Moses was a great leader of Israel, but he stumbled at the start of his mighty ministry. He is remembered for having been called by God from a burning bush that miraculously stayed whole (Ex. 3:3). Bible readers may be surprised to learn that Moses was rather hesitant (and resistant) to answering this call. The Bible is a great book for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the true portrayal of its heroes. The high points are not exaggerated, and neither are the low points ignored. David was/is a great man after God’s own heart despite his terrible sin. The apostle Paul’s ministry changed the world, but his past stays penned as a part of the painful record.
Moses rose to greatness in spite of himself. This simple lesson is one that should encourage us all. Moses was a wonderful worker for the Lord, but he wasn’t without his flaws. He led God’s people and left us an example even though he wished that someone else could do this job.
Moments after being called by God, his doubt crept in. Moses has a simple question for God: “Who am I?” (Ex. 3:11). Doubt has always been a poisonous dart used by the devil. In the garden, Satan sewed and then took advantage of Eve’s doubt (Gen. 3:1). While Moses’ doubt seems more internal in nature, it’s no less debilitating. This soon-to-be great leader of Israel is failing to see that the same God who can speak from a burning bush while keeping it from being consumed can also provide the means for doing the job being assigned. Moses isn’t focusing on God though, and that’s his big mistake. Like Peter who took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink, Moses does not see how he will be able to do this. He’s right, to an extent. Without God, Moses would not be equipped for this challenge. Yet God was offering to be on Moses’ side so long as Moses walked with God.
This Old Testament moment could not be more relevant for us today. Many Christians are struggling with seeing how they can make any difference in this world. The task seems so daunting and we seem so outmatched. With us as with Moses, it’s not really about us because God has promised to be with us as long as we walk with him.
Yet Moses is not convinced! Even after the Lord promises his powerful assistance (Ex. 3:12), he protests. This time Moses claims he won’t know whom to say sent him. Nicodemus knew that Jesus was from God (John 3:2), and Paul knew that Jesus was Lord (Acts 9:6). Surely, Moses knew that he was speaking to the Lord. The evidence was too clear. Moses, however, was unsure how to tell this truth. God gave an answer that probably left Moses at a further loss for words. In words well-known and slightly better understood now, God says, “I Am That I Am” (Ex. 3:14). Here the eternality of God is explained about as much as such a thing can be explained. God has always existed. He will never cease to exist, so anyone — whether it be Moses, Israel, Pharaoh, or others —following God has an abiding hope larger than this life.
Moses is still not convinced! Moses protests that no one will believe him (Ex. 4:1). Our 20/20 hindsight may trick us into thinking that we would never balk from such a mission. Meanwhile many reluctant Christians sit on the sidelines, too timid to take the saving gospel to a lost world. Moses’ reluctance is as understandable as it is tragic. Further, please note that God does not disagree with Moses. The sad truth is that Moses was not believed! Pharaoh opposed Moses and Jehovah. Israel murmured and fought against the Lord. Shortly after being saved by God, the children of Israel cast him aside for gods made of gold (Ex. 32:8). It’s even said of Moses that he did not believe God regarding the rock (Num. 20:11-12). God was certain that people would not believe his word. Still, that word was their only hope. Many rejected Noah to their own peril. Many reject Jesus and refuse his words of everlasting life. However, God did arm Moses with the tools to prove that he was from the Lord (Ex. 4:2-8). With this, Moses would be vindicated whether anyone believed him or not. God has given everyone the ability to choose.
Ironically, Moses’ next protest insists that he’s not able to speak well! This would likely come as a surprise to anyone listening to Moses eloquently attempting to evade this duty. The sad truth is that Moses had all the skills needed to talk to someone about the Lord. He just lacked the will to do so in this moment.
Dear Christian, it’s exactly like a brother or sister who can talk endlessly about sports, food, grandkids, etc., etc., etc., while claiming not to have the ability to talk to another about the Lord or his church! This is a feeble excuse and shows that Moses in this moment just doesn’t want to do the job.
Thanks be to God that Moses soon submitted to God and answered this call. Christians, our own faithfulness is more like a marathon than a sprint. Stay strong and stay on course!
Dustin preaches for the Augusta Road Church of Christ in Greenville, SC.