Summary: When God Called Moses he was reluctant to respond. But God kept calling until he went.
If you’ve ever read missionary biographies, they’re full of stories of people who have given up a normal life, and in many cases extraordinary careers, to go to other parts of the world to tell people about Jesus. I guess most of us are familiar with the film Chariots of Fire: about Eric Liddell, the runner who refused to compete on the Sabbath and so was unable to win the 100 metres Gold Medal in the Olympics. But I wonder how many people realise that not only did he give up that medal, but a couple of years later he went off to China as a missionary, giving up his athletic ambitions altogether. I was given a book of biographies a few years ago by Isabel Kuhn, who was also a missionary in China. One of the biographies is of a man named Fraser, who was a brilliant musician, able to memorise whole symphonies and concertos, yet who gave up all thought of fame and fortune on the concert stage in order to serve God in preaching the gospel to the people of China. And there are countless other examples.
But as I read these sorts of biographies I sometimes wonder what sort of process these people went through before deciding to take such a huge step. Did they decide instantaneously or did they think about it for a long time? For many I imagine the decision may have been very difficult. For most of us there are all sorts of stumbling blocks 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.
Today’s reading from Exodus 3 is an example of someone receiving a clear call to service, yet, as we’ll see, his response isn’t immediate. Moses is like so many of us. He’s plagued with self doubt, with fear, and with a sense of inadequacy. But God deals patiently with him, just as he does with us, until Moses agrees to do what God asks. (Exod 3)
Israel’s Need - God’s Concern
Moses is tending his Father-in-law’s flocks one day out in the desert near Mt Horeb, when he sees an amazing thing. There, over on the side of the mountain is a bush on fire, but not being burnt up. So he goes over to investigate and discovers that the reason it’s burning is because God is present within it. God speaks to him and explains why he’s come to speak to Moses. In the 40 years that Moses has been living in the Sinai Desert, things have grown worse and worse for the people of Israel. As we saw last week at the end of chapter 2, the Israelites were groaning under the yoke of slavery, and God had heard them and remembered the covenant, the agreement, he’d made with their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 400 years before. God had seen their suffering and was concerned about them. "And so", he tells Moses, "I’ve come down to rescue them."
Well, Moses must have thought, "Great! About time! I’ve been worried about them myself." He may even have been praying that God would come and rescue his people. And listen to what God’s going to do: He’s going to bring them out of Egypt and take them to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But then comes the catch. He says to Moses "The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt."
God cares about his people so he’s going to rescue them, but the way he’s going to rescue them is by sending Moses to do it. Just as last week we saw that he used the two Hebrew midwives along with Moses mother and Pharaoh’s daughter to start the process, so he was about to continue it with Moses help. Well, this isn’t what Moses had in mind at all. He was quite happy tending Jethro’s sheep. Like many of us, when God’s call came, he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear it.
And the sorts of things he comes up with as objections to doing what God says are the same sorts of things that often stop us. Let’s have a look at them, and at the way God answers each of his objections.
Self Doubt - God’s Presence and God’s Name
Moses has spent the last 40 years or so working as a shepherd, and shepherds weren’t particularly high on the social ladder in the Middle East at the time. He knew what life was like in the Pharaoh’s palace and he knew very well that his chosen trade wouldn’t go down well when he was presented to the King.