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From Somebody to Nobody

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Exodus 2:11–25; 3

God uniquely prepares each one of us to serve Him where He places us. Forty years in Egypt’s royal household was only part of Moses’ preparation for his greatest work. The Lord had to take him into the desert to teach him further lessons from serving as a humble shepherd.


“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.” That oft-repeated quote from D. L. Moody pretty much sums up Moses’ life.


Over these next two study sessions, we’re going to observe several different attitudes that are going to hinder Moses from serving the Lord. Along the way, like me, you just might recognize yourself in some of these attitudes.


The first attitude hindering Moses’ availability to serve God’s purposes is an attitude that effectively announces, “I am invincible.”


We are told in Exodus chapter 2 and verse 10 that Moses grew up as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Over in Acts 7:22 we are informed that “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”


Egypt was no primitive, backwater place; in fact, it was the Oxford University of the ancient world. Archaeologists have discovered that instruction in the “wisdom of the Egyptians” included training in everything from mathematics and chemistry to engineering, science, and the art of war. And as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses would have been educated at the highest levels. 


With such training, Moses had every reason to believe that he could, in fact, deliver his people, the children of Israel. And we know that Moses never lost the sense of who he really was. Here in verse 11 we read:


One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.


Moses knew he truly belonged to the nation of Israel—these were his people. And now, at age forty, Moses evidently thinks it’s time to fight for a little freedom, because we are told here in verse 12, “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”


The problem is that Moses has run ahead of God. It isn’t time for God to free Israel, and frankly, Moses isn’t ready to lead them. In fact, he’s forty years ahead of the will of God.


Well, Pharaoh discovers what Moses has done and immediately seeks to kill him. Verse 15 tells us Moses has to run for his life, and he doesn’t stop running until he reaches the land of Midian, several hundred miles away. Moses thought he was invincible, but God isn’t going to use him until he is humble and ready to be a servant-leader. PQ


So, Moses settles in Midian and marries a shepherd girl named Zipporah. What a drastic change for Moses—he’s come from the palaces of Egypt to the plains of Midian. Here he will live the simple life of a shepherd for the next forty years.


In chapter 3 now, Moses is shepherding his flock at the foot of Mount Horeb, another name for Mount Sinai. He suddenly sees a little bush on fire, but the bush isn’t being consumed. Verse 4 says, “God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’” 


God tells him to take off his sandals because this is holy ground. In other words, this is God’s ground—this is God’s earth.


God then speaks to Moses in verses 7-8:


“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt . . . I have come down to 

deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to 

a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”  


“Flowing with milk” refers to rich pastureland where the herds will produce milk like a gushing fountain. The land will flow with milk, as well as honey. This is not bees’ honey; this is a reference to the sweet nectar of dates from the date palm tree. This tree, even today, stands as a symbol of Israel’s fertile lands.


Then God gives a surprising commission to Moses in verse 10: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” I can imagine Moses catching his breath and saying, “Lord, I thought You said You were going to deliver Your people! How did that turn into me delivering them?”


Moses says in verse 11, “Who am I … that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” Earlier, Moses thought he was invincible, but now he thinks he’s insignificant—too insignificant for God to use.


God doesn’t tell him to build up his self-image and just believe in himself. No, none of that kind of nonsense. 


What God does say here in verse 12 is this: “I will be with you.” The truth is, nobody is insignificant. God can use any of us but only as we remember what Jesus told His disciples: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 


The promise God gave to Moses is the same promise He has given to us in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That’s a promise you and I are going to need today as we lean on, and learn from, the Lord. 


There’s a third attitude that gets in the way of Moses serving the Lord, and it basically says, “Lord, I’m ignorant.”


In Exodus 3:13, Moses says to God:


“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me 

to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”


In other words, he says, “I tried to help my people forty years ago, and they didn’t appreciate it. All it got me was exiled. Now I’m supposed to show up and tell them, ‘God sent me’? They’re not going to believe that! And what if they ask me the simplest question, like, “What is God’s name?” 


Moses is saying, “I’m not smart enough for this job!” The Lord responds by teaching him:


God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (verse 14).


“I am,” comes from the Hebrew verb hayah, which gives us God’s name—Yahweh, or as it’s often written in English, Jehovah. God says, “Tell them my name is the Ever-present One. I don’t just exist in the past or in the future—I am the God of the present.”


Beloved, let me tell you that Satan loves to trap us somewhere in the past or keep us worried about the future so he can distract us from the peace of trusting God in the present. God is the great I AM. He says, “I am with you right now.”


God essentially tells Moses, “Look, you don’t have to know all the answers. I just want you to know Me. I want you to follow Me. Forget about yesterday; don’t worry about tomorrow; follow Me today.”


What’s your hope as a mom or dad in parenting? What are you trusting in to help you in that career or ministry? Are you demanding answers from God or trusting in the presence of God today?


Remember, Moses spent forty years convinced he was somebody and then forty years thinking he was a nobody; but now, as the next forty years of his life begin to unfold, God will begin making somebody out of nobody. He can do the same for you and me as we walk with Him today.


Moses still has more objections. We’ll cover those in our next study together.

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