Recently, my devotional reading has found me in the Pentateuch. In that section of Scripture, the books of Genesis and Exodus make for especially interesting reading. They are loaded with historical accounts of God’s dealings with humankind – right from creation and establishment of the human race to the formation and early days of the nation of Israel. Many of the events described there are incredibly dramatic in nature and read just like a thriller.
The story of the rise, fall, and rise again of Moses is one such account. Moses’ life contains more suspense, plot twists, and incredible action sequences than half a dozen Hollywood blockbusters combined. This begins right at the point of Moses’ birth, which falls smack dab in the middle of a new Pharaoh’s brutal campaign of controlled genocide. All male Israelite newborn babies have been ordered to be put to death by royal decree, in order to limit and weaken the growing and prospering Israelite population in Egypt. The baby Moses is spared this fate, though, when he is hidden and then miraculously found and adopted by none other than the daughter of Pharaoh, and then is brought in to be raised in Pharaoh’s own household. It is obvious from the start that God has his eye and hand on Moses.
The event in Moses’ life that caught my eye for the purpose of this blog, though, isn’t quite as dramatic as some. Oh, it is amazing in its own right as it involves God directly and openly communicating with a human being, but it doesn’t have quite the same flash and sizzle as say, the 10 plagues on Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea. The event that I am referring to begins in Exodus chapter 3, where God meets Moses out in the wilderness (Thoughts: Why is that such a recurring theme in Scripture – meeting God in the wilderness? What is it about wilderness experiences that primes and prepares us to hear from God? Why does he often choose to meet us there? How reassuring should this be, in our own wilderness experiences, to know that God is present and walking alongside us the whole way?).
As you’ll recall, God gets Moses’ attention by speaking to him from out of a burning bush. Here God calls Moses into his service, telling Moses that he has been chosen to confront Pharaoh and lead God’s people, the nation of Israel, out of the land of Egypt and out of slavery. Now, despite the dramatic setting (this bush is on fire but is not being consumed… and, oh yeah, it’s talking!), which should totally authenticate for Moses that this calling is backed by God, Moses starts making excuses. First, he tells God that he’s nobody special – just an ordinary person, which in his mind makes him unqualified to stand before a king like Pharaoh. God’s perspective on that argument, though, is clear from his response. In essence God says, “Who you are doesn’t matter. I will be with you, and it’s who I AM that matters.”
Next, Moses voices his doubts that the Israelite people will take him seriously and will accept his message and offer to lead them. Again, God gently reminds Moses that it is not about him. God says, if you have any problems just remind them that they are MY people; that this is MY message; and this is MY plan, and you are just acting on MY behalf at MY request. At this point you might expect that Moses would recognize and accept God’s sovereignty in his calling. Once again, though, Moses makes excuses when he realizes that the job description involves some public speaking. In Exodus 4:10 we read, “Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’” In return, God gives this classic response found in verses 11 and 12, “The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’” Essentially, God says to Moses, “You’re trying to tell ME what you’re capable of and what you’re not? You’re saying that you know better than the one who CREATED you what your capabilities and limitations are? While you were in your mother’s womb, I fashioned that tongue of yours, so I am completely aware of what it can do.”
The story goes that Moses continued to make excuses, trying to beg off doing what God was calling him to. God finally gets angry with Moses and allows for Moses’ brother Aaron to be part of the leadership group as well, and to function as the spokesperson. This was never part of God’s original design, though, and history reveals that Aaron’s dual leadership involvement led to problems that could have otherwise been avoided.
I believe that the lessons for us from this passage are clear. We too, like Moses, often argue with God when he calls us into various acts of service and ministry. We too, often point to our ordinary status and our limited experience and capabilities. Often, we too try to duck out of God’s calling, much preferring that someone “more qualified” go in our place. But, in those circumstances, God’s message to Moses is just as relevant to us: “Who made you? Am I, as your creator, no fully aware of your capabilities and limitations? Who are you to tell me what you cannot do? Besides, this is not really about you. I will be with you – equipping and strengthening you all the way. Just lean in, let go, and trust me!”