The story of God calling Moses covers two chapters so I’ve tried to include as much of the story as possible and differentiated with italics. Hope it’s still readable!
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
Not all of us get such a clear signal to pay attention. But even this small piece of the story offers us some great information about the nature of calling: Once you start paying attention, you most likely will hear something. And once you hear, you should respond and keep listening. God tells Moses about his plan for the rescue of the Israelites and then issues a call to Moses. I’m not sure you can get clearer then this:
10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
After this call, something really interesting happens. It’s a process you may be familiar with yourself . . . Moses starts raising all kinds of objections!
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And 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.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose 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?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said 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 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.’
For the rest of the chapter, God takes the time to spell out what’s going to happen when Moses goes back to Egypt. This strikes me as unusual, when in some many other place God asks for obedience even in great uncertainty, but maybe due to the enormity of the call, God takes the time to reassure Moses with the details of what will take place. This apparently still isn’t enough. Moses responds with doubt:
1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
In response to these further questions, God demonstrates his power to Moses by showing him two miracles and describing a third one which he will perform for the people in Egypt. I’d like to think that at this point, I’d be ready to go. Doubts dismissed by an awesome display of power. Unfortunately, we’re all as human as Moses, who decides he wants to back out of the plan. He starts with the subtle excuse:
10 Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
God doesn’t buy this excuse at all and finally Moses bluntly refuses the call:
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Wow. Really? Moses point blank refuses God even after a long conversation and a huge display of miraculous power. Despite these things, Moses asks to be excused from the job. Why?
My guess is that, besides normal fear, doubt, sheer laziness, unwillingness to change the status quo etc, Moses fears the power God will give him. He abused power pretty badly when he lived in Egypt – he took it upon himself to execute justice by killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave.
It’s interesting to me that Moses asks “Who am I to go to Pharaoh?” when he probably knows full well that he’s the most perfectly suited person God could pick to approach the Pharaoh. He was raised in the palace; he has intimate knowledge of Egypt’s ruling class. He grew up in utterly unique circumstances that are culminating in God’s request to lead his people. He was literally born for this. “Who am I” is not humility in this case, it’s just plain fear.
All of us have Moses in our hearts. We seek to be let off the hook, holding on to our limitations as excuses rather than trusting in God’s ability. On the flipside, some of us rightly fear having power because it has been abused so much in the past. We don’t believe that God will protect us from our own power-hungry natures.
When Moses does trust him, God sends Moses on one of the most epic missions ever to rescue his people and Moses becomes one of the greatest Prophets and leaders of the Old Testament, seeing the glory of God and performing great miracles in God’s power.
How many of us repeatedly reject the calls God places in our lives, and then wonder why we feel spiritually dry? While we may think we’re being humble by rejecting opportunities to have influence, we may be actually be denying God’s desire to bring his transforming power into the world through his body. If you have been rejecting God’s call, I think this story offers a huge lesson in how patient God is with us. Despite his anger over Moses’s initial refusal, God didn’t disqualify him or take away the calling.