15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.
18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”
19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”
20 “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”
21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”
Eugene Peterson wrote about travelling through ‘the Badlands’ each summer, when he and his wife and children returned from Maryland to stay at their family home in Montana. The description refers to a barren region of Dakota. But he also used this term for a period he went through early on in his ministry. He was about three years into the founding of a church, and found himself running out of steam. It was a difficult time, but he and his wife eventually came through it, and they learned some lessons and established certain patterns that would help to sustain them over a long ministry in the suburbs of Baltimore.
God does some of His finest work in deserts. Read your Bible! Many a leader has spent time in ‘the university of the wilderness.’ Also, note that God is not in a hurry in preparing His leaders. Ask Moses. Whenever we have to spend time in the ‘desert’, we will no doubt find, as he did, that God has gone before us and made abundant provision.
In his ‘Badlands’ Moses found:
• Refreshing: there was ‘a well’ (15). He had a supply of water and food (20);
• A place of hospitality (20). What it must have meant to him to be the stranger invited in;
• A sphere of service (17-19). (It’s interesting how the leader in Moses keeps coming out. Leaders can’t help themselves. They have to do something about intolerable situations. Although Moses got things badly wrong when he killed the Egyptian, I see the leader in him in that story;
• A home (21);
• A marriage, and a baby.
The wilderness was a place of ‘divine appointment’ for Moses, and an arena of long, patient training.
Writing of his own experience, Eugene Peterson said:
“But without those years in the badlands, I would never have become a pastor, at least not the pastor I’d earlier had a vision of being, a John of Patmos pastor, the pastor I had hoped I might be. Looking back now, I see myself in those prebadlands years as a Labrador puppy, full-grown but uncoordinated, romping and playful but not yet “under authority,” oblivious to its master’s command: “Sit.” The only verbal signal that the puppy was capable of responding to was “Fetch,” which sent him galloping across a field, catching a Frisbee in full flight, and returning it with wagging tail, ready for more. In the badlands I learned to sit.”