When we catch up with Moses in Exodus 3, forty more years have gone by. Moses is now eighty years old and a shepherd for his father-in-law.
Although Moses seems to have forgotten what he already knew, that God would use him to deliver Israel from Egyptian slavery (see Acts 7:24-25), God had not forgotten. God spoke to Moses from a bush that was burning but not burning up. The message God had for Moses was simple: now was the time for him to go and deliver the Israelites from slavery.
It would seem that Moses remembered what had happened forty years earlier when the people refused to follow him, so he started to make excuses to God as to why he wasn’t the man to do this.
Excuse 1: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). We might phrase this today as, “Who, me?” or even “Why me?” God’s reply was simple: don’t worry about it because I’ll be with you – I’ll even bring you back to this very mountain to worship him.
Excuse 2: “If I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ – what should I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13). This might not seem much of an excuse to us, but Moses was using this to try to get out of going. Notice God’s reply: ““I am that I am…You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). God further elaborated that he was the same God Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had worshipped. He gave Moses precise instructions as to what to say to the elders of Israel as he prepared them to be led to the Promised Land. But Moses was still not convinced.
Excuse 3: “And if they do not believe me or pay attention to me, but say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’?” (Exodus 4:1). This is when God gave Moses his miraculous signs: his rod becoming a snake and then a rod again, and his hand becoming leprous and whole again, and water from the Nile becoming blood when poured out.
Excuse 4: ““O my Lord, I am not an eloquent man, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). In other words, I’m not a good public speaker. This would seem to go against the education he had received and reflects how he still felt after being rejected forty years earlier. In God’s response you can almost hear God becoming weary with these excuses: who gave Moses his mouth anyway? God knew what Moses could and could not do and God would be with Moses’ mouth.
Excuse 5: ““O my Lord, please send anyone else whom you wish to send!” (Exodus 4:13). Send someone else – I don’t want to do this! This is when God became angry with Moses and told him in no uncertain terms that he was going and Aaron, his brother, could be his spokesman.
How often are we like Moses? Rather than obeying God immediately (and without question), we try to give excuse after excuse to God, forgetting that God knows all about us. God know what we are capable of doing and what we cannot do. We won’t be held accountable for what we can’t do – God will hold us to account for not doing what we can.
God has given us abilities – Paul calls them “gifts” in Romans 12:6-8. If we have abilities in an area – or more – God expects us to use what he has given us.
God has equipped us to do his work. What is our excuse?
Readings for next week:
16 November – Exodus 8
17 November – Exodus 9
18 November – Exodus 10-11
19 November – Exodus 12:1-28
20 November – Exodus 12:29-51