In Part I of this article, we left Moses in the desert with the burning bush. After Moses had made his share of mistakes and found a way to serve in the wilderness, God met him right where he was and called him to free His people. Despite the trials of yesterday, Moses still had a purpose and a future. God told him:
I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:7-10, NKJV)
What an incredible calling! If it wasn’t enough that God spoke out of a bush that burned and was not consumed, He gave Moses a glimpse into the incredible things the future held for both him and his people. God was ready to take action and Moses was to be His instrument. Everything would be different this time because Moses didn’t have to try to do it on his own. God would do the work through him. All God wanted was his availability.
It was what Moses had been born to do and what he had wanted to do. Still, he had been through some things between the moment he saw the need to help his people and the moment God actually called him to do it. Young Moses had been a bit rash and had tried to liberate his people through his own might. Older Moses (remember, he was eighty years old at this point) was wiser but also more insecure.
Once again, we can see some definite parallels between Moses’ situation and what we often go through. When God leads us to an open door and promises new beginnings and fresh anointing, there is a part of us that jumps at the chance. Somewhere deep inside, we long to do what He is asking. We feel honored that He would even consider us. But still we hold back, afraid for many different reasons. The answers (and excuses) that Moses offered in response are often the very answers (and excuses) that we give God when He begins to open doors and we are nervous about walking through them. Let’s take a moment to look at all four of Moses’ replies and how God answered in turn.
1. Who Am I?
And Moses said unto God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
The first time God calls Moses, he responds with the question, “Who am I?” The answer is remarkably humble – especially when we take into account Moses’ history. The question “Who am I?” because it is the kind of thing we ask when a) we think we are unqualified and b) we think we are unworthy.
It is interesting that when God called Moses, his initial reaction was to say no – not because he didn’t want to do the work he was called to do but because he felt unqualified. This is interesting because if anyone could possibly have been qualified for a job like this, it was definitely Moses. His entire life had been one extensive training ground. He spent his childhood both in the palace and among his people. He had learned how to be both an Egyptian and a Hebrew. He had gained the religion of his fathers and the education of his country. He had learned everything necessary to do the job.
Sometimes we ask the question “Who am I?” because we worry that we might not be enough. This is often rooted in past experiences. We worry that our past makes us unworthy of doing what God has asked of us. Moses’ past had taught him that this was the case. He had tried already and he had failed. Sometimes we can be so consumed by our past that we’re afraid to trust God with our future. It’s like we think He doesn’t see it when He calls us.
The beauty of all of this is that God sees you. He sees the you that He formed the moment you were conceived. He sees the you that He has been building since you drew your first breath. He sees the you who has failed Him but also the you who has tried to serve and be faithful. In short, He sees you – scars, bruises, mistakes and all – and still He calls.
2. Who Are You?
Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13)
Moses’ next rejection of God’s call was based on fear that he lacked the proper authority. The first time he had tried to free his people, he had acted according to his own wishes and it hadn’t gone as planned. This time, he wanted to be sure that he was obeying the right source. He wanted to know for sure that the one who was sending him was someone whose authority he could trust.
It’s not a bad thing to want to be sure God is the one calling us – in fact, it’s an important part of ministry to be able to submit to the proper authority. The problem is when God calls but we become paralyzed by fear. There is a part of us that knows it’s God and still we stand afraid, wondering, “What if it’s just me? What if this isn’t really God?”
But God has a way of confirming His Word. He knows how to place a burden in your life and how to speak to you in a way that you can hear. Still, the next step is up to you. He will call but it’s up to you to step out in faith and believe.
3. How Will They Respond?
Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’” (Exodus 4:1)
Moses’ next rejection was based on fear of response. He wondered, “But what if they don’t believe me? What if they think that it’s all me and that God didn’t actually speak to me?”
It’s a common fear – and it’s a fear that goes right along with wondering if it’s really God who has called. If we questioned whether or not God was the one who spoke, surely they will question it too. Plus, what if they don’t respond the right way? What if we get it wrong? What if they don’t receive the message we bring? What if … just … what if?
God understands all of our “what ifs” and He calls us in spite of them – in fact, He calls us knowing that we will wonder about these things. When God calls, He simply asks you to obey. Response isn’t part of the deal. However, the beauty of this is that all He asks of you is your obedience. Even if the message you bring isn’t received, you are judged based on the fact that you obeyed – not on whether or not someone else listens. Naturally, it’s important to do what He asks in the best way possible – to speak the truth in love – but all He asks of you is that you listen to Him.
4. What if I’m Not Good Enough?
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
Moses’ next rejection was based on fear of his inability. If there’s any way we can identify with Moses, this is probably the most common. When we get past our fear of being worthy based on who we are, we often manifest our fear of being worthy based on what we can do. We see a need that must be filled but we worry that we don’t have the right set of skills. We see a ministry in the church that has been left vacant and we hear the pastor’s pleas that someone step up and help but we sit back because we’re afraid we might not be talented enough.
It is amazing how fear of inability keeps us both from working for God and also from stepping into the lives that we were born to lead. Of all of the excuses I could have offered God, this is the one that I came back to most often. I would see things to be done and I would be asked to work and I would want to so desperately. Then that nagging fear would come back – the one that says, “You can’t do it” or “You can’t do it as well as someone else could.” The course of my own life was drastically altered when I finally decided to give up my need for perfection and simply offered God my willingness. When it comes down to it, He isn’t nearly as interested in your ability as He is in your availability.
When it came down to it, God provided an answer to every excuse Moses gave Him but in the end, Moses simply couldn’t get past the fear that he wasn’t talented enough. He used the excuse that his speech wasn’t up to par. Finally, he simply said,
“O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” (Exodus 4:13)
His final rejection was, “Please – just send anyone else.” Anyone else probably would have simply given up on Moses at this point. After constant reassurances from the God who commanded the universe, Moses still worried that he couldn’t do it. But God doesn’t work the way we do – He didn’t stop writing Moses’ story in the wilderness.
The Rest of the Story:
Even though God’s anger was kindled against him for his lack of faith, God still used Moses. He allowed Aaron to speak for him but refused to give up on Moses. What’s more, even though God’s answers to Moses’ excuses did not convince him to get past his personal fears at the moment of his calling, God continued to work on Moses. In the end, He answered every one of his excuses by offering Moses’ own life as proof.
- Who am I? Moses worried that his past would forever define him. In the end, the second part of his life became much more important than the first part. While people may be aware that he once killed and Egyptian, and that it resulted in his temporary exile, what people remember most is how God used Moses to deliver and lead His people. His future defined him so much more than his past.
- Who are You? Moses worried about the authority of the one sending him. In the end, God proved Himself to be everything He had promised. What’s more, because of Moses, the people also learned to trust in the authority and ability of God. The faith of the entire nation was strengthened. God proved that, in being their I Am, He truly was everything they could ever need.
- How will they respond? Moses worried that he would not be well received by the people he was sent to lead. In the end, though he struggled with disgruntled people who doubted him – Moses led the people in such a way that he became a cherished leader. They respected and revered his authority. When he died, the Israelites grieved for him for thirty days. History remembers him as one of the greatest leaders Israel has ever known.
- What if I’m not good enough? Moses worried that his abilities were not good enough – that he could not speak well. In the end, we rarely think of Moses’ fear of speech. In fact, if anyone would have been qualified to address not only the political leaders of his day but also the vast multitudes he was commanding, it would have been Moses. His palatial education would have included extensive study in rhetoric. The Egyptian court placed great value on the ability to excel in public speaking. While he struggled with the idea of addressing Pharoah directly, he later began to trust in God more and more and, in the end, we see how he began to speak for himself more often. Moses is remembered for his leadership skills far more than for his difficulties in speech.
Whatever fears might be holding you back – whatever excuses you might be holding onto – God can still use you in spite of it all. He is not limited by your past. He is omnipotent. He knows how to speak through you so that others can be both convicted and encouraged. He can take your meager abilities and make them into so much more. All it takes is a willingness to accept the calling, walk through the door and allow Him to work through you.
In the end, God looked past his excuses and empowered Moses to deliver His people. We see the evidence of Moses’ servanthood when God calls Joshua:
“Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2)
Of all the great titles God could have bestowed upon him, He chooses to call him “Moses, my servant.” He’s still looking for servants today. Do you have the courage to become one?