There was never a time in human history when God interfaced with humanity without the involvement or active participation of man. It is true that we are horribly messed up, famously unreliable, have proven to be a liability at every turn and our loyalty is as solid as tissue paper in a monsoon. Yet God always looks to man as an enabler for his grand designs and programmes as they relate to humanity in this post-Adamic world. This due diligence is so whether the object is to bless and elevate or to chastise and destroy. When God wanted to bless a nation and the world he chose Abraham; when he wanted to chastise and destroy Nineveh he chose Jonah; when he was about to destroy the Old World he chose Noah and when he wanted to bring the Saviour into the world he chose Mary.
At this juncture in our tumultuous history we are suffering severely from a lack of quality leadership the likes of which are without precedent. This is exceptionally true in politics but it is also true in Christendom. This dilemma is compounded and puzzling because there are suitable candidates out there but they are neither motivated nor determined to get involved or they are monumentally insensitive to the needs of the moment. In this article the spotlight is on Moses and as we reflect on his reluctant involvement to get his hands dirty, the hope is that procrastinators and the apathetic may be aroused from their deep slumber.
Israel had suffered long and hard in Egypt and had endured 400 years under the rule of the irrepressible Pharaohs. It all started so promising when a grateful monarch following the goodly advice of Joseph stored up plenty of food during good times to see the population through the bad times brought on by severe drought. Having made Joseph governor, some say Prime Minister, over Egypt, who then provided his father and siblings with refuge from the ravages of the famine, Pharaoh and Egypt turned from welcome and fraternity to envy, suspicion and enslavement.
Whenever there is a mission, small and of little consequence or mighty and influential, there is always a man (or a woman) God has for that mission and the man chosen here was Moses. As we study this passage of scripture we should not only understand its historic context but apply its fundamentals to our present day situation.
In the Scripture covering our reflections on Moses’ involvement (Exodus 3:1 - 5:1) some matters loom in our consciousness and influence if not guide our thoughts.
There are so many similarities between our existential reality and Ancient Egypt. Yes the world has changed greatly since the middle of the second millennium before the birth of Christ but there is nothing new under the sun and the more things change the more they stay the same. Israel then was under great physical and social bondage but today the world’s bondage is very different being more mental, emotional and material and altogether just as debilitating.
As is often the case when it comes to the acceptance of responsibility it boils down to the nebulous nature of our attitude; in a major way this reflects our maturity. Moses’ attitude in this scripture is similar to lots of folks today for when it comes to undertaking responsibility they are full of excuses and at times the excuses are highly implausible.
God will never ask or urge anyone to do something when that person is not well suited and able to do what is asked. To understand this principle is to appreciate that God enables whoever he calls and will never accept excuses however credible they might be.
In the service of humanity God is still using dedicated men and women to carry out his designs but they are being swamped by the increasing workload. God is still calling men and women for service and so we could profitably reflect on Moses’ call.
First we should mention the imperatives for Moses’ call (Exodus 3:7- 9)
God saw Israel’s deteriorating condition
The Bible reminds us that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are opened to their cry and here we see his people, in this case Israel but in today’s world believers everywhere, at the brink of despair. Their misery was enormous, “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people” (Exodus 3:7a). This suffering was unmerited and like unmerited suffering everywhere the victims cried out in distress and their crying touched the heart of God who, “…heard their cry…” (Verse 7b) God, unlike degenerate man, does not long behold rampant injustice and turn a convenient blind eye for God is no respecter of persons and Israel’s suffering moved God to act. God had more than empathy for them; he also felt their pain, “…for I know their sorrows.” (Verse 7c)
Were the rulers of Egypt spiritually vigilant they would have sensed the approaching intervention by God for although unmerited suffering is redemptive God permits his children to suffer but never beyond their limits. So for every believer, whether the suffering is merited or unmerited, God gives assurance that, because we are yoked together with Christ we shall eventually overcome but in the meantime do not despair for he is acutely aware of our situation.
God sought Israel’s urgent escape
The quality of assistance can often be measured not by good intentions but by the practical steps taken to address the situation. God having observed Israel’s plight bestirred himself by coming to their rescue, “…I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians… to bring them up out of that land” (Verse 8) How very different from a world that sees terrible suffering and appalling injustice and makes promises to help that are immediately forgotten. Not so with God for he was set on bringing them out of slavery by relocating them to a better place, where they could live with dignity and self respect and where they could honour and worship Yahweh as they choose. God would do this by giving them the Promised Land exactly as he had promised to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12: 1-9 and the six Canaanite nations occupying that land could not prevent the Israelites from taking over.
God saw it was the proper moment in time
God has shown that although he is eternal he nevertheless observes and ministers to human concerns with respect to time. Again and again we see Almighty God using time to implement his programme and involving himself at crucial pre-determined dates. For example the time when Jesus was born was no happenstance for we read, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his son…” (Galatians 4:4) Again with respect to Jesus’ death chance was ruled out for the Bible says, “…in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And yet again so that we are left in no doubt as to God’s sensitivity with time the Bible tells us that believers will be promoted at the appointed time, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)
God works to time and at this point in Israel’s history God called time on the Egyptians for now the cry of the Israelites has reached critical mass, “…behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me…” (Verse 9a) God in his wisdom and in keeping to his divine programme had determined that the time had come to end Israel’s enslavement, the time had come to fulfill promises made and the time had come for Israel to pilot her destiny as a sovereign country under God’s direction. The time had come for God to call someone to lead Israel out of bondage and God determined that the time was right to call Moses.
Next we should note the impediments to Moses’ call (Exodus 3:11-13, 4:1-13)
Moses disappointingly gave excuses
Moses was born for this moment. His whole life thus far was preparation for the duties and obligation attendant on his becoming the leader and pivotal force for Israel’s liberation. His fortuitous rescue from the river Nile, his upbringing as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, his nurturing and socialization under his mother’s tutelage and his education as befits a member of royalty all attest to the mighty hand of God through providence to make Moses the right person to call for this important mission. Moses, like so many believers today, when faced with the call for service showed lack of character and commitment to the cause and chose instead to offer a plethora of excuses.
Moses acted as if God did not know him better than he knew himself. He proffered to God a checklist of disqualifications with the understanding that any reasonable person would see that he was not the proper person for the job. He highlighted his lack of ability, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) He mentioned his inadequacy “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, what his name is? Then what shall I tell them?” (Verse 13) He emphasized his inferiority complex, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, the Lord did not appear to you?” (Exodus 4:1) He stressed his physical infirmity, “O Lord I have never been eloquent…I am slow in speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10) And finally, as if he thought God did not see where he was heading, he asked to be excused “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4: 13). You have to admire Moses for he did not want to go and he manfully dredged up all the excuses he could find to persuade God to look elsewhere for his man, but God was not done yet.
God understandingly gave assurances
In the face of a barrage of lame excuses God stood firm and provided every assurance to Moses to remove his trepidation and gloom and hesitancy. God gave Moses the mightiest comfort heaven could provide and the greatest resource available to mankind for God himself was going to accompany Moses, “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exodus 4:12)
This was a welcomed divine presence prayed for and adored through the ages as reflected in the Psalms, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalm 46:11)
Here was an assuring, celestial presence warding off fears of catastrophe and mayhem as stated by the Psalmist David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Immanuel (from the Hebrew word immanu and the Greek word emmanouel both meaning “God with us” is the sweetest concept in the congregation of the righteous. Matthew attested to this when he wrote, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
To the devout Jew the name of God was so holy that few would utter it and when God affirmed who he is, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14) Moses excuses melted away like a snowflake in a volcano. Moses was aware that God had proven sufficient for any and every situation and no obstacle, however enormous, is unmovable. “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” Genesis 18:14 asked and Jeremiah endorsed that sentiment, “Ah Lord God! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.” (Jeremiah 32:17)
Noah proved it with the ark when many thought it was impossible, even today some still doubt its construction, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (Genesis 6:22) David proved it with his magnificent victory over Goliath, “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.” (1 Samuel 17:45) Daniel proved it with his glorious escape from the lions’ den, “And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me.” (Daniel 6:20 - 22) Peter proved it with his prison getaway, “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” (Acts 12:7)
Moses, with his knowledge of the history of the Jews should not need reminding. Nevertheless God promised demonstration of power, “this” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe…that the Lord…has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:5)
Having allayed all Moses’ fears and built up his confidence God sends Moses on his mission “Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:12). It would be appropriate to mention here that God did not change a single thing about Moses for Moses still had all his limitations. It will do us well to remember that God calls us in spite of our limitations.
Noah was a drunk. “And he [Noah] drank of the wine, and was drunken…” (Genesis 9:21)
Abraham was too old. “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old?” (Genesis 17:17)
Jacob was a liar. “And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy first born…” (Genesis 27:19)
Gideon was afraid. “…and so it was, because he [Gideon] feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.” (Judges 6:27)
And yet God used them all mightily. If God calls us to serve he will empower us and we need to trust God and learn that God’s solutions are best. Aaron, the helper that Moses was given, turned out to be less of a help and more of a problem on occasions as with the golden calf at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 32:1-4)
Finally let us look at the impacts with the call
Moses ventures forth
It is now that we see a different Moses for he is a transformed man, a blessed man and a man confident and at ease with his commission. But he is also a family man and he needs the approval and the full blessings of his family and Jethro accommodates him, “And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.” (Exodus 4:18)
This can be very difficult with strong family bonds as many who have answered the call have found out.
It may be agonizing for the ones left behind because in many cases security and safety concerns prevent them going along.
Most commendably no attempt was made by Jethro at persuading Moses to rethink even although Jethro knew that his daughter (Moses’ wife) had concerns.
Moses is happy with the endorsement of his family but with great foresight he also wants the endorsement of key persons. He seeks and gets the elders hearty endorsement, “And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.” (Exodus 4:29) He also wants the endorsement of Israel, which he gets, “And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped” (Verse 31) Moses knows that God does not save people against their will and this endorsement demonstrates Israel’s wish for her freedom. It also demonstrates God’s foresight and judgment that the time was right for the commencement of Israel’s long march on the road to freedom.
Moses confronts pharaoh
The return journey to Pharaoh’s palace was long and hard and had many twists and turns and now after many years the eponymous Moses had returned and set for confrontation with Pharaoh. “And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go….” (Exodus 5:1) This confrontation was extremely significant in many dimensions for it was the harbinger of future events which would change the course of history, usher in a new dispensation, lay the groundwork for changed cultural and religious paradigms and incubate the timely but distant arrival of Christianity.
This confrontation was not between a mighty monarch and a piffling subject but between a mighty King of the Pharaohs and the Almighty King of the Universe and something had to give. Moses was fearlessly facing a man knowing he was equal to the task and standing on solid ground because, like all those called and commissioned by Jesus Christ, he performed his duties with the full might of God’s authority, with the full weight of God’s power and with the outcome guaranteed to be in accordance with God’s will.
This call of Moses to involve himself reminds us that God still has plenty of work to be done and is even now calling men and women for service. Who knows what God is planning to achieve through you – the souls won into the Kingdom, the saints blessed and encouraged in perseverance, the youth counseled into right paths and so much else besides – if you put aside your insensitivity and disinterest and say like Isaiah “Here am I Lord, send me.” Look around at the state of the world and see afresh how dreadful the situation is and for the love of humanity and any compassion you possess put aside the excuses, strengthen your heart and be courageous; knowing that with God’s help you can make a difference. Maybe that small persistent inner-voice you choose not to hear might just be saying “Come on you laggard do something for God”
Books by this author (non-fiction except indicated otherwise)
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BASTARD: A STORY OF REDEMPTION (fiction)
STAND UP TO THE DEVIL (5 Volumes)
Volume 1 – You must first identify him
Volume 2 – The Devil is not the boss