One day, after Moses had grown [into adulthood], it happened that he went to his countrymen and looked [with compassion] at their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his countrymen. He turned to look around, and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day and saw two Hebrew men fighting with each other; and he said to the aggressor, “Why are you striking your friend?” But the man said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Certainly this incident is known.”
When Pharaoh heard about this matter, he tried to kill Moses. Then Moses fled from Pharaoh’s presence and took refuge in the land of Midian, where he sat down by a well.
Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water [from the well where Moses was resting] and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel (Jethro) their father, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian saved us from the shepherds. He even drew water [from the well] for us and watered the flock.” Then he said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why have you left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses was willing to remain with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah [to be his wife]. She gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom (stranger); for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Exodus 2:11-22 AMP
One day Moses witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, and he jumps in abruptly. Thinking that no one is around, he kills the Egyptian and buries his body in the sand. The next day, he witnesses a fight between two Hebrews and steps in. When he goes to rebuke the aggressor, he responds, “Are you going to do to me what you did to the Egyptian?” Moses knows now that his secret is out.
When Pharaoh hears about it, he makes up his mind to kill Moses. When Moses runs to avoid being killed, God plants him in Midian, which in Hebrew means ‘the place of strife.’ God metaphorically arrests Moses and keeps him in Midian for forty years. He does this in order to recalibrate the gifts in Moses that have gotten him into trouble.
Moses runs to Midian and sees the seven daughters of Jethro being chased away from the well by shepherds. Moses steps in and protects the rights of these women. The seven daughters then run back and report to Jethro what has happened. Jethro invites Moses to join his family and gives Moses Zipporah in marriage. Now Moses has shepherding responsibilities for Jethro’s sheep.
The trajectory of Moses’ life is propelled forward by these episodes where we can see Moses’ raw, immature potential that keeps getting him into trouble. The liberator that he will be, forty years later during the Exodus, was the same liberator who looked both ways before killing the Egyptian task master and burying his body in the sand.
We can see the progress of Moses’ maturity. When he defends Jethro’s daughters from the aggressive shepherds, he is more mature, but not as mature, wise, and seasoned as we see him forty years later when he is mediating between grumbling Hebrews.
Later leadership has to start as raw potential. Moses’ potential that resulted in a man buried in the sand and scared Hebrews gets him dropped in forty years of exile. But, this is necessary character and faith building for Moses so that he could stand before Pharaoh forty years later.
We can’t ignore the raw potential that messes up our neat little lives. When God draws our attention to his purpose for our lives, it does not start out perfectly mature. God perfects our raw potential, even while it messes stuff up as it grows. God is slowly bringing us to recognition of His purpose for our life.