Moses before God
by Mary C Legg
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II-1 Shemoth Ex 1:1-6:1
Moses has his faults—he's not the ideal leader. Although providentially placed in a position of authority and leadership, he is self-destructive. In fury, he slays an Egyptian overseer and surreptiously buries him in the sand. He is guilty of manslaughter, if not murder.
Moreover, he is a coward. Rather than confront his guilt before the Pharaoh and throw himself on his mercy, he runs away. He does not cry out for mercy, like Cain, but flees to Midian where he assumes the lowest of all social positions: a shepherd.
Married to one of Jethro's daughters, he hides in the obscurity of being just another shepherd. Anonymity covers him like a cloak until one day a strange thing happens while he is driving his sheep along a path on Mt. Horeb. He turns aside to see a burning bush which is not consumed by the flames. It's strange.
Throughout Exodus, we see the backside of God, as God works through two mediums: nature and men. God uses the natural to demonstrate or transcend the normal to the supernatural. He works through the lives of men to effect social reform and the redemption of human life. The ordinary event precursors the extraordinary. It was just another boring day in the life of a nondescript shepherd when Moses came along a tract on Mt. Horeb. He was a failure, a criminal, an outlaw, a has-been with a resume of Egyptian prince and social reprobate written on it. Innocent men have been framed with less evil deeds and suffered more, but Moses still lived in the unsettled wild west where it was more expedient to flee to a neighboring country rather than enter into a legal court.
Married, with a son, Gershom and hoping to avoid deportation through extradition by avoiding headhunters who might benefit financially, Moses had already settled into an obscure life—just drifting with the sheep and weathering the elements. Turning aside for the strange sight, he heard a voice calling him, "Moses, Moses." Immediately, he responded, "Here am I," but he did not recognize God's presence. Instead, he had to be told he was standing on hallowed ground and to remove his shoes. Even if he had heard the stories of his ancestors from his nanny, his shows no appropriate response for a person coming into confrontation with God. He is the reluctant leader, the man who has ten dozen reasons why he can't. Although raised and trained as a prince, having access to aristocratic education, he waffles, telling God that he's not a public speaker. He evades responsibility by claiming he stutters. He challenges God in the manner of a peevish five-year-old, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel?" (Ex 3:11)
He hedges every inch possible and God responds, "Certainly I shall be with thee," yet Moses whines, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, nd shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say unto me; What is his name? What shall I say unto them?" (Ex 3:12)
Even after Moses gets his first executive training demonstration with turning his shepherd's staff into a snake, he still balks. He is reliant on signs, yet does not trust what he sees happening. Moses throws the staff on the ground and when it turns into a serpent, he takes off. He possess the courage of a mouse and would probably whimper if he had to go through a military obstacle course. And after a long discourse regarding performing wonders in front of the Israelites, Moses is still not much convinced that he's the right man for the job. He wants out of this man's army before enlistment becomes official. "And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue." (Ex 4:11)
Certainly if anything, Moses would be the very man to drive any corporate supervisor mad as a blathering insubordinate clerk. The response was equal to the whining complaint, "Who made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or the deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?" (Ex 4:11)
He begins his career, interjecting objections in between every command that God gives him, reliant on signs an disbelieving them simulatneously. Afraid to stand alone, he hides behind Aaron's stature, demanding that Aaron speak for him. As time passes, Moses matures and changes. He snivels about the Israelites constantly murmuring and complaining about him; but when they violate their contract with God by creating the golden calf, he defends them and intervenes on their behalf. Within a short time he assumes leadership to such an extent, that his father-in-law, Jethro, the Midianite priest, has to give him a second executive training session regarding deputizing authority.
Yet, for all the faults and failures, Moses becomes a great leader. Each person has the potential for leadership, but first there has to be honest self-assessment and the acceptance of responsibility. Nothing is more frustrating to a teacher than to hear a student respond, "I can't" or "I don't know" before an honest effort. Don't short-change yourself. When God calls, respond. It doesn't matter even if you're the lowest on the social ladder. Have courage, fall down often; but get back up again. Each of us comes to a point on the path where we are called aside to see the burning bush. Often we do not comprehend that God calls us from the ordinary to do the extraordinary and that he uses the natural to transcend human limitations.
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