Whether it is fair to categorize Moses’ forty-year stay in Midian as an affliction or not, I don’t know. But, I would wager those forty years had haunting periods of doubt.
I suppose it’s possible a man exits who possessed power, position, and phenomenal possessions, lost it all, and never thought twice about his losses or looked back—but I doubt it. “Losing everything” isn’t worth noting if the loss is insignificant.
There is reluctance in Moses after forty years of herding sheep in the wilderness that is not evident when he is reigning in Egypt. The confident swagger of Egypt has slipped away like a desert mirage leaving a man embarrassed that he has a stutter.
On paper Moses was the perfect person to lead Israel—at least the Moses whose bedroom and dining table were in the Pharaoh’s palace. The shepherd Moses was an unlikely leader of people—and he knows it.
But the afflictions of Midian have swept away the detritus in Moses’ soul while multiplying his character. That was just what God wanted, and I’ll bet it became what Moses desired as well.
On an occasion or two God tried to tell Moses about the relationship between multiplication and affliction. In Exodus 4:21, it is made plain that Pharaoh was not going to be a willing tool in the hand of God—at first—yet, this would be an opportunity for God to reveal His power and deliverance.
Moses is just learning the principle though and still does not comprehend God’s way. He accuses God of not delivering the people as He promised. The accusation doesn’t appear to impact God’s plan any more than the letter I wrote to the Mayor affected his policies. Still, there is the accusation. Being a leader is hard work, especially when your employees or constituents don’t understand what you are doing and make accusations. I wonder if it is hard being God?
Even after spellbinding miracles—on a daily basis—the Bible notes God saying of Israel, “Yet, they didn’t know my ways.” But of Moses, scripture says God showed him His ways (Ps. 103:7).
Affliction yields multiplication. God never wastes a sorrow, but there are varying degrees of this multiplication because we, like Israel, can be prone to waste the sorrows God honors. Moses grows, changes, and embraces God’s initiative. As he progresses, he even overcomes the paralyzing anxiety of his speech impediment and speaks for God. This is noteworthy growth and courage in Moses. In addition, the divine humility by God is startling. The one who made the tongue is unfazed that His words are not articulately voiced by His stuttering spokesman.
Through his affliction, and during profound leadership challenges, a multiplication occurred in Moses. Initially, Moses talked with God in a bush that didn’t burn up. After some forty years in the wilderness, trying to lead a rebellious people, he talked with God face to face (Ex. 33:9-11).
And next, some thoughts about the guarantor of multiplication.