Excuse Me Lord!
June 14, 2015
Exodus 3:9 - 4:17
EXCUSE ME, LORD!
June 14, 2015
Exodus 3:9 – 4:17
7 seaman were out on furlough in Victoria. However, they weren’t back on board at 19:00 hours (7 p.m.) when they were supposed to be. The first one didn’t roll in until 1 ½ later.
The chief petty officer was royally ticked. The seaman made excuses: “I’m sorry sir, but I completely lost track of time and I missed the bus. I did happen to catch a cab, but the cab broke down. I persuaded the owner/operator of the horse drawn carriages to sell me a horse. But I was riding along Esquimalt Road when the horse dropped dead. I walked the last 10 km and just got here.”
While extremely skeptical, the chief petty officer let him go. However, 4 more young men came in after him one after one, and they all told the same phony-baloney story about losing track of time, missing the bus, having the cab break down, buying a horse that died, and having to walk. By the time the last man reported in, the chief petty officer had had enough. As the man began to tell his story about missing the bus and hiring a cab, he yelled, “Stop! Stop! Don’t tell me. The cab broke down.” “No sir,” was the reply, “there were just so many dead horses on the road it took forever to get through.”
We are continuing on in Exodus, at the point in time that Moses, now 80 years old and still shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, is at Mt. Horeb and God is speaking to him from the middle of a thorn bush.
3:9 “Take note now. The cries of distress from the Israelites have reached me, and I have also seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Now go! I am sending you to Pharaoh. Lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
When God started describing the plight of the Israelites and his desire to do something about it, bringing them out of slavery and giving them their own land that would be fertile, Moses must have thought, "Great! It’s about time!"
But then comes the catch. He says to Moses, I will send you! Oops. Oh no. Have you ever been convicted that something should be done, but then refused to do this yourself. I’m too busy, too financially stretched, too committed, too scared, … let someone else do this.
Years ago, Moses had attempted once to deliver just one Israelite by killing one Egyptian … and that had backfired immensely. Now he’s supposed to lead the whole nation to freedom? Moses is terrified of being rejected and failing. So he begins with the excuses.
1ST EXCUSE: I lack standing
11 Moses replied, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?”
You don’t realize it God, but I do not have the standing or significance to make any impact on Pharaoh. He would simply ignore me, if he even lowers himself to see me, a shepherd – about as socially low as you could get without being a slave.
How many of you have seen and remember, “The Emperor’s New Groove”?
Emperor Kuzco was a dictatorial and unquestioned sovereign. His word was law. It could mean life or death.
ANSWER TO THE 1ST EXCUSE: The most significant being in the Galaxy will be with you
12 But God immediately said, “I am with you. This will serve as a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have led the people out of Egypt, all of you will worship God at this very mountain.”
God assured Moses, “You may be a nobody, but you’ll have the creator of the world with you. I will be there for you. My promise to you is: Since I will be with you, the next time you’ll be at this mountain, guess what, all of the Israelites will have joined you.”
But this was not enough for Moses.
2ND EXCUSE: I lack authority
3:13 Then Moses said to God, “Suppose that I come to the Israelites and I say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me.’ They will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?”
Moses doubts that God’s support is not enough. Because he will not only run into trouble with Pharaoh, but also with the Israelites themselves. They will not want to hear from him even if he claims to have been commissioned by the God of the patriarchs.
All the other nations, including the Egyptians, had a multiple of gods and goddesses they worshiped, and they all had names. Without a name, wouldn’t God be somehow less than them? If he had a real name, now maybe that would impress the Israelites.
ANSWER TO 2ND EXCUSE: I, the God who actually exists, is all the authority you need
14 God answered Moses, “I Am the existing one.” And God continued, “This is what you are to tell the Israelites, ‘the existing one’ has sent me to you.’”
Heb: Eyeh Asher Eyeh - or: I am who (what) I am; or: I am the one who always is; therefore, I am the God who actually exists, from eternity past to eternity future.
To my mind, God is rejecting the notion that he is in any way like the gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations should be named. He is not like the Egyptian gods such as Osiris, Anubis, and Horus, pictured on the walls of the tomb of a Pharaoh. Unlike them, he actually exists and is present.
He was not just relevant for individuals long dead and gone, like Abraham, Isaak and Jacob, but to everyone alive.
His self-designation speaks of his ongoing relevance due to his eternal existence, his constant presence, and his continual activity.
But then, does God backtrack in the next verse?
15 Further, God said, “Say this to the Israelites, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaak, and Jacob has sent me to you.’ This is my name from now on and so I will be called by all generations.”
So does he now have a proper name which he should be called from now on? By the way, even though the word YHWH has been used since the beginning of Genesis, it is only now that it is revealed to Moses and subsequently to the nation of Israel. Up to this time, they would only have known their God as the God of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Joseph. But what is the actual meaning of those four letters?
Root verb: AHYH Hayah = to be
Therefore: YHWH = he is (exists)
Root verb: HWH = to breathe = to live
Therefore: YHWH = he who is alive
Whichever verb YHWH is derived from, the name actually echoes the previous verse. The existing one is he who exists, who lives. The “name” of God harks back to the reality of his existence rather than a real, personal, name.
I find it interesting that individuals in the OT had no qualms about using and speaking the “name” that God had designated for himself, yet by the time of Jesus the Jewish people had already started to use the term “Lord” or “Master” (Adonai) instead of YHWH, except in the temple. After the temple was destroyed in AD 70, the name was no longer spoken at all so we don’t really know how YHWH is pronounced.
3RD EXCUSE: I lack trust (believability)
4:1 Moses replied, “But they won’t believe me and won’t pay attention to my message, and will say, ‘YHWH has not appeared to you.’”
This is a purely theoretical question. Moses has no idea if the Israelites would oppose him in this way. It may reflect his real fear of rejection.
ANSWER TO THE 3RD EXCUSE: I will remove doubts with miracles
2 In response, YHWH asked him, “What is that in your hand?” He answered, “A staff.” 3 YHWH told him, “Throw it on the ground!” Moses threw the staff on the ground and it turned into a snake. Moses ran away from it.
4 YHWH said to Moses, “Grab the snake by the tail.” Moses stretched out his hand and grabbed the snake by the tail and it turned back into a staff right in his palm. 5 “By this they will believe that YHWH, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has appeared to you.”
Can you even imagine this scene?
“Throw your staff on the ground.”
“Ahhhh! It’s poisonous … run.”
“Pick the snake up!”
“Pick up the snake!”
“If I try it’s going to bite me.”
“Pick it up at the tail!”
“But the head is now close to the tail.”
“Just pick it up, already.”
6 God continued, “Place your hand inside a fold of your garment against your chest.” Moses did so and when he withdrew his hand it had turned white and flaky [lit. like snow] because it was infected with a skin disease. 7 Then God said, “Place your hand a second time in a fold of your garment against your chest.” He did so and when he withdrew the hand, it looked healthy again like the rest of his skin. 8 “If they do not believe you because of the first sign, they may believe when they see the second sign.
9 If, after seeing both signs, they are still unconvinced that your message is true, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry soil and it will turn to blood when it touches the soil.”
Imagine if someone was able to turn a staff into a snake and a snake into a staff, never mind the other miracles … would you take note of what a person who is able to do this has to say? These are actual signs that God is with the person (similar to Jesus being able to heal and exorcise).
4TH EXCUSE: I lack ability
4:10 But Moses said to YHWH, “But please, Lord, I am not someone who can speak well. I never have been, nor have I gained that ability despite all you have said to your slave, because my mouth and my tongue are thick and heavy.”
On the surface, Moses may not have been a great public speaker, but competency can be acquired. What is causing Moses more issues is that he is eaten up by self-doubt. Whenever we tell ourselves that we can’t do something, or perhaps, someone else tells us we are not able and we believe them, then we won’t even try. We have convinced ourselves that we will inevitably fail so why even try?
Self-consciousness, inadequacy and fear are the nails that build the house of failure.
[I once took a class where I had to give a public speech. Then everyone had to pick it apart. They could point out something good, but most of the time, everyone just pointed out the negative. Anyone who was nervous speaking publicly came away from that experience totally demoralized and convinced that they could never speak effectively in public.
What a difference it would have made if this was a class that encouraged each speaker … not buttering them up, but honestly stating the strong points ]
ANSWER TO 4TH EXCUSE: I will enable you
11 YHWH replied, “Who has given humans their mouth? Who makes them deaf or mute, able to see or blind? It is not I, YHWH! 12 Get going and I Am with your mouth and will direct you as to what you should say.
Have you forgotten where the gift of speech comes from? Go, I’ll help you speak. I’ll teach you what to say. Moses didn’t need to worry about whether he could convince Pharaoh. God would do the convincing. God would give him the words to say.
The apostle Paul was criticized for not being the greatest orator. Nevertheless, he knew that he was effective because God made him competent.
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
5TH EXCUSE: I lack confidence / am afraid
4:13 But Moses answered, “Forgive, Lord, please send someone else to be your messenger!”
Now Moses is really getting to the heart of it. Not only does he lack ability, standing, authority, and so on. Even if he had all these things, he really doesn’t want to do this. Moses wants to be let off the hook … God, just find someone else, anyone else, and send that person, not me. I don’t feel like it and I’m sure they’ll do a better job than me.
Moses just exposed that he is fearful even though God has answered all his questions. And this response angered God.
ANSWER TO 5TH EXCUSE: I will give you confidence (by sending someone else … but with you!)
14 Then YHWH was angry with Moses and said to him, “What about Aaron your brother, the Levite? I know that he is an eloquent speaker. And look! Here he is, on his way out to meet you. He will be delighted when he finds you. 15 You will tell him what to say. Put your words into his mouth. I Am with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will instruct you both as to what you are to do.”
Finally Moses obeys. He goes home, tells his father-in-law that he would go back to his people in Egypt, gets a donkey for his wife and two sons to ride on and travelled back to Egypt.
Now God may have allayed Moses’ fears and overcome his insecurities, but the answer wasn’t God’s first choice. Aaron was instrumental in making an idol to worship while Moses was back on Mt. Horeb to receive the 10 Commandments.
In fact, as we read on in the chapters to come, an amazing transformation takes place. The hesitant Moses becomes an assured leader. Although God has sent Aaron to act as his mouthpiece, by the middle of chapter 8 Moses is speaking to Pharaoh by himself. His confidence grows as he sees God fulfilling his promise to be with him and to give him the abilities he needs to oppose Pharaoh.
Lest we be too hard on Moses at his attempt to wiggle out of this mission, we should keep in mind that God was commissioning him for what would have appeared to be a very dangerous and risky assignment. And in the end, Moses did obey.
For us, on the other hand, following God’s will for our lives, or sensing and obeying God commissioning us to serve or minister in one way or another, the risk is often minimal. Really it means that we are inconvenienced, that it will cost us time and money, but not our lives. And unlike Moses, we are a lot more determined to opt out.
It isn’t so much that we cannot, it is that we will not. We may say, “I can’t right now,” but what we most often mean, “I won’t … ever.” And we are masters at rationalizing why we are exempt from serving God, or why not it’s better if we don’t help someone else.
Someone who is busier than us is making a difference, just as someone even more exhausted than us is exercising.
For most of us there are all sorts of reasons that spring to mind when God calls. What’s more, God’s call isn’t always completely clear. Sometimes it’s as clear as a bell, sometimes it comes in the form of a general call to Christian service.
When we’re asked to teach a class, to serve in the nursery, to share our faith, to help someone with a need, to possibly become a minister or missionary. But we’re too busy, too involved, too self-conscious, too afraid, too inadequate. And so we simply want God to get someone else, anyone else. We’re really not available to God at all.
I honestly don’t think that discerning God’s will overall is very difficult. God wants us to worship him and to actively love others, that is, think of love as a verb rather than a noun, something we do rather than something we feel.
What becomes more difficult is to discern the specifics of that call. Most of us do not have a burning bush experience. It may be simply an inner concern for a certain group of people. Or it may be a comment by someone you respect (the way I became a pastor). Or it may be an ask by someone else. The problem isn’t how we are to serve God, but perhaps whom we are to serve in God’s name.
Yet if we listen and search, we will find an answer.
The real reason why we may find excuses why we will not do something is fear:
Fear of failure
Fear of change
Fear of the unfamiliar
Fear of responsibility
Fear of having to face difficulties
Fear of rejection
Fear of being imperfect
Fear of being inconvenienced
Fear of financial loss
Fear of looking foolish / embarrassment
Fear of physical or psychological harm
The results lead to a life of regrets and lack of fulfilment and purpose and accomplishments.
We can’t take on responsibility
We don’t grow emotionally or spiritually
We limit ourselves
We live with massive regrets or guilt
We have a persistent pessimistic outlook on life
We make bad judgment calls
We set up imaginary walls to enforce our comfort zone.
We lack being proactive and creative, just to mention a few.
We never do anything of consequence.
Those who can overcome those fears, who just have to make a difference, no matter what, can accomplish amazing things, regardless of their age. And it doesn’t have to be something as big as the Gates foundation.
Kids who raise funds for a worthy cause. Individuals who personally get involved – change one life, bring about changes in policy, start a non-profit that really is making a difference…
Rachel Wheeler who was able to make a tremendous impact in helping families in Haiti.
Jackson and Triston Kelley, who collected a huge amount of backpacks and school supplies for needy children.
The Brewsters who rescue people from human trafficking in Cambodia.
Daniel Edeh, who some of you have met in person, who used his family’s property and his own money to start and lead what is now Nigeria’s largest orphanage.
Am I looking for excuses to fail God …
… or am I looking for reasons to honour God and serve others in his name?