The story is familiar to most people who have even a modest knowledge of the Bible: the call of Moses at the burning bush. Moses the Israelite had been raised as an adopted child of privilege in the house of Pharaoh for 40 years, but he had run away from Egypt to escape justice for the crime of killing an Egyptian who had been beating an Israelite slave. His fugitive home had been the land of Midian for 40 years where he had become a humble herder of sheep—quite a demotion from being a prince of Egypt. Now, at 80 years old, God was calling him to be His ambassador to Pharaoh and tell him, “Let My people go!” Perhaps just as daunting, Moses was also to tell Israel that God had sent him to lead them out of Egypt to the land of promise.
But Moses was 80 years old. Though he had thought at 40 that he would be Israel’s savior (Acts 7:25), he had long ago abandoned that prideful illusion of glory, long ago stopped speaking Egyptian in everyday life, and long ago abandoned hope of being anything more than a humble sheep rancher far from “civilization”. So, rather than jump at the chance to be part of one of the greatest stories of the Bible and all history, he offered up excuses.
In many ways parallels to modern day excuses from being God’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), priests (1 Peter 2:9), and sowers of the seed of good news (Matt. 13:3) to the world are remarkable.
“Who am I…?”
On the surface this sounds perfectly humble and proper to an invitation to do something great; but as an excuse to the God who commands that we speak His message to the world, it is neither humble nor proper. It ignores the fact that “Certainly I will be with you…”, and it amounts to a sort of deliberate faithlessness. God doesn’t give a command that He will simply “abandon us” to do; He would be with Moses and He will be with us, too. So, speak up whether you’re a prince or a pauper in this world. Just in case you were wondering, you are a child of the King, and you’ve got something to say! So, say it!
“…What shall I say?”
Again, we offer the same question/excuse today, hoping that our lack of a surefire persuasive speech will constitute a “pass” for us. God’s answer to Moses was a simple message of God’s concern for Israel, His promise to liberate them through Moses, that He’d bring them to Canaan with the wealth of Egypt, and a command to Pharaoh to let them go. There was no special approach or method given, no surefire “pitch”; it wasn’t complicated, just a simple message. The Gospel, likewise isn’t that complex: God loves you; you can be liberated through Jesus from sin and death; obey Him in faith, repentance, confession, and baptism; He’ll bring you to Heaven; and Satan will be defeated—the victory is assured. So, speak the simple Gospel and leave the rest to God.
“What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?”
God tells us, just like He told Moses, that some wouldn’t believe—expect it. God’s answer to Moses was to give clear three compelling evidences that he was, in fact, speaking for God. While we aren’t give these sorts of miraculous signs, we are given numerous compelling evidences that Jesus does save and the Bible is the word of God such as the accuracy of the Bible, the resurrection of Christ. So, speak and share the evidences
“…for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
God’s answer: I, the maker of man’s mouth, will be with your mouth. Trust God in this. Jesus told His disciples, (Matthew 10:19) “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.” This excuse tends to come from the misconception that success of the message depends on us; it doesn’t (Rom. 1:16). Moses sought to dodge God’s commission by saying that Israel and Pharaoh would not listen to God, because he wouldn’t be eloquent. Truth be known, those converted through the eloquence of the speaker seldom make it faithful to the end—they’re often converted to the speaker. On the other hand, those converted to Jesus through the message of the Gospel—eloquent or not—often do remain faithful to the Lord. So, what does it matter, whether or not we are slow of speech and tongue? A message from the Lord is still a message from the Lord, even if spoken by someone who stutters. So, speak, slow or not.
“Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”
Here, Moses was simply and directly “begging off”—and it seems to have been the most offensive thing that Moses said, because God got angry (Exo. 4:14). When God gives a command, He will not brook refusal or disobedience, and He will not accept excuses. In spite of all the excuses Moses gave, He still required Moses to be “His man”. He gave Moses Aaron to be a spokesman, but the command given to Moses stood. Likewise, we may wish the job of sharing the Gospel to others; but wishing won’t change the facts and giving us helpers won’t take away our personal responsibility—so, speak up, the job still belongs to us.
We can learn from Moses’ failure to do the Lord’s will. Let’s be the messengers that the Lord is calling us to be.