Why Me? (The Call of Moses)

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of My People in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land … So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My People the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the People out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 2:7-12

The call of Moses reminds me of the movie “Romancing the Stone.”  Some of the most memorable humorous scenes involve Danny DeVito, who plays a “bad guy” who gets into the worst fixes.  His cousin stays back where the wine, women and song are, while Danny must do the dirty work – he’s the one who gets beaten up, is stranded out in the middle of nowhere, and so forth, meanwhile the cousin remains untouched and keeps demanding that Danny hurry up and get the valuable treasure.

The principle of sending the other guy to get beat up is a common comedy routine, and it almost seems as though this is what is happening to Moses.  God says, “I have seen the misery… I have heard their crying… I am concerned… I have come down to rescue them… — so now Moses YOU go….” — meanwhile God will stay back and wait for Moses to come back to the mountain with the People.

Obviously, this was no comedy routine, and looking at the text from a slightly different angle, the message is quite different.  God had declared that HE WILL rescue His People, but why He is here calling on Moses is because this man is to have the honor of participating in the salvation of Israel.  After all this will be THE salvation event to which Israel will refer for the rest of their existence – even to today during Passover.  Moses would have the high honor of working with the Lord, in a sense being treated as an equal with the Lord (especially when you see the arguments Moses has with the Lord), but particularly it would be by Moses’ hand that God will do what seems impossible.

Moses’ reaction was to blurt out, “Who am I??” or actually, “WHY ME, Lord??”  I like “WHY ME, Lord??” better because it fits into the verses which follow.  It is not with the sense of awe and wonder of the question, “Who am I??”, but rather the distressed sense of being put-upon, “WHY ME??”  Ultimately Moses will even say, “Send someone else!”

Of course whenever someone asks, “WHY ME??”, the flippant answer comes back, “Why not you??”  After all, why shouldn’t God use you as much as anyone else? But so often when the call of God comes to an individual, like you and me, the response is one of reluctance and inconvenience.

So Moses asks OUR question, “WHY ME??”  After all, what makes me any more qualified than Joe Blow down the street, or a Billy Graham for that matter?  Now, you and I might jump in to prove to Moses that he was very qualified: after all, he was specially preserved by God, trained in the royal household, and he would be merely trading one flock of stupid sheep for another flock of like-minded sheep – he had ability, training, and experience.  Probably we would end up in a long, drawn-out debate with him: he proving he wasn’t qualified, and we contending that he was.

But God wasted no such time.  Yes, that training and experience would indeed come in handy, but the thing that made the difference between success and failure would be none of those – it would be that God was with him.  That’s why in response to Moses’ question, the Lord said nothing about Moses at all, but simply, “I am with you.”

The next statement the Lord makes has fascinated me for years: “When you have brought the People out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  The sign God gave him would come only AFTER He has accomplished Israel’s release!!  Doesn’t God know that that is just not the way we humans work?  We want “the money on the table,” we want the sign of His being with us before we start or else we won’t make a move.  But God tells Moses that the SIGN will be the accomplished rescue of Israel, when they have now come back to the mountain to worship.

Now that is the SIGN, but it is not as if God would merely be back on the mountain, sitting back and sipping a soft drink, waiting for their return.  God had just said that He would be with Him – what more could Moses want?  The Lord had given His word and we know from the subsequent chapters that Moses and God worked hand-in-hand throughout the plagues and the Passover and the Exodus out of Egypt up to the threshold of the Promised Land.  Throughout the whole rescue of Israel, God would leave His obvious mark in every step of the way.

So it is not as if Moses would have nothing to reassure him until finally at the end, but rather that when all Israel does stand before the mountain, that it would come with profound realization to Moses that “here we are, just like God said it would be; and He was with me as He said He would be, because here we are!”  Haven’t we also have had times like that?  Sometimes although God has made Himself obvious to us along the way, yet every once in a while we seem to arrive at a key point; we look back and see how all the pieces fit together to bring us here to this place, and with a little shock we suddenly realize just how much God has indeed been with us.
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We are very much like Moses.  God has also given us a job and we meet it with exactly the same reluctance and inconvenience: we also want to get into an argument concerning our lack of qualifications.  We even get to point of refusing His call to be partner with Him.  And God handles us the same way that He did Moses.

Jesus told us, “Go, make disciples of the world…” [Matthew 28:19], not SHOW the world about God, not merely hold a discussion about Jesus, but MAKE DISCIPLES.  Already bringing the topic up creates what kind of reaction in you?  As you look at Moses, you hear him echoing your own complaints, problems and misgivings.

Jesus’ reply is the same as with Moses: “Lo, I am with you always – even unto the end of the ages” [Matthew 28:20].  At the end of the ages, just as with Moses at the foot of the mountain, we will look back and realize, with all of its power, how this has been so true:  Jesus had been with us always.  However, even now we are given experiences where we can see the reality of His pledge.  Perhaps someone will come to faith, or will have been markedly comforted, or a useful decision will finally be reached, and you will look back and see how all along God was with you and how He fit all the pieces together – indeed how “He makes all things work together for good to those who love God” [Romans 8:28].

But what does this have to do with Lent??   Lent is not merely to be a time of repentance, and it should NOT be a time to wallow in misery and even self-pity.  Lent is a time of experimenting!  That’s why you have the traditions of doing without unnecessary pleasures, or of making extra efforts toward following Jesus.  Ultimately it is an experiment toward greater focus and obedience under our Lord – to see what He has been doing all along.

The reassurance is that He has indeed been with us.  Moses wasn’t left to his own devices to accomplish the rescue of Israel by himself; rather God was rescuing Israel and Moses was privileged to have a hand in it.  So also here, as we seek to be the Lord’s People, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be doing the work while we are privileged to be partners in the work.  This is the secret of which St Paul speaks in his letter to the Ephesians [2:4-10]:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

And now we catch the vision from which Paul is speaking:

that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

As with Moses, the outcome is not based on our power or qualifications, but because the Lord is with us.  After all, it was HIS promise, not ours, that “He makes all things work together for good.”  And that helps as we go through Lent, because Moses did not expect the freeing of Israel to take so long and to have to go through such difficulty and go through so many steps.  Yet some months later, there they were at the foot of the mountain.

That’s our expectation for Lent.  We spend the six weeks of Lent, and we have no idea how much it will take to experience the growth we too want to see in our lives.  But just as we end up Lent on the mountain looking at our Lord Who would die for us, one day we will again be looking at the face of our Lord on the mountain of heaven and realize in a whole new depth that indeed He was with us every step of the way.

Of course, as we stand at the foot of the Cross, we are a bit sheepish, as I’m sure Moses must have been as he realized how hard a time he had given the Lord, and now how the Lord still fulfilled His plan using him in spite of his initial resistance.  How often have we too been humbled by the fact that God didn’t argue with us, but simply went ahead with working with us to accomplish His purposes.

How wonderful it is to stand at the foot of the throne of God in Holy Communion, both in repentance for our resistance to His call, and in awe as to how He still is able to continually use us.  Here in His forgiveness, we again experience the promise of Jesus, “Lo, I am with you always,” as He physically gives us Himself afresh in His Body and Blood.  We are reassured again that He indeed always makes good on His promises, and now at the foot of the mountain, in worship and praise, to delight again in how indeed He is with us throughout our lives.

So stop for the moment here at the foot of the cross and at the foot of the throne of the King of the Universe . Use this time of Lent to see how Jesus has indeed been and will be with us, see Him in action when we have comforted someone and strengthened them, or brought someone to know Jesus more intimately, or who even now has faith in our Lord, because in prayer, living and sharing Jesus, through our hand, we have done the work which God prepared for us.  Here at the mountain with God’s People, we too now realize that this is God’s sign that He is with us.

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