For when being chosen isn’t enough

Painting from Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Petersburg
God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush. Painting from Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Petersburg.

“But Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘Oh Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me. I’m clumsy with words.’” (Exodus 4:10, NLT)

You’d think it would be amazing to hear directly from God that He’d chosen you to lead His people, that it’d instantly erase all your doubts about yourself — but it didn’t work that way for Moses.

This was his fourth objection to the job. God tried pointing out that, since He was the one who made mouths and made people so they could speak, He’d tell Moses what to say and help him say it, but Moses still begged God to send someone else. God was angry, but He caved. Moses’ big brother Aaron became the public speaker, with Moses feeding Aaron the words God fed him. It was a little convoluted, but it worked.

Until, after about six weeks in the desert, Moses didn’t need it anymore.

The Bible is silent about this transition. Did Moses just get used to public speaking? Did watching God come through with the unimaginable over and over get through to him?

Or did Moses maybe never really have a problem?

The Israelites weren’t shy about criticizing Moses and complaining about other things, but we have no record of the people jeering at Moses for how he talked or blaming his halting speech for their failures.

It’s at least possible that Moses believed something about himself that wasn’t true, and that kept him from accepting that he was the kind of person God would call – even as God was right there, calling him a leader. Even as God was right there, promising to help Moses lead.

Do you believe something about yourself that might not be true? Do you believe that something basic about yourself (shyness, hyperness, age, gender, poverty, physical or intellectual ability, etc.) disqualifies you from serving God? Do you ever think, “Someone like me could never…”?

God is always choosing you, and constantly offering His help. Sometimes, that’s enough to dissolve your insecurities. Sometimes, it isn’t, and, like Moses, you need time — but it’s time to learn while serving. Moses didn’t figure out his issue by practicing alone with his sheep. You don’t need to have yourself all straightened out first. Get moving, work some modifications … until, one day, you won’t need them anymore.

For When You’re Stuck

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!'”
(Exodus 14:15, NLT)

The Israelites had no practice being hopeful.

They’d been slaves in Egypt for enough generations that nobody remembered being free. After the 80-year-old Moses showed up and told them God would save them, their slaveholders got even more brutal. Not to mention their anxiety during each of the ten plagues – Will Pharaoh let us go this time? What is he going to do when he figures out that we aren’t just praying in the desert for three days?

So when they stood on the edge of the Red Sea, stuck between the deep water and Pharaoh’s fast-approaching army, they panicked. Even knowing that God kept them safe while the Egyptians’ food supply disappeared via disease, insect swarm, and hail, while the Egyptians were tormented by frogs, gnats, flies, boils, darkness, and death – even knowing all that, they had a crisis of imagination. They couldn’t see how God might get them out of this, so they turned on Moses, blaming him for getting them in worse trouble than they’d been in as slaves.

What does God do in response? He tells them to get moving.

God tells them to get moving before He tells Moses the plan.

Who among them could’ve imagined that God would move the pillar of cloud to hide them from the Egyptians, shift the Red Sea to form a path they could walk through to freedom, and then collapse the water to drown the Egyptian army? Nobody. But God wanted them to take a step in faith, in hope, in trust before they knew how He’d save them.

Sometimes you are stuck. Anxious. Panicky. In a crisis of imagination. Crying out to God and blaming everyone you can think of.

Instead of waiting until you know exactly how it’s all going to play out or which path is clear, try taking a step. You don’t have to feel hopeful. You don’t have to know how God is going to work it out. You don’t even have to be less afraid. But whatever situation you feel stuck about, there’s always a small step you can take, a way to get moving. Take it. And watch God run with it.