“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” (Exodus 2:11).
Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. Moses wanted to take matters into his own hand when he attacked and killed the Egyptian that was mistreating the Hebrew slave. God had a different plan for Moses. As a result of his attack on the Egyptian, Moses had to flee into the desert. Sometimes we ask why did he have to flee when he was raised in Pharaoh’s house. The main reason for Moses need to flee was that he knew he was a Hebrew. Pharaoh knew Moses was a Hebrew and the law did not allow for Hebrews to attack Egyptians. In one instance Moses went from being the adopted prince of Egypt to a fugitive.
God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to shepherd sheep for forty years. We also need to remember that while Moses was a Hebrew he was raised as an Egyptian, and it was an abomination for an Egyptian to be a shepherd. God turned Moses into a shepherd because leading people is similar to leading sheep. People can be stubborn, like sheep. People can be led astray, like sheep. People can follow the mob, like sheep follow the flock. People can wander aimlessly, like sheep. One time Jesus looked at the people and “had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” God decided that if Moses was his man, he had to be trained in leading sheep because leading sheep would give him the compassion he needed to lead his people.
We may think we have a clear vision of what God wants, and yet we may be all wrong about the timing in which God wants us to start the mission. Moses knew God wanted him to do something for the Hebrews, but killing the Egyptian was done in Moses effort. And God wanted the liberation of Israel to be done through God’s power. In order for God to prepare Moses heart, from that of a warrior to that of a shepherd, Moses had to live in the desert for forty years. God has designed our desert-like experiences as training ground for compassion, which appears to be the essential character quality God demands of those leading his people. We cannot be effective in leading God’s people if we do not have compassion for them.