God led Israel to Egypt under the protection of Joseph through a 7 year famine. About 70 people entered Egypt at that time. [Exodus 1:7]
The famine ends, the leadership of Egypt changes, the Israelites multiply like bunnies. The Egyptian leaders force the Israelites into hard labor to try to squash them – instead they multiply even more.
God’s promise to Abraham was that they would be a numerous people. They are rapidly becoming that! God also promised that they would be blessed. They are not seeing that, are they? Not at the moment.
The Israelites cry out to God. For about 400 years.
None of us is exempt from tough times and the struggles of life. Though we may have all of our ducks in a row for a while, in an instant we could be served up duck soup. It if often during these times of struggle and duress that we cry out to God the most or the loudest.
Whatever the struggle, it is good to call out to God. He wants us to call out to him.
But what if he does not answer right away? What if he remains silent for a while.
KNOW: Silence does not mean apathy. Silence does not equal absence. Silence does not mean that God has not heard you. Most often, silence means it is not God’s timing yet. It often means that there is more to the big story than you can see, and God is not ready to flip the pages of that chapter yet.
When God made the promise to Abraham, that he would be a great nation, that he would be blessed, he also mentioned some other details:
13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15 (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) 16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” // Genesis 15:13–16 NLT
Here is what God told him:
- You will be strangers in another land and oppressed for 400 years
- God will punish that nation
- You WILL return to the land (eventually)
- The part of my plan that concerns the Amorites is not ready for you to be here yet
God gives Abraham a glimpse into the reality that Abraham’s story is intertwined with God’s story and thus intertwined with Egypt’s story and the story of the Amorites.
I am sure that the Israelites were crying out to God for most of those 400 years. Many of them did not see God respond to their prayers. However, when the time was right, when the 400 years was complete, look at what we learn about God:
23 Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. // Exodus 2:23–25 NLT
- God heard
- God remembered
- God saw
- God knew
God knew it was time to act, so what does he do?
God could have just appears before Pharaoh and intervened himself. But he did not. He could have found a righteous and blameless man, like Noah [Gen 6:9]. But he did not. He hand picks a murderer and a fugitive to be his representative. He picked Moses to confront Pharaoh.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 9 So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, 10 therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” // Exodus 3:7–10 CSB
God approaches Moses, spells out his plan and says, I am picking you to be on my team. I will do this, you simply go. Sounds a lot like the deal that started this – the Abrahamic covenant.
God created us, you and me, to be his representation on earth. To reflect him and to show him to the world around us. We were created for representation and relationship. God demonstrates that here.
- Raised by Pharaoh’s daughter
- Murdered an Egyptian
- Fled Egypt to avoid the death penalty
- Became a shepherd
None of these were great on a resume.
God chooses us. Not because we deserve it. He chooses us just because he wants to.
What a great privilege! To be hand picked by God to be a part of his mission! What an amazing opportunity! To go from fugitive to representative, from convict to converted! In any estimation, this is an amazing opportunity for Moses or anyone, right?! To go from sheep caller to mouthpiece for God!
Moses and his response:
11 But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” // Exodus 3:11 CSB
Who am I? I have no credentials that make me qualified for this job? I am a shepherd, a murderer and a fugitive. I have no title or position that Pharaoh should even be willing to speak with me.
I am NOT QUALIFIED.
12 He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.” // Exodus 3:12 CSB
You are right. You are not. But GOD IS. Your credentials come from God and his presence.
13 Then Moses asked God, “If 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?’ what should I tell them?” // Exodus 3:13 CSB
Notice this is not “when I go” but “if I go”. If I go to the people, who should I say is sending me? What is your name?
I have no AUTHORITY
14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation. // Exodus 3:14–15 CSB
You are right, you do not. But GOD DOES. Your authority comes from your relationship with God and his calling for you to be his messenger.
Apparently, at this point, God has decided that he should give Moses a few more details to help Moses over come his apparent apprehension. So, in verses 16-22 he tells Moses EXACTLY what will happen:
- You will go
- They will listen
- You will confront Pharaoh
- God will perform a bunch of miracles
- Pharaoh will refuse but eventually agree
- You will plunder the Egyptians and leave Egypt
NICE. I think that would be a pretty big help! I like to know the details. I am NOT one of those people who gets in the car and says, “Let’s go drive and eventually we will probably find a place to eat.” I want to know where we are going, how long it takes to get there and what time I should arrive. God pretty much gives Moses that.
1 Moses answered, “What if they won’t believe me and will not obey me but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” // Exodus 4:1 CSB
How can I prove that you, Yahweh, are sending me? What if the elders say, “Moses, you must have had too much wine last night – God hasn’t spoken to us in hundreds of years. Why would he speak now, and why to YOU of all people?”
This is a legit concern. In verse 18 God said they will listen. God did not say they would obey or believe. Moses is actually a pretty good listener here.
It takes faith, and YOU cannot prove God to anyone. Only God can prove himself. So, God gives Moses 3 miracles that he can perform in order to help them believe:
- Blood from Nile
I cannot help but wonder if God was showing, in these 3 signs, his big picture plan, His story. Because of the serpent we have been infected by sin and it will take blood, the blood of the Messiah to undo this. Serpent, sin and blood are all important elements in the story.
10 But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since you have been speaking to your servant—because my mouth and my tongue are sluggish.” // Exodus 4:10 CSB
I am not a good speaker. I am not capable. I do not have the ability to do the thing that you want me to do. “Look God, I have taken my Myers-Briggs and my S.W.O.T. analysis – you clearly have the wrong person!”
11 The Lord said to him, “Who placed a mouth on humans? Who makes a person mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.” // Exodus 4:11–12 CSB
It has neve been about our ability. It is about God’s ability. God says:
- I gave you your mouth
- I will help you speak
- I will teach you what to say
I love verse 12 – “now go!” almost like God is saying, enough excuses! I told you, this story is not about you, it is about me. You are there to help show off me. Stop thinking about yourself and get busy doing what I have called and equipped you for!
This is probably the most insightful verse of all:
13 Moses said, “Please, Lord, send someone else.” // Exodus 4:13 CSB
The best ability we can have is what? Availability! Moses finally comes out and says it, I do not want to go. Please, pick someone else.
I do not believe that Moses was just afraid that he might mess things up – because God actually gets mad at him.
- Noah simply built an ark though it had never rained or flooded before
- Abraham just left his country without knowing where he was going
- Jacob bargained with God but still obeyed
- Moses says, “I’m not your man, pick someone else”
God get’s mad now.
- I knew you would be reluctant, so I have been working in Aaron as well
- He is on his way and will be happy to see you
- Go, do this.
Aaron’s story is about to intersect with Moses’ story and both of them are about to be a very memorable part of God’s story.
We can often be like Moses.
Moses sees his weaknesses and complains that he is NOT the right man for the job. This is the first time that we have recorded where God approached someone directly and that person said they could not do what God asked.
- When we do this, we are placing OUR ability above God’s ability.
- When we do this, we are seeing our limitations and not God’s limitless power.
- When we do this, we are, in essence, saying that God’s plans somehow are hinged on my ability to perform well.
- When we do this we are placing our agenda ahead of God’s agenda
- When we do this we worry more about how others accept us than how God accepts us
All of these mindsets have a common problem. They place my ability, my agenda, my logic ahead of God’s. That is either rebellion or idolatry.
You and I have been hand-picked by God to join him on his mission, to be his ambassadors and mouthpieces to the world around us. Just like Moses, our past failures do not disqualify us. Our present credentials do not qualify us. It is not our name, our ability, our credentials or our eloquence that make us good candidate in God’s eyes.
It is his pleasure to pick us. And we get to join him! We simply need to trust God and obey him.