The following notes are related to the morning message for 03 March 2019 and are based on Exodus 3:1-15
On 31 May 1792, a shoemaker preached to a little congregation in Nottingham, England, about people far, far away who needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. He had a vision and a heart for reaching them, and he called on this congregation to catch the vision and join their hearts with his. The young preacher was William Carey, and the far away people on his heart were in West Bengal, India. “Attempt great things for God,” said Carey, “and you can expect great things from God.”
Almost to a man, they made excuses as to why Carey’s appeal should go unheeded. One of the ministers there is reported to have said, “Sit down, young man. When God is pleased to convert the heathen, he will do so without your help or mine.”
Our focal scripture reading this morning is Exodus 3:1-15. God called to Moses from a burning bush in the wilderness of Horeb, in the heart of the Sinai Peninsula. God also gave Moses a very specific assignment to lead his people from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. However, Moses immediately began to pile up the excuses, telling God why he was not the man for the job. This experience reminds us that even today God still calls men and women into his service, and, just like Moses, we still we make our feeble, not-well-cobbled, excuses. In chapters three and four of Exodus, Moses made five excuses that sound disturbingly familiar.
First, he asked, “Who am I that I should be the one going to Egypt?” Was he demonstrating genuine humility, or was he just putting on a show before God? Regardless of which it was, Moses was absolutely right! He was a nobody from the back side of Midian, smack in the middle of nowhere, and God was telling him that he had chosen to make him into somebody. Moses was nothing and nobody, but God was (and is) everything. God had in mind for Moses to shepherd the whole nation of Israel. Moses, a nobody? The Almighty God was calling, and he had a big job for Moses to do. But, the most important thing that Moses needed to hear, was, “I will be with you.”
In the second place, Moses asked God, “Who are you?” In Moses’ mind, he began to cross bridges that didn’t exist yet. He thought about going to the people and claiming that the God of their fathers had sent him. Then they might reply, “Which God are we talking about?” What would Moses say? God said to Moses, “Tell them, I am who I am. Tell them “I AM” has sent you. Tell them that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has sent you. Tell them that I am the God who really is God has sent you. Tell them the God who sees and knows and cares has sent you. Tell them that he is the God who can, and will, bring his people out of bondage.”
Moses wasn’t finished with his excuses and questions. He asked, “What if they don’t believe me or listen to me?” (Moses was big on “What ifs!) To this excuse God graciously gave Moses some reassurance. At God’s command, Moses threw his shepherd’s rod on the ground and watched it become a snake. At God’s word, he picked it up by the tail, and it became a rod again. God also make Moses’ hand to become leprous, and then he made it clean and well again. Was Moses’ question an expression of fear of failure? Was he saying that he didn’t trust God? Everyone who ever received a call from God, once he or she has understood the magnitude of what God was saying, probably has entertained both of these same questions. However, we need to come to the realization that it is not about us. It is about God. It is not about what we might not be able to achieve. It is always about being obedient to what God tells us and then leaving the results to him. Our job is only to be faithful.
Still Moses’ excuses came! His fourth one was, “I’m not a public speaker!” He said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent. I have a slow drawl. Sometimes I get tongue-tied.” Does what Moses says here sound familiar to you? God puts in our minds and hearts that we should witness in some way to the person sitting next to us at the doctor’s office or to the person in front of us at the grocery store check-out. “I don’t know them. What would I say? What would they think if I did that? To Moses, and to us, God says, “Who gave you your mouth? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” When you give excuses such as the ones just mentioned, do you think you are telling God something he doesn’t know? He knows whether or not you can speak. You can’t speak? So what? God can still speak through you. He can move your tongue and your mouth to form the words he wants to someone to hear.
God wasn’t letting Moses off the hook with any of his excuses. So, finally we come to the heart of the matter. Moses says, “Just send someone else, God!” The bottom line for most of us is the matter of willingness. Most of the time it is not that we can’t do something. It is that we won’t. If you are not willing to let God use you, he just might pass you by. In the case of Moses, our gracious and super-patient Sovereign God gave him the help of Aaron to be his spokesman. Fortunately for all of us, God is patient and slow to anger. However, our rebellion, our never-ending list of excuses, our constantly expressed reluctance, our apathy, and our outright “no” to God all have their limits with him. Exodus 4:14 tells us, “The Lord’s anger burned against Moses.” In the face of God’s anger, Moses silenced his excuses and became obedient. Over the next forty years, he was shown how much greater God is than any excuse that he could ever dredge up.