by Robby Higginbottom
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and He said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
Exodus 3:13-14, 4:1-20
It was the night before my term would begin as a counselor at a Christian camp for inner city kids. I remember parking my car and walking down into camp. Counselors and campers were running everywhere, and I felt like a fish out of water. This was not North Dallas. This was not the youth ministry I had known. I was overwhelmed. My cabin wouldn’t be open until tomorrow, so I slept that night on the wrestling mats in the gym. This was my own kind of wilderness, and I woke up the next morning feeling hungry and desperate. I opened my Bible to Exodus 3 and 4, and it felt like the Lord spoke to me out of my own burning bush.
If you’re scoring at home, note that Moses basically goes five rounds with the Lord. He would do anything to avoid going back to Egypt, facing his own people, and then confronting Pharaoh with the Lord’s message to let His people go.
Round 1: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (3:11)
Round 2: “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (3:13)
Round 3: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” (4:1)
Round 4: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (4:10)
Round 5: “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (4:13)
We tend to turn men like Moses into heroes, but here in Exodus Moses is clearly more human than hero. He is an ordinary man through whom the Lord would do extraordinary things. Shouldn’t we be encouraged that Moses feels like a fish out of water for the mission ahead of him, but the Lord meets him there?
We too feel our inadequacy when the Lord calls. “Who am I?”, we ask, and the Lord reframes the central issue: “But I will be with you” (3:12). We too wonder about the identity of this glorious God who calls us—“What is His name?”—and the Lord again and again reveals Himself to us (3:14). We too doubt that people will believe us, but the Lord gives us spectacular signs. [In our case, not a staff that turns into a snake, but a cross and an empty tomb that signal God’s intention to turn sinners into saints.] We too focus more on our limitations and inabilities—“I am not eloquent”—and the Lord reminds us of what is more important: “Who has made man’s mouth?” (4:11). We too can throw up our hands and ask for the Lord to send someone else, but the Lord doesn’t strike us down or give up on us (4:14-17).
During that term as a camp counselor, I learned a lesson the Lord continues to teach me to this day. We’re always tempted to focus more on who we are and what we can do, but life and ministry are all about who God is and what He has done for us in Christ. When we focus more on our doubts and limitations than His truth and perfections, we are paralyzed. But when He lifts our eyes and opens our ears, what we see and hear changes everything. We’re no longer stuck in the mud. We’re liberated and empowered to focus on Him, forget ourselves, and go where He calls.
Where is the Lord calling us to go in this season? Where does He want us to serve His purposes, to shine His light in darkness, to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, and to hold out Jesus? It certainly feels overwhelming, and we’re tempted to pull out our questions and excuses. “Who is sufficient for these things?” Paul asks in 2 Corinthians 2:16. The implied answer is, “Left to ourselves, no one.” But by God’s grace, that’s not the end of the story. Paul continues, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
Brothers and sisters, confident that our sufficiency is from Him, and knowing that He will be with us, may we go where the Lord is calling us.