The 3 Phases Of Our Life
Scripture Reading: Acts 7:20-36
It is Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 that draws our attention to the three stages of Moses’ life: three stages that each last for forty years. We don’t all get to do what Moses did.
We don’t all get to be leaders with the influence that Moses had. But there is so much of Moses’ journey in life that God had meant it to be our journey. There is a lot of similarity in the way God deals with us as He dealt with Moses. Moses’ life is divided into three forty-year periods:
- Forty years in Pharaoh’s palace in Egypt
- Forty years in the desert in Midian
- Forty years in the wilderness as leader of Israel.
1 Forty years in Pharaoh’s palace in Egypt
Exodus 2:1-3;5-10 says
And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son, and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brank. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
The first forty years we see Moses growing up in Egypt. Moses’ birth, his escape from death, and all the events of his youth were under God’s direction. Moses’ birth was a very detailed description. I mean it describe his birth, that he was a goodly child, had to be hid because the army wants to kill him, his loud lung cry, hid in an ark of bulrushes floating on River Nile, Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing and found him, raised in Pharaoh’s court.
I always feel that my physical birth and especially my spiritual birth had been under God’s binocular and God had already started working in my life since birth and he uses appropriate means to accomplish His will in my life. My attending a Catholic School (I was the first to attend a catholic school in my family – because we are buddhist my elder brother and sister attended non catholic school), the courses I took in school, the college I attended were all under the direction of God. Moses is writing this account of His parents and of his own birth and it is a modest record. If given the opportunity, most of us especially the high society would want to tell about their family trees, their parents in detail, and their achievements. I remember that once I was in one of the Ayala Buildings.
In that ostentaious room, I saw a book of the Ayalas. Wow, it is a family trees of their beginnings, their achievements, all in details with photos. But Moses did not even mention his parents by name. They were ordinary people. They were in slavery. They were members of a certain clan. That is all Moses says. You and I should thank God that we are ordinary that we can be included in God’s plan. But the thing I want you to note is that Moses is a miracle child. Of course he didn’t know until he fulfilled God’s plan. He became that great Moses we see on television or portraits, with the glow of God, in stately poise, holding that two tablets of the Ten Commandments. A real miracle child. We are also miracle child.
God said to Jeremiah 1:5
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Before you were born, God had already determined that you would be a somebody. Just as God had a life plan for Moses, so he does for every person. His goal is for us to live in accordance with his will and to allow him to fulfill his plan in us. God’s plan always works for our greatest good. Our birth, especially spiritual birth is detailed, planned and under the close scrutiny of God.
I was watching a discovery channel or national geographic channel about this Japanese man who climb Mount Everest since he was a youth and he climbed untold times; I think at least 50 times. Wow just to climb once, it was a already a national achievement. Every year trekker to Mount Everest would see him climbing Mount Everest. Until finally at the age of 76, it was his last climb because he was too old and he nearly died in the cold mountain top. It talks about man always wanting to search, achieve, pursue, finding that purpose in life. Well when we know that we are miracle child, our physical birth and spiritual birth has been in God’s plan, we will be able to find total fulfillment in our purpose for life. And our life will surely be much more meaningful than just climbing Mount Everest.
A lady by the name of Bonnie rushed into a pastor’s office wanting to see him immediately and the atmosphere was charged with a sense of significance. When she finally saw the Pastor, she said ‘Another miracle’. You see, when Bonnie was sixteen, a doctor told her that she was incomplete as a woman and would never have children. I suppose that was the doctor’s way of talking to a sixteen year old girl. He communicated to her that normal female functioning was not taking place, and she simply would not be able to bear children. Bonnie was a popular young woman and dated a lot, but when any serious relationship began to develop, in fairness she shared the fact that she could not have children.
Any romantic relationships usually ended at that point. But then she met Ron, a Methodist preacher. They soon loved each other deeply. She shared the news about her inability to bear children. Ron was so much in love with her that that did not change his feelings and they were married. One day less than a year later, Bonnie was rushed to the doctor in tremendous pain. The doctors at first thought it was a kidney infection, but it wasn’t long before they discovered she was pregnant. Ovaries that had not functioned for years had functioned and she was going to have a child. She did. They name him Matthew, a name which means ‘a gift of God.’ When Bonnie had surgery three years after Matthew was born, the doctor was mystified. After examining her ovaries he was convinced that the ovaries had never functioned and would never function, and yet here Matthew was. It was nine year later that day that Bonnie came to the Pastor office to share the news. ‘Another miracle’, she said, and she was right. She was pregnant again and they named him Joshua and that name means ‘God is my salvation’. We are miracle child. When Joy was born we called her Joy, because she brought Joy to the family. Jan was called Jan because it meant ‘a gift of God.’ We are miracle child and a gift of God.
The detailed account of Moses’ birth was to stress the importance of each and everyone of our birth. Moses was not only a healthy child, but he also had a good set of lungs. The day came when Moses would really scream at the top of his voice. What a contrast this is to several years later when the Lord asks him to be His spokesman to Pharaoh and Moses says that he cannot speak. Many of us started confident, loud because we are young, filled with life and vision and energy but later we suddenly just lost our identity and say we could not do well for the Lord. Hebrews 11 hints at the treasures that were available to him there. Stephen’s assessment of Moses at age forty is that he “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.” He goes on to describe how Moses seized the opportunity to be a freedom fighter and assumed that his brothers would happily recognize him as such. I believe many of us could identify and would have chosen Moses in his first forty years over Moses at eighty to the task of leadership. We find similarity in the first forty years of Moses and said, ‘Hey isn’t that us?’ He was strong, wise, and confident and had a real sense of mission. He was ready for the job. He was ready to conquer the world. For forty years Moses learned to become somebody. Perhaps many of us start out by discovering what we are good at. We learn confidence. We will be able to conquer the world. We have so much to offer God, but he says “Not just yet.” After all, God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. And the big question for us is whether our lives are meant to be about us or whether they are about God.
Moses then made a mistake in life and it was quite a big mistake. He killed someone and he fled. Moses had outstanding qualities. He loved God, rejected sin’s passing pleasures for the honor of suffering for God and with God’s people. But he made a mistake and it seems that he was finished. I look at some of you. You make a mistake and it was a big mistake and you never recovered. You thought that you are finished, there is no more hope. Actually you had a complex. It was an inferiority complex. It was a guilt complex. All because of a mistake. But I want to say that you are so wrong. God has never thought about you in that way at all. God has never condemned a person for life for his mistake. God still cares about you. If only you let him take over your life.
2 Forty years in the desert in Midian
Acts 7:29-30 says
Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. And when the next forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an Angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
For the next forty years Moses ended up as a shepherd in Midian. Forty is a long time. That is the second phase of his life. Moses tended the flock of sheep for 40 years. For the next forty years, he became nobody. Moses was in the depths of obscurity. He was living as a total nobody. It was a real time of solitude and for forty years he endured the hardship tending sheep in the desert. Midianites lived south and south east of Canaan, the same region in the Desert of Sinai. Moses was at the farthest end of the wilderness, where the vegetation was very scanty. There were very few shrubs, and it was an exceedingly solemn, dreary desert.
He became a stranger in a strange land, separated from his home and family. He settled down, married a woman and had children. Most likely Moses thought that there is a possibility that his life will be that way until the day he died. What a contrast between Moses’ life in his first 40 years and his life as a Midianite shepherd. Once we had everything, we are reasonably famous. But now as a nobody we had to do everything for ourselves. We are holding the very job we had been taught to despise and we lived like an unknown foreigner. I have always thought of being a taxi driver if I failed in life. That is what the devil wants for us to become. That is what some of us has become. There will come a point in your life or a stage in your life, or maybe you are already in it that you felt that you are a person of no importance, you are in the depth of obscurity, that it was a time of feeling very alone. Life is dreary, solemn and very little. What a humbling experience this must have been to Moses. But God was preparing Moses for leadership.
Could you believe that God is preparing you for something even in your state or conditons? Living the life of a shepherd and nomad, Moses learned about the ways of the people he would be leading and also about life in the wilderness. God was going to make him a pastor of sheep. When the sheep came bleating and crying and murmuring and griping, he was going to learn the patience to stand and see the salvation of the Lord. Of course Moses couldn’t see this himself but God was getting him ready to a big task ahead. Sometimes in our lowly times, our spirit is softer; we are humbled, more sensitive to our surrounding and suffering of people. We are more forgiving. We learn more about God. We begin to develop true Vision of people that needed help and have a passion for them. Our perspective in life becomes clearer. We begin to understand what is important in life and what is unimportant. We know what doesn’t bring happiness and what brings happiness. In the past it has always been about self but now it has been about others, about God.
It took many years for Moses to recover after that incident but he still trusted God. How about you? Have you made a mistake in life and you lived with a complex. You have lost a lot of things as a result of that mistake. But like Moses you must not lose this most important thing. And that is you must have God during this time. You must not lose God. We may feel abandoned or isolated because of something we have done. But though we feel afraid and separated, we should not give up. Moses didn’t. He trusted God to deliver him, no matter how dark his past or bleak his future. It was then that God decided the time was right for him to go back to Egypt and rescue the people. At eighty, his confidence was gone, he had no desire to do what God was asking of him and he did all he could think of to wriggle out of God’s call. But this was the Moses God wanted to work through. Not the confident freedom fighter, but the meek shepherd. God’s intervention again in our life doesn’t always come the moment we want it. Sometimes we waited a long time for God’s promise to be kept. When you feel that God has forgotten you in your troubles, remember that God has a time schedule we can’t see.
Do you notice what had happened to Moses? Now Moses is saying to God, ‘Who am I? I cannot do what you are asking me to do?’ My Friend, if you are in that condition, now God can use you. This is God’s way of training all of us. God had to take the boy David who could slay a giant and put him into caves and dens of the earth when he was hunted like a partridge. We found how weak we are. Then God could make us a King. Elijah was a prophet so brave to walk right into the courts of Ahab and Jezebel to confront them. Now God put him in the desert where he drank from the brook. He watched the brook grow smaller and smaller and said ‘My life is no more than a dried up brook’. He was right. Then Elijah spent some more time eating out of an empty flour barrel. He found out that he was nothing and God was everything. We discovered how weak we are, our life cannot amount to anything and we are nothing. That is the time now that God can use us. We become like what Paul says ‘therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak then am I strong.’ We must finally realize that God has decided to choose the foolish things of the world (that is us) to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.’ We begin to realize that God has saved us, redeemed us, in our desperate, hopeless conditions not because of any merit we posses. We are saved simply by His grace. Many people believe God saw something in them worthy of the call. Many people believe God saw how lovely we would become. That is erroneous. In us no good dwells. Simply He loves us and we are willing to allow him to use us mightily.
Many times God makes us to become a nobody, weakest and a total failure that He can use mightily. One day during his great mission in London, Mr. Moody was holding a meeting in a theater packed with a most select audience. Noblemen and noblewomen were there in large numbers, and a prominent member of the royal family was in the royal box. Mr. Moody arose to read the Scripture lesson. He attempted to read Luke 4:27 ‘And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet’. When he came to the name of Eliseus he stammered and stuttered over it. He went back to the beginning of the verse and began to read again, but when he read the word ‘Eliseus’ he could not get over it. He went back the third time, but again the word was too much for him. He closed the Bible with deep emotion and looked up and said, ‘Oh, God, use this stammering tongue to preach Christ crucified to these people’. The power of God came upon him, and one who heard him then and had heard him often at other times said to him that he had never heard Mr. Moody pour out his soul in such a torment of eloquence as he did then, and whole audience was melted by the power of God.’
Kathryn Kuthman, the greatest women of God ever lived in the 20th century, run away from home, ran off with a married man and stayed with him for more than 1 year, ran away from the church she pastored, ran away from everybody. But she was miserable and it was the most lonesome time of her life. She repented, separated from that man and became the greatest woman of God ever lived in the 20th century, where her church in Philadelphia is packed with 7000 people every night where the crippled walk, the blind sees, the deaf hears and the most powerful presence of God was felt every time she stepped on the pulpit. Do you know that Charles Spurgeon the prince of preacher was a Cigar Smoker? Pastor Jessie always reminded me of A. A. Allen, a powerful miracle worker, where signs and wonders followed him every time he preached was a drunkard. What I am trying to say is that do not let your past hunt you down. Arise and come back to God and as he uses Moses, Kathryn, Allen, all sinners saved by grace, he can also use you.
Then one ordinary day (that day will also come for you), Moses looked, and behold, a bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And God called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses. It was such a powerful, personal, loving call. It was a call no less important than when God called Adam ‘Adam, Adam, where are you?’ It was the same life changing call to Paul when God called out ‘Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me?’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am’. Moses answered God’s call in the same way that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had done. And God said, ‘I have seen the affliction of my people and I am sending you unto Pharaoh that you may bring forth My people, the Children of Israel, out of Egypt’. In his youth, Moses might have felt himself worthy to serve the living God. He might have said, ‘Okay, God, I am able, and I will do it for you.’ But with age and maturity Moses could think only about his unfitness for the gigantic undertaking set before him. Moses made excuses because he felt inadequate. I think God wants us to be totally dependent upon him. We are definitely inadequate all by ourselves. But God wasn’t asking us to work alone, He offered resources to help. God often calls us to task that seem too difficult, but he doesn’t ask us to do them alone. God offers us his resources, just as he did to Moses. We should not hide behind our inadequacies as Moses did, but look beyond ourselves to the great resources available. Then we can allow God to use our unique contributions.
Recently Coller was gracious to copy our speaking on Sunday into CD and gave Pastor Lily and myself a few copies. Pastor Lily had gone through quite a lot. Her character, her motives, her personality was questioned severely until she lost a lot of confidence and wonder whether what God told her about herself is correct when everybody doubted her. That night she switched on and saw her own preaching. She cried because she could believe that was her and how in the earth she got all the points in her sermons. She realized that like Moses, God said, ‘Certainly I will be with thee. Who hath made man’s mouth? I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say.’ Pastor Lily has always felt inadequate because she had never gone to University. Because she had flaws in her character and she makes mistake in life. But that is the type of vessel that God uses best.
3 Forty years in the wilderness as leader of Israel
Acts 7:35 says
This Moses whom they refused (rejected), saying, who made thee a ruler and a judge? The same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in a bush. He brought them out, after that he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
The last forty years was the most memorable, most wonderful times of Moses’ life. It could be said a beautiful life. And for the last forty years God worked through him and, as he led the people, his finest moments came where his primary concern was for the glory and reputation of God. Because God is sovereign over your life, nothing about your lives was ever accidental. Nothing was ever wasted in your life. Trust God to take all your hard times, educational opportunities and life experiences and weave them together to equip you to be effective for his kingdom. Moses was a great figure of the nation of Israel, greater in the estimation of many than even the founding father, Abraham. Moses was the vehicle God used for the salvation of a nation (3 million people), for letting in so much of His light through the revelation on Mount Sinai and for bringing the nation to the very edge of the promised blessings. Though Moses’ estimation of himself was quite different than Stephen’s statement, history records him as truly a mighty man. The miracle of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage, the ten unbelievable plagues never before seen again in history, the saving of the firstborn through the blood spread upon the door frames, the Passover, the direct leading of God, the destruction of the pursuing armies of Pharaoh, the feeding of God – all these displays of God’s presence and power, many miraculous signs and wonders, as well as God’s revelation at Mount Sinai, were monumental miracles. And Moses was that vessel God chose to display his power and glory.
Why did Stephen relate the incident in which Moses killed a cruel Egyptian taskmaster? Perhaps to remind us that ‘There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death?’ People thought you had to be eliminated. But God did want to use us to deliver people, but not at that time and not in that way. Don’t run ahead of God. Don’t take action without first spending much time in earnest pray and without seeking wise and godly counsel. And you moment will come. It will be the most memorable, most wonderful time of your life. You will not regret being born but say that it is a wonderful life. You will forge the shame of your youth and realize that your birth, your life has never been accidental and nothing is ever wasted in your life. Your concern will be for the glory and the works of God. God will use you in signs and wonders and your works will be mighty.
End of sermon