You have probably heard the phrase many times, “timing is everything”. There is a great deal of truth in that statement. The difference between a good joke and a bad one is a person’s sense of timing. An appropriate pause makes a joke . . . an inappropriate pause can kill the same joke.
Timing is essential when dealing with people. You don’t ask for a raise when business is not going well or when things are tense around the office. You don’t try to correct someone who feels threatened by you. You don’t ask for a favor when someone is under a lot of stress or angry.
Timing is important in cooking. The juicy hamburger on the grill is raw meat if cooked for too little time and a clump of charcoal if it is cooked too long.
Timing is important in medicine. If you catch a problem early you will be able to treat it more effectively. You timing is important in taking medication. If you take your medicine as directed it will be helpful. If you skip doses it loses it’s effectiveness. If you take extra doses it can be deadly.
Timing is important in finance. When you invest in a particular stock and when you sell the particular stock will make the difference between whether you make money or lose it. Knowing when to borrow and when not to borrow is the key to financial independence.
Timing is important in your spiritual life as well. Jesus was very conscious of timing. He lived His life with an acute awareness of God’s timing for His life. The gospel of John records these words of Jesus,
- John 2:4 “My time has not yet come”
- John 7:6 “The right time for me has not yet come”
- John 7:30; 8:20 “His time had not yet come”
Peter tells us that the second coming of the Christ is a matter of timing. God has not sent Christ back to earth yet because “he wants everyone to come to repentance”. God is waiting until everyone who will come to Christ, does.
This morning we look at an account of Moses and find that it is really a matter of timing.
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”
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. [Exodus 2:11-15]
A CASE OF BAD TIMING
Moses had grown up as a Prince in Egypt. He was well-educated and well trained. I suspect he was also well respected. Moses knew he was Jewish. He longed to be united with his own people. Frankly we don’t know whether Moses had any contact with his parents or the other Hebrews after he was turned over to Pharaoh’s daughter. He did know that he was an Israelite.
Our text doesn’t tell us whether this was the first time Moses “went out to where his own people were” or whether he had watched them work many times. I think he may have gone to “oversee” things many times. I suspect that each time he saw the Israelites working as slaves it stoked the anger within him. I imagine Moses was deeply frustrated by circumstances.
On this particular day Moses was watching the Hebrews work. Somewhere in his excursion he happened to see an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrews (probably with a bamboo whip). Because these two people were isolated, Moses believed he could take action undetected. He lost his temper and killed the Egyptian and then to cover up his act, he buried the man in the sand.
Now let’s give Moses the benefit of the doubt for a second. His intention was to protect his people. Maybe he was already yearning to lead his people out of Egypt. Maybe he felt that he was honoring God by his actions. Maybe Moses really did mean well. But his timing was wrong. Rather than wait on the Lord, Moses jumped the gun. As a Prince of Egypt he certainly had other options available to him.
The problem, of course, is that God does not want this kind of help from Moses yet. Moses is not ready to be a leader yet. The Israelites are not ready to be a nation yet. The timing is wrong. Moses thinks he is helping God, but he really is just making matter worse.
It reminds us of Abraham and Sarah. They became impatient with God and took matters into their own hands. Instead of believing what God had promised they tried to help God. Sarah told Abraham to father a child by her maid Hagar! Hagar became pregnant and brought Ishmael into the world. Rather than help the situation this made it worse and the Arab Israeli conflict began. There are many other examples in Scripture,
- The ten spies try to help by telling the people they cannot defeat the Canaanites because they are too big and strong and the Israelites end up in the desert for 40 years.
- Saul tried to help God by offering a sacrifice that was supposed to wait for Samuel to arrive. As a result God’s blessing was taken away from Saul’s Kingship
- Jonah tried to help God by letting Him know that Ninevah should be destroyed and ended up pouting in the hot son under a wilted plant.
- Peter tried to help Jesus by cutting off a man’s ear (even though he was surely aiming for his head!) and Jesus had to rebuke Peter.
- It’s possible that Judas was trying to help Jesus by forcing Him to show His power when he betrayed him to the Supreme Court of the day. Instead he committed suicide because he realized that he had been party to the execution of God’s son.
In the case of Moses he ended up being scorned by the Hebrews rather than trusted. He changed from an insider to a “marked man” in Egypt. Instead of being able to help his people Moses was exiled from his people and the delivery of the Israelites was delayed.
God’s timing is perfect, but ours is often flawed. Let me give you some examples,
- you get tired of waiting for the right “someone” and so you agree to live together or you marry someone who is not right for you.
- you want something now so you charge it rather than waiting till you have the money and end up paying more and digging yourself into financial bondage..
- Instead of waiting for a nice quiet and calm moment to talk to a friend about a problem, you blurt it out in a spirit of confrontation when others are around.
- Instead of a church waiting for the “right time” to build, they rush ahead and get into a mortgage that hampers ministry.
God knows what He is doing. His delays are always purposeful. When we dare to live by His timing, great things happen. Isaiah writes,
those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)]
Certainly we all like the idea of having strength, flying high, running without weariness and walking without getting tired. But notice what the condition is: we must wait on the Lord. We are to trust His timing, His purpose, His plan.
SOME INDICATORS THAT YOUR TIMING IS BAD
You are looking over your shoulder. Moses may have been motivated by a desire to help his own people, but in this situation Moses knew what he was doing was wrong. The text tells us that Moses looked to see if anyone was looking! Moses had a chance to think about it! It wasn’t just an impulse, it was a choice!
That’s the way it usually is for those who are ignoring God’s timing. Deep down inside you know that you are heading in the wrong direction but you ignore that inner voice. Instead you find yourself rationalizing and justifying. At times you will begin a sentence with “I know I shouldn’t . . . but.” When that happens you are ignoring God’s timing and walking into trouble.
You are relying on the works of men rather than the work of God. Moses knew that God’s people needed to be rescued. Instead of laboring in prayer and waiting for God’s direction, Moses went to work like a bull in a china shop. He tried to help God with his “connections”, his “strength”, and his military expertise. He put his confidence in his ability rather than in the Lord’s ability.
That’s what happens to you and I. We are faced with a tough situation and instead of trusting God we will use things such as,
and other questionable means. Whenever we are enlisting these helpers we can be sure that we have missed God’s timing. When our focus turns away from God and we begin to trust ourselves, we have missed God’s timing.
What you are doing necessitates a violation of God’s law (i.e. murder, adultery, lying, idolatry) This one is simple, isn’t it? God would not lead us to violate his own laws. If we have to sin to “obey God” then our timing is off . . . we are pushing ahead before it is time. When Moses chose Murder he should have known he could not possibly be following the Lord’s will. God does not encourage people to sin.
You are acting impulsively rather than prayerfully. You have probably learned from experience that responding to someone without thinking leads you into trouble. You have found that when you react in anger (impulsively) you often say things you wish you hadn’t. When passions control us we often go beyond what is appropriate. To live in God’s timing we must maintain our “wits” about us. We must remain focused and not be led by our passions.
You feel you have to “cover up” your actions. Moses immediately buried the body of the man he killed. It was wrong and he knew it. When it became evident the next day that word was out about the murder (and the word must have come from the one Moses was attempting to rescue), Moses knew he had to get out of town.
If you are ashamed of your actions, if you are afraid for others to know the truth . . . . then you have missed God’s timing. . . and you know it.
You are paralyzed by fear rather than spurred on by faith Moses was guilty of acting before the appropriate time. But there are other times when God wants us to act and we don’t. There are times when we miss His will because we don’t act.
- God opens a door for us to share the gospel with someone but we remain silent
- God provides a ministry opportunity but we say we are too busy
- God nudges us to extend mercy (make a phone call, stop by for a visit, send a card) and we ignore that leading from God.
- God gives us an opportunity to make a significant financial contribution but we hold it in reserve.
- God nudges us to go and pray with a person for their healing, but we don’t want to appear extremist.
- God opens up a great job opportunity for you but you decline because you are afraid, and weeks later learn that massive layoffs are coming.
In each of these cases we fail to act out of fear. We are afraid of failure, or afraid that we are doing something wrong. These are the times we need to act in faith. These are the times we need to dare to believe that God has brought us to this particular situation, at this particular time, for His particular purpose.
There is something wonderfully freeing about trusting God. It is exciting to see what God will do. When the doors seem closed it is exciting to wait and see what door God will open up. When the door is open it is exciting to see how God will equip you to meet the present challenge. The life of faith is an adventure. It is a great and awe-inspiring thing to watch God work in your life.
WHEN YOU MISS GOD’S TIMING
After all this happens you might think that God would wash His hands of Moses. Maybe we would expect that God would shake His head and punish Moses good. . . but that’s not what happens. Finish the account,
Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “And where is he?” he asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” [Exodus 2:16-20]
Moses runs away. He is on the run from the authorities. He runs to Midian. We assume no one knows Moses in Midian. He arrives at just the moment that seven daughters come to water their flocks. They fill the trough with water for their sheep and some male shepherds come along who start driving the female shepherds away. Can’t you hear them, “O.K. isn’t it time to go play with your Barbie dolls?” “Clear out so us “real men can do our job.
It seems that this was not the first time these Shepherds had pulled this stunt. When the girls get home dad notices that they are home “much earlier than usual). Why were they home early? Because this time they were not forced to water everyone’s flocks . . . thanks to Moses.
Moses is watching all of this. He was burned the last time he acted impulsively. The temptation would have been to become tentative. The temptation would have been to simply “stay out of it.” But we see the heart of a faithful man here. Moses doesn’t retreat, he just acts with more wisdom. This was an act of injustice. The women had gotten the water for their own sheep and now the men were stealing it. The door was open for Moses to take a stand for what is right. This was the right thing to do. And that’s what he did. He spoke and said, “Wait a minute, this water isn’t yours. these women were here first, Wait for your turn!” Moses’ response was reasonable and god-honoring. He was learning.
Notice something else. Moses helped water the flocks and then the women leave. Moses doesn’t tag along. He doesn’t push himself on the women. He doesn’t manipulate the circumstance to get a place to live. He waits for God to provide. The women go home and dad asks how they got the job done so quickly. They tell him about Moses and dad asks, “So, where is our hero?” The women respond that they suppose he’s still back at the well. I imagine that Reuel’s response was, “No wonder you are all still single.!” Dad tells the girls to go back and invite Moses home for dinner. They return to the well and Moses is still there . . . . waiting on God’s provision and God’s timing. As a result, Moses is cared for in the home of Reuel. He also finds a wife in Zipporah.
It’s possible that you have messed things up in your life. It’s even likely that there have been times when you pushed ahead and ignored God’s will and as a result you have created quite a mess. As a result,
- there may be a fractured family
- there may be emotional scars
- there may be mountains of debt
- there may be others who have suffered
- there may be a terrible blow to your Christian witness
And you may now be saying, “It’s over. I’ve ruined things and made such a mess of my life that there is no hope for me.” But you’re wrong. You may have an Egypt in your past but God will bring a Midian into your future if you will let Him. If you will dare to trust Him and dare to wait for Him to work in you and through you, then you will see God help put the pieces back together. Just like Moses, God will take the shattered pieces of your mistakes and begin to once again build in you a masterpiece of His grace.
LIVING IN GOD’S TIMING
So the key question becomes very simple. If we want to live by God’s timing so that we can know what it means to “renew our strength, to mount up with winds like eagles to run and not go weary, to walk and not be faint”, we need to learn to do several things.
- We need to get to know God. When we get to know God (rather than just know “about” God) we will begin to anticipate what God would have us do in certain situations. When we understand God’s character there are some questions we just don’t have to ask.
- We need to discipline ourselves to seek God’s will. We get into trouble most of the time because we never even think about the fact that God may have an opinion on what we should do. We forget that God’s plan is always the best plan. We need to learn to check with the Lord. Have you ever agreed to do something before asking for God’s wisdom (sure, all the time). Have you ever declined something without seeking His guidance? For example, if you were asked to serve as a teacher, a leader or a helper at the church did you immediately say, “No, I’m not good at that!” Why not check with God first? What if God wants to expand and deepen your abilities? You cut yourself off from His blessing when you made decisions without seeking His will.
- We must learn to listen. We must learn to listen to scripture and listen to the whisper of God’s Spirit. I know that sounds weird. I’m not saying that you should go up into the hills and listen to the rocks talk to you. People who do such things are loony. What I am suggesting is that we learn to hear and listen to what the Bible is saying. We need to make sure it registers rather than just reading to meet an obligation. We need to build some quiet times into our life so that we can hear the “still small voice of God.” I know it sounds strange, but God still does whisper direction to His children.
- We must follow faithfully when we are called to take bold action or when we are told to wait. Many times we don’t understand. When a door is closed we should watch with eagerness to see what new doors God is going to open. When doors are open we should be willing to step out in faith. Generally, when God opens a door he is giving you an opportunity to grow and to serve Him in new and surprising ways. These are usually scary opportunities. They require faith and they are very exciting.
Are you facing a moment of decision? Are you standing in front of an open door? Then serve boldly! Are you standing in front of a closed door? Then wait patiently. Are you licking your wounds from a mistake in the past? Then head to MIdian and experience His grace anew. Wherever you are, I encourage you to trust the Lord. He knows what’s best. He know’s what’s best for the Kingdom and He knows what best for you. And He is well aware of the fact that timing is everything.