God says to Moses through the burning bush:
10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.
13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Our scripture today tells only part of the story of Moses and his talk with God through the burning bush. For those of you that may not be familiar with the story, if you start reading in Exodus 3, you will read of a shepherd, names Moses, tending to his father-in-law’s sheep. While performing his duties, Moses stumbles upon a bush that was burning without damaging the bush, and Moses had to take a second look. When he does, the voice of God calls out to him from the bush beckoning him to come closer.
God tells Moses that He has come down to send Moses to go to Pharaoh and deliver the Israelites from Egypt into prosperity. Moses seems to panic a bit, and asks God, as in our scripture, “WHO AM I THAT I SHOULD GO TO PHARAOH?” In other words, Moses asks God, how am I worthy of such a call to go and deliver your people? I’m just a shepherd, how am I worthy of such greatness? God responds that He will be with Moses.
But that doesn’t satisfy Moses. He is still unsure, so Moses questions God again, saying “BUT GOD, if they ask me who has sent me, what do I tell them? Who do I tell them has sent me?” God responds and tells Moses to tell them that he has been sent by the God of their ancestors, by “I AM WHO I AM.” By the great “I AM.” Now the Bible doesn’t fill in the empty spaces for us about how Moses was feeling about he and God’s conversation at the burning bush. So that leads us to interpret a bit from our own human experiences how Moses was feeling. I don’t know about you, but if God appeared to me through a burning bush and told me that I was going to leave everything I knew to lead God’s people from slavery, I would be a nervous wreck. I would likely ask the same questions that Moses was asking. WHO AM I that I am worthy? WHO do I tell them YOU ARE? And if you’re like me, you would still have more questions, much like Moses.
After God told Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent him, Moses questions God for the third time saying, “What if they don’t believe that You have sent me?” To serve as a sign to the Israelites that God has sent Moses, God tells Moses to take the staff in his hand and throw it on the ground. When he does, the staff turns into a snake. When Moses picks the snake up, it becomes a staff again. God also gives Moses two other signs to prove that it is God that has sent him to settle his nerves. But Moses still isn’t comfortable with what God is calling him to do.
In desperation, Moses counters God’s attempts at comforting him and questions God’s call for his life for the fourth time. “Oh My Lord,” Moses says, “I am not a good speaker. I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” and God reassures him that He will give Moses the right words, but Moses begs God to send someone else. Instead, God promises to send Aaron, Moses’ brother, who is a good speaker to assist Moses.
In revisiting the biblical heroes we have already talked about in this series, you might wonder why we’re not talking about the later years of Moses’ life when he delivers God’s people from Egypt. We all know that Moses became a great man that delivered God’s people from Egypt. What we often don’t talk about is Moses’ humanity. Before Moses became the great deliverer, he stood before the burning bush unsure of how to move forward with what God wanted for his life. Moses questioned God four times and tried as he could to come up with some excuse as to why he was not cut out to lead an exodus. Doesn’t sound very heroic, does it? What’s important to realize is that despite the promised uncertainty and difficulty of his future, and despite his failed attempts to fight God’s call, Moses eventually stopped fighting, put his faith in God and accomplished extraordinary things. Furthermore, it could be reasoned that maybe Moses was a hero even before the exodus, because he vulnerably taught us that perhaps it is not the fact that we question our call that defines us, but rather the process of overcoming our insecurities and trusting God’s answers to our many questions that defines us.
I’m reminded of a story I once heard of a man that lost both of his legs in a horrific car accident where he was hit by a texting driver. After leaving the hospital, he became depressed due to his lack of mobility and decreased independence. He bitterly lashed out at his loved ones as he adjusted to a different pace of life. He was unable to return to his construction job and he thirsted for meaning and purpose. He spoke to his pastor and she told him that perhaps he was looking for meaning in the wrong places, and that he should look no further than God, but the man was angry with God. How could such a just God allow him to lose both of his legs? Over time the man learned to forgive God and came to believe that God was calling him to tell others about the dangers of texting and driving. He now tours the country visiting high schools and colleges to serve as a living example to the dangers of texting and driving. It was not his doubt in God that ultimately defined him, but how he picked himself up and learned to trust God once again.
I’m also reminded of a time not too long ago when my own life was overly consumed with thoughts of trying to “figure out” what I was doing with my life. In the later years of high school and in college, there is this great pressure to pick a major and profession and live happily ever after. I can assure you, it is not that easy. As for me, had I spend half as much time listening to God and picking up on his gracious, but subtle hints, instead of stressing out and stubbornly going it on my own, I may have had my happily ever after planned out by now. But I got started late on trusting God’s direction, so here I wait still listening for God’s loving whispers. I would like to think that my life will not be marked by my chaotic states of uncertainly, but by my perseverance in seeking and committing my life to following whatever God’s will may be for me.
German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, once suggested in a volume of letters written to a young poet exploring life, that one is not to antagonize the questions one has about life and what one wants to know more about, but to “love the questions and to live into the answers.”
So what does all of this mean for God’s call for our lives? It seems to be easier said than done to respond to God’s call without hesitation or question. We may even feel guilty thinking about what our probable response would be to God, if we were in the same situation as Moses before the burning bush. However, the good news is, that we don’t have to do it all alone. We just need to be receptive and open our hearts to what God is calling us to do. Additionally, like Rilke suggested, we must be willing to love the questions we have about what God is calling us to do, and to trust God enough to let Him guide us through living into the answers.
And God will guide us if we just allow ourselves to be guided.
Because God is persistent. Culturally we tend to have this magic, reoccurring number of three. Many of us have probably often told ourselves that we will give something three tries and if it doesn’t work out, well, we tried. And what about three strikes and you’re out of the old ball game? Fortunately for us, God’s persistence transcends our own cultural tendencies to follow through with something just within our comfort zone. Moses challenged God’s call for his life four times. God didn’t give up at Moses’ third attempt and say, “Well, I tried.” God is persistent.
God also uses imperfect people, and God will provide what we need to achieve our callings. I imagine that if God only used and accepted perfect people, the kingdom of God would be a small, select club that many humans would not get an invitation to. Each time that Moses pled with God about how he was unsuited to lead an Exodus because of his various imperfections, God countered his argument with another way that God would supplement his weaknesses. God will similarly counter our pleas with ways in which God will give us what we need. Whether that be courage to make a change in our lives, strength to accelerate through the trying times, or someone to speak for us when we can’t find the words as in Moses’ case. With all that in mind, I ask you dear friends in Christ, Like Moses, WHAT IS GOD CALLING YOU TO DO THAT YOU ARE FIGHTING? Maybe you feel like God is calling you to change careers. Or perhaps God is calling you to take note from our Vacation Bible School kids last week, and you are being called to venture outside of the comfortable walls of the church to serve the community and the vast world. Maybe God is calling you to reevaluate the time you spend with Him as you receive communion today from our celebrants. I have no doubt that in whatever God is calling you to do, God will not give up on calling you. God is persistent. No matter what flaws you perceive you possess, God can still use you. And exactly as Moses exemplified, despite all of your questions and fears, God will give you the courage to live into the answers to your questions and whatever else you may need to follow what God is calling you to do.