Answering God's Call Without Hesitation
by Mark Nickles

The third and fourth chapters of Exodus contain the account of Moses receiving the call of God to confront Pharaoh, and free the Israelites. And, while the Exodus account is known largely for the miracles which God performed, and the faithfulness of Moses to follow where the Lord led him, it also holds a lesson for all believers in answering the call to service instantly, and without hesitation.

In chapter three, God makes himself known to Moses, introducing his presence with the well-known burning bush. Upon enlightening Moses as to his identity and history, he proceeds to tell him of his compassion for his people, who were suffering in Egypt, and his plan to free them; a plan in which the shepherd figured prominently.

Herein, we begin to see ourselves in Moses, as he is clearly overwhelmed with both the presence of God, and the scope of the task being assigned him. God says, in essence, "I can no longer tolerate the suffering of my people. I have a plan to free them, and I'm going to use you to do this great thing." Moses hears, "I have a job for you, and it involves great danger, terrible risk, and requires you to not just step out of your comfort zone, but to leave it behind entirely."

Often, instead of really hearing God's plan, and dwelling upon the immensely positive benefits of what an omnipotent God can do with our complete obedience, we dwell only upon the vastness of the mission, and the distress it will bring us.

Upon hearing what God plans to do, Moses replies, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" Far from an unreasonable response, I believe Moses responded wisely, or, at least with proper humility. Having been approached by the God of the Hebrews, who had yet to establish regular, ongoing communication with his people, Moses was understandably taken aback. He certainly was in awe of God, but it could be assumed that, not knowing him as a Heavenly Father, there was some degree of actual fear, or even dread being in his presence, despite the Lord's known promise to his people through Abraham. Even today, knowing God as we do in this age of grace, how many of us have not had the thought, "Who am I that you would use me? Much less love and bless me, or make me an heir?" (If that thought has never crossed your mind, may I suggest asking God to check your humility meter?)

In light of Moses' clear apprehension, God offers this assurance in verse 12: "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

Certain comfort should always be found in God's promise to be with us in difficulty. Yet, the frail and fallible follower might always wish for a sign of success that comes BEFORE the stress-inducing mission. No doubt, Moses could have hoped for something a little more concrete, as God's people have often struggled with walking by faith, and not sight.

In the next verse, Moses expresses another fear, which also seems logical. "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 is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

We can't be certain of Moses' exact misgivings, but whether it was an erosion of the Israelites' understanding of the true God, caused by generations spent serving the Egyptians, or the perception of Moses as a possible charlatan, the question was understandable. After all, at that point, a man claiming to speak for God would have been unexpected, and highly suspect.

Again, God gives reason to lay fear to rest, when he tells Moses in verse 14, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" And, in verse 15, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathersthe God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacobhas sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation."

In this declaration, God's eternality and self-existence, or omnipotence, are both represented. Specifically designed for the purpose of putting his people at rest, the assertion of God's eternality was an assurance that he had not forgotten the covenant made with Abraham, to make the Israelites a great nation, while the fact of his self-existence affirms his ability to see that promise through. The long-enslaved Hebrews could have every confidence, not in the Moses, the man, but in the Almighty God who empowered and sent him.

God goes on to tell Moses that the elders of Israel would listen to him, and that, incredibly, the Egyptians would be willing not only to let them go, but to enrich them with their own gold and silver as they left!

Still unsure, Moses asks in chapter four, verse one, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?"

While Moses' questions may seem a bit tedious by this time, it is important for us to remember again the scope of the assignment God gave him, as well as the wisdom of seeking our Lord's counsel. I believe there is as much reason to believe that Moses was considering every contingency, as there is to suspect that he was buying time to think of a good reason why God should not send him.

In response, God demonstrates three different miracles which Moses could employ in order to convince the Israelites of God's presence and power. These are listed in verses three through eight.

Having witnessed multiple manifestations of God's staggering power, Moses now offers his first excuse: "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (v.10) As his people often do today, Moses sought to dissuade God from using him, based on his own weakness, despite being witness to the Lord's limitless ability. Throughout his word, God has demonstrated a truth which remains to this day: the only requirement of a useful vessel is the willingness to be used.

In response, God proves the objections of his reluctant servant to be shallow, at best. Verses 11 and 12 are reminders that the creator of the mouth (or hands, or feet, etc.) can empower the mouth to say whatever is needed to accomplish his purpose. Then, once again, he tells Moses to do as instructed, once more telling him that He will help him speak, and instruct him on what to say.

Now, with all of his questions answered, and his misgivings in his own ability having failed to convince God that he is not the man for the job, Moses becomes self-indulgent: in verse 13, he beseeches the Almighty, "Oh Lord, please send someone else to do it." His desire to stay in his comfort zone, and avoid a difficult assignment got the better of him.

In my sermon notes for this passage of scripture, I noted alongside this verse, "Moses gets whiney." It may seem as though I'm making fun of Moses, or the situation, but that really is not the case. As a parent, I have heard and expect my small children to whine. That grating, vocal utterance is directed at myself, or their mother whenever they feel put-upon, overwhelmed, or simply don't want to follow directions. And, though it's anticipated while they are young, there will come a time when whining procrastination will no longer be an accepted form of response when they have been given a task to accomplish. They will be expected to "put away childish things". In that vein, Moses' self-absorbed plea that God take this cup from him, in spite of success guaranteed by the Author of the plan, evoked an angry response.

Verse 14 tells us that "the LORD'S anger burned against Moses." The Hebrew word for "anger" contains nuances which refer to facial expression, including implications for the nostrils and forehead. As an angry parent's expression becomes dire toward a disobedient child, the Lord developed a grim countenance toward this child of his, who was hesitating at the gates of service after multiple direct commands. Despite his anger, however, God did not lash out at Moses, but involved his brother Aaron to compensate for his problem of speech.

Of course, everything went as God said it would. His people were freed from a tyrannical king, paid by their slavers to leave Egypt, and brought back to worship God at Mt. Sinai. Yet, I cannot escape the feeling that, blessed as he was to be used of God in such mighty ways, Moses robbed himself of something with his unwillingness to be instant with his obedience. God's original intention was to use Moses alone, but due to his servant's doubts, utilized an alternate plan.

Reflecting upon the account of Moses' calling, believers must ask themselves, "What blessings might I forfeit when I am indecisive in my service to God? What aspects of his power and glory might I deprive myself of when I am indecisive?" All of God's blessings are desirable, and we ought always to be grateful to our heavenly Father for all he does for us. Let us not cheat ourselves, however, by allowing our fears to keep us from saying, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." Let us always answer the call without hesitation!

Mark Nickles is a husband, father of three, and a pastor in Northeastern Oklahoma. Copyright, Mark A. Nickles.

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