Please open your Bibles with me to Hebrews, chapter 11, and we will begin reading in verse 23:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as though seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
(Heb 11:23-29 NASB)
Every child of God, endowed with a purpose by God, is beautiful in His sight. From before the foundations of the world, the heavenly Father ordained a path to follow, leading to a person’s ultimate destiny in accomplishing God’s purposes.
Do we, as Christians, sometimes confuse destination and destiny? Can we end up at one without realizing the other? Let us first define destination and destiny and then look at the Scriptures for further clarification to answer these questions.
A destination is “the place to which somebody or something is going or must go, or, a purpose for which somebody or something is intended.” In this two-sided definition of destination, the place and the purpose result from the going and the intention. Synonyms for destination include purpose, end, target, aim, goal, objective, and intention. A destination seems, in this sense, to be one that can be set by the one going or intending.
Destiny is a bit more complicated. In this three-sided definition of destiny, destiny is “the apparently predetermined and inevitable series of events that happen to somebody or something, or, the inner purpose of a life that can be discovered and realized, or, a force or agency that predetermines what will happen.” Synonyms for destiny include fate, fortune, lot, luck, providence, vocation, and future. Destiny seems, in this sense, to be outside the control of somebody, although it can be discovered and realized.
If we look at Scripture, we see that destination often determines destiny. What I mean is that destination is often the seedbed where destiny is planted. Joseph’s original destination and purpose was to check on his brothers for his father. His brothers redirected his destination to Egypt, where he ultimately discovered and realized his destiny. Naomi purposed to return to Israel after her husband and sons died, and Ruth traveled with her. They both found their destinies. In these examples, none of the persons mentioned were aware of their destinations’ importance to their destinies.
However, notice that the destination of each had its challenges before the destiny became apparent. Destiny seldom comes as a welcoming committee to our arrival. Sometimes it takes years and seasons of life before it appears and asks us to acknowledge it.
The passage we looked at in Hebrews has myriad examples of destiny. Moses was born when God destined him to come along, although the time was not ideal in the natural because of Pharoah’s edict to kill male Hebrew babies. The midwives fulfilled their destinies in fearing God and disobeying Pharoah’s order. (Exo. 1:16-22). His parents fulfilled their destinies in hiding Moses for three months without fear of Pharoah’s decree. Even Pharoah’s daughter fulfilled her destiny in taking Moses as her adopted son (Exo. 2:1-10).
In Hebrews 11:24-27, we see how Moses’ destiny played out in a change of destination.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as though seeing Him who is unseen.
Exodus 2:11-15 shows us this next phase of Moses’ destiny:
Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his fellow Hebrews and looked at their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his fellow Hebrews. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw that there was no one around, he struck and killed the Egyptian, and hid his body in the sand. Now he went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” But he said, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known!” When Pharaoh heard about this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.
We notice that the account of these events in Hebrews seems to differ sightly than in Exodus. Hebrews says by faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king. Exodus tells us Moses fled Egypt in fear after Pharoah tried to kill him. What accounts for the differences?
Consider the authorship and dating of the two accounts. If Moses did write Exodus, he wrote autobiographically, in the wilderness, while en route to the promised land. He was an older man looking back and remembering what he experienced forty-plus years earlier.
Hebrews, likely written by Paul, adds that Moses “persevered, as though seeing Him who is unseen.” Paul wrote, looking at the events with the hindsight of thousands of years of scriptural and national history, what seemed obvious to him, recognizing by discernment something Moses, for reasons unknown, chose not to include in his account. I wonder if the others in Paul’s “Hall of Fame of Faith” would have recognized faith in their own stories as they unfolded.
These events, no matter how depicted, contributed to Moses’ destiny through a new destination. Moses set off to hide in the desert after killing the Egyptian and forty years later found his destiny at a burning bush.
However, let us not forget that Moses’ destiny, although providential, still included elements of volition on Moses’ part. Moses set things in motion by refusing to stay in the palace. Destiny always includes leaving the easy, the familiar, and the comfortable behind. His identification with his fellow Hebrews began a process that culminated in a new destination and new destiny.
Destiny, however, is not a destination. Its ultimate fulfillment may include countless destinations and expressions of destiny along the way. The burning bush was only a redirection. His encounter with God sent Moses back to Egypt.
I cannot imagine Moses looking for redirection at that time in his life. He worked for forty years for his father-in-law as a shepherd. He might have anticipated his gold watch and retirement cottage but certainly not spending forty more years shepherding those more stubborn than his most difficult sheep.
Nevertheless, Moses did obey God, although reluctantly. He returned to his people and their predicament and led them out of Egypt’s grip. Paul’s account in Hebrews jumps to this point in time:
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.
However, the Exodus was not Moses’ final destiny. He had a new destination, with a relatively short journey ahead of him. Unexpectantly, as things happen, a journey that should have taken days lasted forty years, at times pushing Moses to the brink of despair. Nevertheless, this destination, this land of promise, was Moses’ destiny. One act of disobedience kept Moses from entering into the promise, yet his destiny remained intact.
Where do you find yourself today? Are you facing challenges in your present “destination”? I ask that question of you because I am also asking it of me. Sometimes we may feel God leading us to move on. That does legitimately happen by the Spirit’s direction. There are, however, many times when we take self-directed initiative because we are uncomfortable in waiting. Do not be too quick to think a change of destination will hasten your destiny. Waiting can be challenging, especially when we expect to see the fruit of labor but have yet to see a blossom of promise on our tree.
If we seek to change our destination to rid ourselves of seemingly adverse circumstances, the circumstances may very well be the seedbed where our destiny is planted. Just because that seed is currently out of sight does not mean it is not under the surface incubating, waiting for the warmth of God’s “fullness of time” to bring forth the sprouting. We look at the soil and lament about its condition. Yes, we may have natural discernment as to the soil’s condition, but only God has the spiritual discernment to its ultimate use to birth our destiny.
Our ultimate destiny, as Christians, is to be conformed to the image of God’s own Son. That begins happening in the less than ideal circumstances we now find ourselves in. This life’s stress, persecution, and tribulation is the seedbed where our destiny as the manifested sons of God is planted. When Jesus came as Immanuel, He refused to stay in the palace and planted Himself in some pretty hard soil. Nevertheless, He also found His destiny in that destination, and because He did it first and called us to follow, He made way for us to sprout and grow and produce in the hard places we live.
This earth was not Jesus’ final destination, and it is not ours, either. We know our final destination is heaven, and yes, we can go there without realizing our ultimate destiny here. However, if we seek the final destination without regard for the destiny in our current location, we fall short of following Jesus and fall short of God’s perfect will for us.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed and asked if there was another way. Could His sojourn to His destiny come without the destination that awaited Him on the cross? In praying that God’s will be done, Jesus got His answer.
For what are we praying? As believers who already know our final destination, our attention should turn toward asking God to direct our destinies while serving the world we live in. Let us pray for transformation and conformation that brings confirmation that the life of Christ works in us and through us for His glory.