Sometimes the mental pictures we have of certain Bible characters are not quite right. Once we get a particular image in our brain, it’s almost impossible to get it out.
Take Moses, for instance.
When I think of Moses, I see Charlton Heston in my mind’s eye, about to part the Red Sea. It’s Moses and then it’s Charlton Heston and then it’s Moses.
Such is the power of the silver screen that for many people over the age of 50, Charlton Heston is Moses. Once you’ve seen The Ten Commandments, no one else could ever be Moses.
If you are younger and have seen The Prince of Egypt, Moses comes to mind as a completely different character. At the very least, you’re not thinking of Charlton Heston.
All that is harmless enough, but sometimes our images get in the way of reality.
Again, Moses is a good example.
Most of us think of Moses as a mighty hero of faith. He stood up to Pharaoh and led the children of Israel across the Red Sea on dry ground. He received the Ten Commandments and spoke with God face to face.
All those things are true.
But there’s another side to the story. If you roll the tape back to the beginning, Moses was anything but a hero. When the Lord spoke at the burning bush, he told him: “So now, go.”
Simple and clear.
“Moses, I’ve got a big job for you to do. Put your sandals back on and head for Egypt. I want you to talk to Pharaoh for me.”
The only problem was, Moses didn’t want any part of it.
He had two objections to the whole plan. First, he didn’t want to tangle with Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. Second, he didn’t think the people of Israel would follow him.
In short, he thought the whole idea was a disaster and that maybe God should look somewhere else for a leader.
That brings us to our text for today. We pick up the story in Exodus 3:11. But here’s the takeaway for all of us:
When God calls, don’t make excuses!
Before we jump into the text, let’s note that Moses is 80 years old. We could hardly blame him if he felt he was too old and the job too hard.
As for his two objections, both were rooted in reality. It’s not as if Moses is making this up. Pharaoh wouldn’t be glad to see him and didn’t want to let the Jews go anywhere. Who could blame him? He was getting free slave labor. As for the second objection, Moses had every reason to worry about how his countrymen would receive him. After all, he had been gone for forty years, and the last time they saw him, he was running from the law.
I don’t blame Moses for having his doubts. Psychologists talk about the “Imposter Syndrome,” which means you secretly think you aren’t qualified for your job. You’re a faker waiting to be exposed.
We’ve all felt that way at one point or another.
Moses makes five excuses to the Lord about why he isn’t qualified to do God’s will.
See if they sound familiar.
Excuse #1: I’m Unqualified
But Moses asked God,
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh
and that I should bring the Israelites
out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11).
Was he unqualified? The answer is yes. From a human point of view, he’s not a likely prospect to go toe to toe with Pharaoh. After all, he had been gone a long time, he had killed a man, and his reputation wasn’t the best. If you were picking candidates to lead God’s people out of Egypt, Moses would not have been at the top of the list.
That’s the answer. God’s whole reply can be summed up in five words: “I will be with you.” That’s the bottom line. Nothing else matters. If God is with Moses, then he cannot fail.
When Moses says, “I can’t do this,” God’s answer is, “You’re right. You can’t, but I can.”
Excuse #2: They Don’t Know Me
Then Moses asked God,
“If I go 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 should I tell them?” (Ex. 3:13).
It’s true. He had been gone for 40 years. A whole generation had arisen that knew nothing about Moses. If they heard anything about him, it would have been that he was a fugitive from the law.
He killed an Egyptian, hid his body, and then he ran off into the desert. No one had seen him since then.
So this excuse contains a kernel of truth. But that’s not the issue. The question is not, “Who are you?” but rather, “Who sent you?”
That reminds me of a story from the days when Richard Daley (the father, not the son) was mayor of Chicago. In those days you got a job through patronage. You knew someone who knew someone who could get you a job.
One day a man went to a certain office asking for a job. But no one knew him, so the question became, “Who sent you?” The answer came back, “No one.” The man in charge famously replied, “We don’t want nobody nobody sent.”
That’s a good principle to remember in spiritual matters. If you come on your own authority, we don’t have time for you.
God knew the people would ask Moses that question, so he prepared him with the answer: “I AM” has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:14). That simple phrase contains the essential truth about who God is. He is the personal, eternal, self-existent God of the universe. He always was, he always is, he always will be.
He is above all things, beneath all things, behind all things, and in front of all things.
By him all things hold together.
In him all things have their being.
Without him, the universe does not exist.
Think of it this way. According to his name, he is the essence of whatever you need at the moment.
I am your strength.
I am your courage.
I am your health.
I am your hope.
I am your supply.
I am your defender.
I am your deliverer.
I am your forgiveness.
I am your joy.
I am your future.
God is saying to you and me, “I am whatever you need whenever you need it.”
He is the all-sufficient God for every crisis.
Go to the elders of Israel.
Tell them what I told you.
They will believe you.
Go to Pharaoh.
He won’t cooperate.
I’ll work miracles.
He will let you go.
Plunder the Egyptians on your way out.
Ask for gold and silver.
They’ll give it to you.
In other words, don’t worry about the future. God has a plan that covers all the details.
Excuse #3: They Won’t Believe Me!
So now Moses has another “What if” question:
“What if they won’t believe me and
will not obey me but say,
‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Ex. 4:1).
That’s very possible.
Likely, in fact.
Moses had a checkered past. After being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, he rejected Egypt and chose to suffer with God’s people. But then he murdered an Egyptian, covered it up, and ran away.
He’s been gone 40 years.
Now he shows up saying God spoke to him in a burning bush in the desert.
There is no way the Jews will believe that story.
It sounds crazy.
God knew that, so he asked Moses a question:
“What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied (Ex. 4:2).
We’re talking about a shepherd’s staff. It was a walking stick. Every shepherd had one. There was nothing special about it. Moses no doubt found it in the wilderness.
Several years ago, I had a bike accident that broke three bones in my left leg and led to three surgeries. I was laid up for almost three months. During that time, my brother-in-law Mark carved an ornate cane with a fancy top and a four-toed rubber bottom. It’s the only cane I’ve ever used. It’s quite a treasure because Mark made it by hand.
Moses’ staff was nothing like that. It was the sort of staff you found in the desert, used for a while, and then threw away.
What’s the point? God will now use the ordinary to do the extraordinary. He told Moses to throw the staff on the ground, where it turned into a snake. God told him to pick it up again, turning it back into a wooden staff.
By the way, the hard part was picking it up again!
God has three answers for Moses. The first was the wooden staff (vv. 2-5), showing that God can work miracles with ordinary objects. The second was the leprous hand (vv. 6-8), proving that God has power over the worst diseases. The third was turning water from the Nile into blood, which was a preview of the first plague (vv. 8-9).
This was God’s way of saying to Moses, “I’ve got your back. As long as you obey, my power will convince the people God is with you.”
Don’t miss the original question. Moses asked God, “What if.” We all want to bargain with God. Something in us makes us slightly suspicious of God’s motives.
“Now Lord, what if I get in trouble for speaking up for you at the office, what are you going to do then?”
“If I volunteer to teach Sunday School and the kids turn out to be brats, can I get out of it?”
“And by the way, about tithing my money, if I give my money and then can’t make my car payment, will you make it for me?”
Moses had the same problem we all have.
He knew exactly what God wanted him to do.
It was perfectly clear.
“Moses, you’re the man to lead my people out of Egypt.”
That was the whole job description. Moses’ problem wasn’t his knowledge. He knew exactly what God wanted. His problem wasn’t his education or his family background.
God had already taken care of all that.
Moses’ problem was fear. He was afraid it wouldn’t work out right if he did what God wanted him to do.
Something would go wrong.
Like maybe the Pharaoh would have him thrown to the crocodiles, or the children of Israel would laugh at him, or he would end up trapped by the Red Sea and only a miracle could get him out.
Moses wanted assurance of the result before he took the first step.
So he’s out there by the burning bush trying to “what if” the Almighty.
We do the same thing.
That’s why we hesitate to obey God.
We’re trying to “what if” the Almighty.
When God calls you, it will work out one way or the other. All your little “what ifs” are just so much wasted time.
And that really is the issue, isn’t it?
As long as you are saying “what if,” you aren’t obeying.
You’re negotiating. And there’s a big difference.
To obey means you say, “Lord, I’m ready. Now you work out the details.” Negotiating means saying, “Lord, you work out the details, and then I’ll obey.”
All Moses has to do is obey, and God will take care of the rest.
If Moses needs a miracle, he’ll get one.
If he needs an answer to prayer, it’s on the way.
He’ll get whatever he needs as long as he obeys God.
For Moses there was one issue and one issue only.
Will I obey God?
Excuse #4: I Can’t Do It
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” (Ex 4:10).
Evidently, he thought the Lord would fix his problem:
“If I sign up for your team, you’ll make me eloquent. That’s the deal, right?”
God’s answer comes in the form of a question:
“Who placed a mouth on humans?
Who makes a person mute or deaf,
seeing or blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?” (Ex. 4:11).
God says to Moses, “Yes, you are inadequate because I made you that way. But your weakness is part of my plan.”
God promises to give Moses whatever he needs in spite of his weakness. All Moses has to do is go and speak to Pharaoh.
The rest is up to God.
Excuse # 5: I don’t want to do it
“Moses said, “Please, Lord, send someone else.”
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses” (Ex. 4:13-14).
At last, we get to the heart of the problem.
God has called Moses, and he doesn’t want to do it.
No wonder God got angry.
But even now God has an answer to this objection. If Moses can’t speak, his brother Aaron will speak for him. Perhaps Moses had stage fright, or perhaps he had trouble putting his words together. Maybe he was a fast thinker but a slow talker.
God’s solution is simple. He will tell Moses what to say. Moses will tell Aaron who will do the public speaking.
Aaron must have been persuasive and a natural leader because he founded the Levitical priesthood.
Moses will be “like God” to him.
It’s a workable solution, but not without problems. A few months down the road, while Moses was talking with God on Mount Sinai, Aaron would do nothing while the people built a golden calf.
What is in Your Hand?
I remember a powerful sermon on this text by Jack Wyrtzen, founder of Word of Life, called, “What Is That In Your Hand?” Jack loved reminding his listeners that a wooden staff is not very beautiful. It’s just a staff you used to herd the sheep.
But God took the thing Moses depended on and worked a miracle.
We all have gifts, talents, and abilities.
We all have handicaps of one sort or another.
We have things God has given us.
We have doubts and insecurities.
We are just clay pots into which God has poured the treasure of the gospel. That’s always been God’s plan.
Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:7:
“We have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power
belongs to God and not to us.”
Scholars tell us the “jars of clay” were cheap, ordinary, everyday clay pots. The kind of pots a housewife might use for milk or soup. They might even be used as a “chamber pot.”
That’s you and me.
That’s all of us.
A pot has value if it is useful to its owner. It’s not worth much by itself. But though it is cracked and scarred, and though it will be eventually thrown away and replaced, the pot holds something precious.
It contains God’s power.
When we get to the end of all our excuses, God says to us what he said to Moses: “Trust me. I can do more through you than you can imagine. Make yourself available to me, and I will do amazing things in your life.”
Two Quick Applications
1. God has the same question for you and me: “What is in your hand?”
A staff may not seem like much, but when you place it at God’s disposal, it can be part of a miracle. Everyone has “something” in their hands.
Your “something” won’t necessarily be the same “something” your neighbor has.
You may have a gift for writing.
You may have a talent for singing.
You may have a desire to care for the needy.
You may have financial resources.
You may have time to help others.
You may have a green thumb for gardening.
You may be a painter, architect, teacher, nurse, accountant, or administrator.
You may have children or grandchildren who need your guidance.
You may teach Sunday School, or perhaps you can lead a missions trip, or maybe you will run the soundboard during the second service.
You may be a coach who can teach kids how to hit a baseball, play half-court defense, or pole vault.
You may know how to program a computer or how to make money on social media.
You may be a photographer, calligrapher, fisherman, or hunter.
Perhaps you can make reels on Instagram or TikTok videos that millions of people will watch.
Don’t waste one second complaining you can’t do what someone else can do. As I survey this long list I just made, I’m happy to report I can do almost none of those things. Perhaps one benefit of being further along in life is knowing what I can’t do so I can spend more time doing what I can do.
God has placed “something” in your hands.
Use it for his glory!
2. God will equip you with everything you need to do his will.
Moses is the only person in history to whom God spoke from a burning bush. The only one!
That didn’t happen to Abraham, David, Joshua, Nehemiah, or anyone else in the Bible.
Moses had seen God’s glory.
And he said, “Send someone else.”
No wonder God was angry with him.
It’s one thing to wait for confirmation. But while we wait, we ought to think and pray and read the Bible and consult with wise counselors.
At some point, “waiting by faith” becomes “stalling by faith.”
There’s a little Moses in all of us.
Don’t make God angry by saying no when he calls.
When God calls us, will we obey?
When we read it in the Word of God, will we obey?
When we hear it from the pulpit, will we obey?
When we discover it in our quiet time, will we obey?
When a friend gives us a piece of advice we recognize is of the Lord, will we obey?
When we dare to say “yes” to God, even when it hurts, that’s when the miracles begin.
It’s a big step forward spiritually when we can say,
“Lord, I’ll get involved.
I’ll stop sitting on the sidelines.
Here am I. Send me.”
Then, and only then, the miracles kick in, the answers begin to come, and the sun begins to shine again.
Once we obey, God is obligated to take care of us.
As He did for Moses, so he will do for us.
This world is in deep need.
There is trouble everywhere.
God has called us to go with the Good News.
He will not let us down,
He will not let us off,
He will not let us go.
So we come again to the bottom line:
When God calls, don’t make excuses!
May God give us the grace to say,
“Here am I, Lord! Send me!”
Keep Believing Ministries