, no longer influential , no longer of noble birth. It took forty years in the desert but now it was accomplished. So, at Age 80(!) God calls to Moses from the Burning Bush and sends him to “let my people go.” Most of us aren’t thinking of doing great things at 80. We’re settling in for the last pages of our life. And Moses tries to get out of it. But the time has come. Now Moses is ready and God is ready too.
Do you understand the moral of this story? A lot of us are trying to fix other people in our lives when God wants to fix us first. Moses was too proud and strong to help at age forty. Now he is fixed and ready to go. He is humble enough to be used by God. He is aware of his limits, that he is slow of speech, that he stutters and is not eloquent or persuasive. He is now weak enough to be strong for now the power of God will rest upon him (cf 2 Cor 12:9) You don’t have to wait to be perfect to help in fixing others. But to be most effective we have to let God work on us too. The more fixed you are the more effective you are.
Moses lived on to be 120 years old. But in the last 1/3 of his life he never went anywhere without the Staff of God in his hand. He was humble enough now that he had to lean on that staff and depend wholly on the strength of God. WE think we are most effective in the prime of our life when we are on the “top of our game” but the story of Moses says otherwise. We have to be weak and humble to lean on God. Moses’ power came in his weakness, his leaning on and dependence upon the Staff of God. My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. (2 Co 12:10). A paradox to be sure, a paradox of power made perfect.
This video features Louis Armstrong’s version of “Go Down Moses.” The Cartoon is interesting but has on major flaw. It presents Moses as a young Man. He was not. He was 80 years old when God called him: