I worry that I’m wasting my time and yours. I worry that I’ll never meet my own expectations, not to mention God’s. What are his for me anyway? I don’t really know. I felt a nudge to begin this blog, but I’ve wondered lately if I made that up. I keep asking, “God, what do you say? Give me a sign if this is what you want me to do.”
Last night, I realized God’s already said what he wants me to do. It’s the same thing he wants every one of us to do–to love him with our whole hearts, to do what he says, and to tell others about him. I don’t need to keep worrying about what God wants. He’s already said it loud and clear; basically, “Listen to me; tell others,” Deut 5:27; Ps 66:16.
Hidden beneath my fear is the darker truth I don’t want to admit: I don’t really want to do what God says. Somewhere deep I’ve figured out if I can stay confused, I can pretend I just don’t get it, so I don’t have to do it.
I’m reminded of the Pharisees a few chapters back in Matthew who asked Jesus for a sign to validate his authority, when he was standing right in front of them–teaching, healing, feeding, and casting out demons daily. What more proof did they need? He says no sign will be given “except the sign of Jonah,” Mt 16:4, which means something like, “If you miss all these other signs here, pay attention to this one: I’ll be dead for three days, and then I’ll be back. Will you believe that?” Mt 12:39-40. Likely not.
Unbelief likes to hide behind a pretense of faith.
It’s easy to feel confused about what God wants when I’m not really listening to what he says. Even when I finally hear him, sometimes I still don’t want to obey–not really–because listening to God and loving others is hard. It means dying to self. It means bearing their burdens. It means doing what doesn’t feel natural and doing what requires God’s supernatural help instead.
This is just where we find Moses.
Joseph and all his brothers have died as has Pharaoh and everyone else who knew of Joseph in Egypt. In the meantime, Joseph’s relations have proliferated and become a whole nation of Hebrews. A new Pharaoh is afraid of so many and has enslaved them to manage them. He’s also commanded that all Hebrew baby boys be thrown into the Nile, but Moses’ mama puts him in a basket, and he’s found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, Ex 1:6-2:8.
Moses grows up and kills an Egyptian and flees to the land of Midian where he becomes a shepherd for a priest’s family. One day he sees a flaming bush that doesn’t burn up. God speaks to him and says he’s seen the misery of his people in Egypt and has heard their cries. He’s concerned about their suffering, so he’s come to rescue them and bring them to the land he’s promised. “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt,” Ex 3:1-10.
It’s an abrupt call. There’s no beating around the burning bush here. God’s seen and heard and cares for his people. He’ll rescue them, and Moses must go get them. There’s no fluffy talk about how Moses feels or what he wants. God just breaks into his life and says, “Here’s the plan.”
But Moses has objections. Unlike Westley, he can’t say, “As you wish.” This encourages me because it’s relatable; who wouldn’t have doubts?
But more than that, it’s because of God’s patience to bear with Moses through all his concerns and to answer each one and still, never to rescind his call that is most moving to me. Moses’ fears and doubts don’t disqualify him for the job in God’s eyes.
Here’s the rundown of Moses’ objections and God’s responses:
Moses first asks, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh?,” meaning, I’m nobody! Pharaoh won’t listen to me! But God says, “I will be with you,” Ex 3:11-12.
Then Moses asks, “What do I tell the Israelites?,” meaning, I”m nobody to the Israelites either! But God says, tell them, “I am has sent me to you…the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Ex 3:13-14.
God says further to assemble the elders and tell them God’s seen what’s going on, and he’s planning to keep his promise to bring them to a new place. He and the elders are to go to Pharaoh and say they want to take their people on a 3-day journey into the desert to worship God, though they already know Pharaoh will say no, Ex 3:16-19.
But God’s mighty hand will convince him, “I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.” And when they leave, God says they’ll take silver and gold and clothes, plundering the Egyptians who willingly give, Ex 3:20-22.
Moses asks next, “What if the Israelites don’t believe me?” meaning, how will I convince the Israelites if my words don’t? So God gives him three signs to show them.
First, he turns Moses’ staff into a snake and then back into a staff, Ex 4:1-4. Second, God says to put his hand in his cloak. When he takes it out, “it was leprous, like snow,” but when he puts it back into his cloak, it’s healed. And third, God says to take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground where it’ll turn to blood, Ex 4:6-9.
Then Moses says, “I’ve never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you’ve spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” Moses is evidently low on memory, too. Because there was a time when he was considered to be a powerful speaker, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action,” Acts 7:22; Ex 4:10.
Regardless, he’s evidently lost his public speaking mojo, tending his father-in-law’s sheep for the last 40 years. Or maybe he’s just never been bilingual, speaking both Egyptian and Hebrew. Growing up as Pharaoh’s grandson, maybe he never learned Hebrew very well. Whatever the reason, he’s looking at himself and sees he doesn’t have what it takes.
But God says, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute?…Is it not I, the Lord? Now, go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” God reminds Moses that he gives the graces of hearing and seeing and speaking. He’ll do what’s needed, Ex 4:11-12.
And finally Moses gets down to what’s underneath all the questions and objections: he doesn’t want to do it, “O Lord, please send someone else…,” Ex 4:13. Here’s where all the concerns about facing Pharaoh and convincing his people and not being a good speaker bring him–it’s just too darn hard. Can’t you find somebody else?
By now, God’s angry, though he says rather casually, it seems to me, “What about your brother, Aaron?” God is open to another option, which is getting Aaron to help . He speaks well, and he’s already on his way to meet Moses. God says Moses can “speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do,” Ex 4:14-15.
The conversation is over. Moses doesn’t raise any more objections. God reminds as he leaves, “But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” The staff that had been a mere shepherd’s staff has become “the staff of God,” Ex 4:20.
God changed a number of things that day. He turned a regular bush into a blazing megaphone, common ground into something Moses couldn’t walk with sandals on, and an everyday shepherd’s staff into one of awe and wonder. Surely this God could do the same for Moses and Aaron–turn common men into compelling mouthpieces for him.
Even with a burning bush before him, with hearing God’s own voice, and with God’s choosing him, Moses still says, “What if…,” “I’m not talented enough,” and “I don’t want to.” God works through all Moses’ objections and doesn’t change his mind. Weak faith doesn’t alter his call. Why? Because God can empower anyone. This is Moses’ chance to grow into God’s calling and stop looking to himself as his source of confidence, but to trust God to give all that’s needed, even down to the moral support of a brother.
Whether or not Moses trusts God well enough doesn’t seem to matter to God. Whether or not Moses wants to do what God’s asked doesn’t seem to matter, either. God’s chosen the man he wants for the job, and he’s willing to work with what he’s got. God’s patience warms my heart.
On the way to Egypt, Moses meets up with Aaron and tells him everything God’s sending him to say and about the signs he’s telling him to do. It’s a powerful moment at Mt Sinai, a meaningful location where they’ll return with all Israel and worship together. It will be a sign to Moses of God’s promise to him, Ex 3:12; 4:27-28.
Moses and Aaron meet with the Israelite elders and perform the signs for the people, “and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped,” Ex 4:27-31.
Like Moses, they could have had lots of objections, too. They could have pointed out that Moses wasn’t one of them, which was partly true. He’d grown up in Pharaoh’s house, after all. Someone could have asked where his desire to save them had been for the last 40 years while they’ve slaved away and suffered. They could have doubted he had enough clout with Pharaoh to make it work, which was also true. The Pharaoh he knew was dead.
But they didn’t. They don’t look to this man, Moses, a renegade who’d murdered an Egyptian and run for it; a poor little rich boy–Pharoah’s daughter’s adopted son; a scaredy cat hiding out to save his neck in Midian. They heard God’s words and saw God’s signs and they believed God. They were moved by his concern for them, and their response was to worship.
Worship is the best antidote for worry there is.
At this point, God’s people modeled behavior that Moses might take note of: God spoke and they believed. It didn’t really matter how impossible a thing it seemed. They chose to trust God and his words to them. God would be with them, he would lead them, and his mighty hand would bring them home.
Faith is depending on God to be enough.
The disciples ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus calls a little child to stand before them and says,
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child
is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” v 1-4.
A little child is…
–able to be trained
–looking to please
Why would humbling myself like a child make me great? I suppose it would be because to do it, I’d have to believe very hard in God–that he had my back–which would make me mindful of everyone else. It would make me like the Savior who came to serve, “…and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Mt 20:28.
We know from the first 18 verses of this psalm that Jesus is the “forsaken” one.
David says God didn’t disdain the suffering of this “afflicted one,” but listened to his cry for help, and now he has become the theme of praise in the “great assembly” , v 24-25.
Then David tells who’s in that assembly and what they do there:
–the poor and rich will feast, v 26, 29
–the ends of the earth will remember and turn, v 27
–the families of the nations will bow, v 27
–all who have died will kneel, v 29
–posterity will serve, v 30
–future generations will be told about the Lord, v 30.
All classes, all nations, all races, and all generations will praise Jesus, “for he has done it,” v 31. Jesus said pretty much the same thing when he said, “It is finished,” Jn 19:30. These are greatly understated ways to refer to the grandest event in all of human history.
If these folks are those who will inhabit heaven, it might be an idea to get used to them—all classes, nations, races, and generations—before we get there.
My take away today is the call to trust in God, to listen and believe his words, despite my fears and doubts (from Moses), to look to him like a little child (from Jesus), and to feel the relief that he has done it. My salvation is on Jesus and not on me to bring about (from David).
Thank you God for wanting me worry-free. Help me to believe it. Show me where I still cling to me.