For those continuing to follow the blazing trail through God’s and our story, you’ve undoubtedly encountered Moses, one of the more important people in the Hebrew Testament and in the story of the people of Israel. Moses’ journey offers many encouraging and challenging messages to us, even several thousand years later. He appears in the second chapter of Exodus and dominates the story (along with God) for many years and chapters to come.
In the 430 years since Joseph had brought his father and 11 brothers to Egypt, the 12 tribes of Israel had thrived and multiplied significantly–from about 70 men (plus their families) to now about 600,000 men (plus their families, so well over 1 million people). Their rapid growth scared the heck out of the Egyptians, who had since enslaved the Israelites. One result of this is that Pharaoh (King of Egypt) had decreed that all newborn Israelite boys must be killed in order to slow down the growth of the Hebrew people. It was into this environment that Moses was born (Exodus 2). Fearing God more than Pharaoh, the midwives found ways to disobey Pharaoh (at risk to their own lives) and keep the baby boys alive. It was only because of this miracle of defiance that Moses even survived. His mother made a little basket boat for him and set him adrift in the Nile, hoping he would somehow survive the journey and end up in a good home.
Reflecting on this, that’s the first important message for you and me from Moses’ epic journey: through a series of countless miracles, God has given us life and kept us alive to bring us to where we are now, so that we may both glorify and enjoy Him.
Anyway, baby Moses is found by Pharaoh’s daughter who, like any good youngster, brings him home and asks if she can keep him (“Please, Daddy, can I? Please!?”). Like any dad, he has a hard time saying no to that, so Moses ends up getting raised like an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s palace. However, somehow along the way, he learns that he is a Hebrew. After he has grown up, one day he sees an Egyptian beating a fellow Hebrew. Moses intervenes and kills the Egyptian. Pharaoh finds out, so he tries to kill Moses. Moses runs away to nearby Midian to escape punishment. There he meets a priest of Midian, who has seven daughters. He stays with the priest, who gives Moses one of his daughters to marry. She bears him his first son, and he utters the famous phrase, that he has become a stranger in a strange land.
Meanwhile, the king of Egypt dies, but the Israelites are still oppressed. They cry out to God. Moving into chapter 3 of Exodus, God launches the plan He must have had for Moses all along. We arrive at the famous scene of the burning bush. It’s on fire but not being consumed. Moses goes to the bush to figure out what’s going on, and God speaks to him from the bush. God calls on Moses to go back to Egypt, stand up to one of the most powerful kings on the planet, and lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
Message #2: What’s special about the bush? Nothing. Any old burning bush will do–God can use any means He sees fit to get our attention.
Throughout the rest of chapter 3 and into chapter 4, we see the negotiation taking place between God and Moses. Moses doesn’t know what he will say or how he will convince the people of Israel to listen to him. He certainly has no confidence that he will be able to persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go (the Israelite slaves are foundational to the Egyptian economy). He reminds God that he is not eloquent and that he is “slow of speech” (i.e., he probably stuttered). In short, he tries to convince God to p-p-pick someone else. God refuses, although He makes one small concession, allowing Moses to engage his brother Aaron in this mission.
Message #3: Why would God choose Moses? He could have chosen a current leader of the Hebrews, someone well-spoken with a force-of-nature personality. Or He could have at least picked Aaron directly. Why pick a stuttering murderer like Moses? Because any old person will do. It’s not about how great Moses is (or is not), it’s about how great God is. If God had selected someone we would view as a logical choice, people might have been inclined to believe that the mighty deeds to be performed resulted from that person’s strength, not God’s.
What does this mean to us? That God can and wants to use us to do great things in His service as well, just like Moses. It may not be leading a mass exodus out of slavery, but that’s OK. God cares about one hurting person as much as He does about one million. If you help a neighbor who is in distress, or give a meal to a homeless person, you are helping or feeding Jesus, as He points out in the Gospel of Matthew:
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”Jesus the Messiah, in Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
At the end of it all, Moses gives up his argument with God. God tells Moses he will take care of everything. Moses feels inadequate, but God fills in all our cracks of inadequacy with His power. This is unbelievably good news! As the Apostle Paul puts it:
Message #4: We should never worry that our strength won’t be enough to complete tasks God has assigned to us. He is enough. The strength He used to create the universe and raise Jesus from the dead will more than make up for our shortcomings! This is God’s version of the 10x plan for each of us!
Message #5: It’s OK to argue and debate with God. In fact, I believe He invites this level of interaction with Him; it’s definitely preferable to indifference, and ultimately leads to a deeper faith and deeper relationship. In the end, of course, we probably won’t win those arguments since we are called to obey our Creator, but He’s fine with it if we want to question what He is asking us to do.
For me, writing this blog is an example of obedience to something I believe God is calling me to do. I don’t really know why He wanted me to do this and I even argued with Him about it, but I still ended up feeling compelled to comply (“writers write”, among other things), so here I am. What’s more, I felt like He put specific boundaries around what He wanted me to say in this forum, as well as (and especially) what He did NOT want me to say (as I’ve shared before, as an example, I am not to use this forum to express my political views or other strong opinions that would detract from the encouragement I am to called spread with my words). I am often tired when I sit down to write these blog posts, but God always finds a way to give me the endurance I need to get them done.
What about you? Is there something you feel God calling or nudging you to do? Do you feel unworthy of the task? Is something else holding you back? Whatever it is, argue with God, then go do it!