When Moses was 40 years old, he had thought himself sort of a big shot. He wanted to deliver the people of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians. But he was run out on a rail and has spent the last 40 years being a shepherd son-in-law. While he was caring for the sheep, Moses was called by God to the burning bush, where he was told that he was now going to deliver the people of Israel.
Moses has already asked "Who am I?" God's response: "It's not who you are, but who I am."
He asked, "What should I say sent me?" God's response: "I AM WHO I AM."
Now Moses asks, "What if they won't believe me or listen to me?" God's response: "Here are three miracles that will convince them that I sent you."
Moses focuses on his own ability again. "I'm not a good public speaker, Lord."
Believe it or not, God doesn't need your excellence to use you. As a matter of fact, He doesn't want to use the abilities of your flesh. Paul the apostle, one of the greatest men in the history of the Christian faith, reminded the Corinthians,
1Cor. 2:1-5 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
If it was Paul's persuasive power, then Paul would have gotten the credit. But instead he came with weakness, fear, and much trembling. God wants to use your weaknesses, your inabilities, your shortcomings, so that He will be glorified.
When God commissioned the prophet Jeremiah, we read,
Jer. 1:4-7 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth." But the LORD said to me, Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak."
That's all God wants from you - your willingness to do what He instructs you to do. Your submission to say what He says to say. He'll supply the words and the Spirit. You just need to provide an empty vessel for Him to use.
In God's response, He says something that at first seems quite disturbing.
Exod. 4:11 And the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
God has made people dumb, deaf, and blind? How can that be? How could a loving God do something like that? Wouldn't we be more comfortable blaming these handicaps on the devil? Or on the earth's curse? But God takes the responsibility for these things.
You see, the handicaps that people possess have been orchestrated by God. They are not punishmen. Remember in the gospel of John when Jesus approached a blind man...
John 9:1-3 And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" Jesus answered, " It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him."
God has made you seeing or blind. He has made you hearing or deaf. Why did He do that? For punishment? Generational sin that your parents or grandparents committed? No, but because He loves you. Because He wants your life to glorify Him. He wants His works to be displayed in you.
Not only that, but we put so much weight on this life and these bodies. We look at the blind or the poor and say, "What a terrible shame! God, how can you allow this?" But remember that this life is so short, and eternity is so long. The apostle Paul wrote,
Rom. 8:18 ...I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
The miseries of this temporal life are nothing compared to the joys of our eternal future.
Moses makes a final excuse: "God, please send somebody else." That was a mistake. Moses showed a lack of trust in God, a complete lack of faith that God could and would accomplish the task that He was sending Moses to do.
In Isaiah, we read the correct response to the calling of God:
Isa. 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
That's what God wants to hear. Remember when Jesus sent the disciples out into the surrounding towns,
Luke 10:2 ...He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
Are you someone who says, "send me" or "send somebody else"? When God calls you, are you volunteering or passing the buck? Moses falls short here. He was called to labor, but He didn't say, "Send me!" He said, "Send someone else!" God became angry at him and said, "Fine, you tell Aaron what I tell you, and he'll be the mouthpiece." Moses missed out on an incredible blessing here, not to mention that Aaron is going to really let him down when they get back to this mountain with the Israelites.
Moses takes his wife and son, and heads back to Egypt. The Lord tells him in advance that Pharaoh will not receive his message. Even with this advance warning, Moses will falter in faith.
Notice that God called Moses before he had it all together. He had been broken and humbled, but he was certainly far from perfect.
One of the things that Moses had neglected to do was to keep the covenant of circumcision that God had made with Abraham.
Gen. 17:9-12 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations..."
Moses hadn't kept that covenant. And when they stopped for the night, he was afflicted and was near death.
When God calls you to a ministry, He turns up the heat a bit. The things that He tells you to do, the requests that He makes of you, He expects you to do them. There is an increased accountability, both to God and to men.
James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
If Moses is going to lead God's people, God isn't going to make him perfect, but He is going to take out glaring sin and disobedience out of his life - one way or another.
In regards to Moses' wife Zipporah, she somehow made the connection between his disobedience and his deadly affliction, and circumcised their son. She's obviously angry at having to do this and says, "You are a bridegroom of blood" as she unceremoniously throws the result of the surgery at his feet.
We're not going to read anything else about her or their son for a long time. At some point - and it is very likely right here - Moses sends his wife and son back to his father-in-law Jethro. In chapter 18, Jethro brings them back to Moses.
Was Moses divorcing her? Was he tired of her already? Was he concerned that she wasn't spiritual enough to be part of his new ministry? Was he simply afraid that they might be in danger in Egypt? The Bible doesn't tell us. All we know is that at some point he sent her away.
Aaron is also hearing from God, and he is obedient to travel to the Sinai wilderness and meet Moses. This was no small step of faith. Think of going out into the wilderness to find one guy that you haven't seen in 40 years. How would you find him? Why would you go? Obedience to the Lord.
Moses and Aaron come together to see Pharaoh, and deliver the message from God. As God had predicted, Pharaoh rejected their request, and sent them away.
Pharaoh didn't just reject Moses and Aaron, but he punished the Israelites for the request.
The old saying goes, "It's always darkest before the dawn." Why is that? In the world, when you are close to deliverance, the devil increases the trials. He wants to destroy you before God delivers you.
The main ingredient of bricks was mud. Now, if you've ever made mud pies in your backyard, you know that they have a tendency to crack and crumble as they dry.
To add durability and stability, to keep them held together, chopped straw was added to the mud. The Israelites' punishment was that they must make the same number of bricks per day as before, but now must get their own straw for the bricks they made.
I find that the world often makes the same demands of us. The world tells us we've got to be solid, we've got to hold it all together. Problem is, they insist that we find our own straw. I don't know where you're going to find the strength to hold it all together, but you must. Where can you find that strength? Only in Jesus. The Bible tells us,
Col. 1:15-17 And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
If you're looking for something that can hold it all together for you, Jesus already is. The world makes its demands, but you're only going to find strenth in Jesus Christ.
The Israelites come to Moses and Aaron and say, "You've made things worse! How could you have done this?"
Moses was despondent, and his emotions deceived him. "You haven't delivered your people at all!" he cried. Hold your horses, Moses. What did God say to you in the wilderness?
Exod. 3:19-20 "But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand, and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go."
Exod. 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Moses was walking by sight, not by faith. He had neglected or forgotten what God had told him twice. When your emotions overrule your dependence on the Word of God, you will despair.
We need to go back to trusting the Word of God. We need to get back to relying on the the promises of God. When we let circumstances dictate our faith, we will live in defeat. God has never broken a promise to anyone. He accomplished exactly what He told Moses that he would.
Moses is despairing and defeated. But like the psalmist wrote,
Ps. 30:5 ...Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
Next week, we'll see God begin to move mightily towards the delieverance of the people of Israel.