Excuses, excuses. We find Moses deep in conversation with God about his calling and destiny as we enter Chapter 4 of Exodus. Unfortunately for Moses, the conversation is not going the way he would like it to. All of his previous attempts to convince God He’s got the wrong man have failed and now he finds himself having to come up with better excuses if he has any hope of escaping his fear of facing Pharoah.
While God is deep in the middle of sharing the details of how Moses will pull off mission impossible in his mind – delivering over a million people from Egypt, the most powerful nation on earth. It would be like walking into the White House and demanding that Obama release every last one of his employees. He would still be the leader of the nation, but without the people he’s grown dependent on to get his job done, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish nearly as much.
God even tells Moses that once the elders are convinced that this is God’s plan, the king of Egypt will not submit to his request to release the Hebrews unless he is compelled to do so. Then God assures Moses that after hitting Egypt with a few plagues, Pharoah will change his mind after all and let the people go.
God makes it sound so easy that if I were Moses, I would have been halfway back to Egypt before He finished the next sentence. But Moses had a higher education in the royal palace and knew the logistics—the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities and supplies would not be simple or easy.
Sometimes knowing too much makes it more difficult to obey God. We might have a little education or experience in a certain area that God is calling us into and know how things usually go. For example, say you’ve been in business for a number of years and because of the economy, you also experienced some failures. Now God comes along when the economy is at its worst and tells you He wants you to start a new business.
“What?” you say, “In this economy? Maybe when things clear up a little, we can talk about it, but definitely not now, God.” As though God doesn’t know what the economy is doing or will do in the future. And aside from that fact, God has the ability to prosper your new business regardless of the economy. Several years ago, I moved to a city that was experiencing an economic boom. I should have had no difficulty getting a job but after months, I was unsuccessful. Then I moved to a small town which had very few if any jobs and to top it off, God directed me to start a business there, which did in fact, do well. Go figure. This obedience thing doesn’t have to make sense. It just works…
If only Moses knew what we know today, he would have said yes a lot sooner. After God downloads His plan to Moses, you would think that would be the end of the conversation and Moses would be on his merry way home to pack for the trip. But no. He has objections.
Patiently and graciously, God entertains Moses’ opinion, knowing all along that he will indeed be going to Egypt even if He has to send a big fish to take him there. The excuses Moses comes out with are feeble at best:
1. But they won’t believe me or listen to me. (Already covered that one, M-Boy). In response, God pulls a hat trick plus one to convince Moses once and for all, turning his staff into a snake and back again and then turning Moses’ hand leprous and (thank God) back to normal again. To top it all off, if these signs aren’t enough to convince everyone and their mother, Moses will take water from the Nile, considered as the source of Egypt’s prosperity, and turn it into blood, a sign of death as a stark warning to obey, right before their saucer-shaped eyes.
While God is talking a mile a minute, Moses’ mind is racing with F.E.A.R. (false evidence appearing real). Case in point: he doesn’t realize that the Pharoah he knew as a surrogate father had passed away. Moses didn’t need to struggle with the fear of confronting him anymore. The new king would probably not even know Moses some 40 years later. It’s like a bad high school reunion where you don’t recognize anyone – and they don’t recognize you either. But fear is never rational, which leads us to excuse number two.
2. Moses tells the Great I AM, “I am not a man of eloquent speech. Further, I am of slow speech and a slow tongue.” This passage has been interpreted by many different scholars. Some believe that Moses may have had a stutter. Others believe he was claiming to lack the necessary traits to approach the king, namely the ability to exchange his thoughts in a timely or intelligent manner, especially if the king were ticked off at him and demanded a quick response. Ryrie’s Study Bible points out that this was “hardly a legitimate excuse, because Moses had been trained in Pharoah’s court for 40 years!” And Moses seemed to be communicating well with God, the King of the Universe. Patience beginning to wear thin, God troubleshoots that potential situation as well. He was well aware of any inadequacy in Moses since He had created him and God assured Moses that He Himself would take over and speak through him personally if necessary.
I’m getting a bit worried for Moses as we approach excuse number three. I’ve never had kids, but I know there is a tipping point for every parent. It’s usually the third time they’re told to do something and they don’t obey. Although I was only spanked twice that I can remember, I tried to look away as my best friend got whacked repeatedly in front of me on numerous occasions when her parents reached the tipping point. I definitely don’t want to see that happen with Moses.
3. Moses’ final excuse comes in the form of a plea. He begs God to send someone else to do this mission trip. That’s it. God has had it with Moses. He’s reached the tipping point, although if He really wanted to, He could have destroyed Moses and the whole earth in one breath. The Bible tell us that God’s anger was “kindled” against Moses. I’m pretty sure He was holding back when He agreed to send Moses’ brother Aaron with him as his spokesperson, but one thing was certain: Moses was not getting out of his assignment.
The rest of the meeting was mostly a one-way conversation in which God recapped the strategic play-by-play of how things would go. By the time we get to verse 18, Moses realizes he’s met his match and finally makes the critical decision to obey. All we hear about that is “And Moses went…” Although Moses didn’t get to hear Charles Stanley every week, he heeded his good advice to “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.”
What are you afraid of when it comes to obeying God? What is the worst thing that could happen if you did? Are you afraid of failure or a more difficult option to unpack – are you afraid of success?
I’ve struggled with both of these fears myself. Please leave your comments and let me know what you’re thinking.