(Blogger’s note: Although this site is not commercial, I have requested permission from some online Bible publishers so I could print selected passages in the context in which we are studying. While awaiting their response, let me tell you there are several of such excellent resources. So far, I’ve read through chapter eleven of Exodus.~dk)
Before I began the study of this second of “God’s Comeback Kids,” I saw this sign posted on the lighted billboard of a historic old Presbyterian Church up near my home: “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Even Moses was a basket case.” Arrrrgh! I agree. It’s a bit trite, corny, but kinda cute. While I was considering these very human men, struggling just as we do to find our place, I came close to entitling my effort “Joe and Moe.” Not meaning to be sacrilegious by any means. But trying to see them as men of flesh and bone, subjected to the same fears and doubts, hopes and dreams as we. And discovering, even though they may not have been 100% convinced at the time when God was using them that He really was with them, and really was using them.
“MIGHTY, MIGHTY MO…” I don’t believe I said that! HONEST, FOLKS: I don’t ever mean to trivialize anything sacred, but I AM trying to humanize these men. Moses wasn’t always the iconic figure we’ve seen portrayed in the Sistine Chapel. He didn’t have the advantage of Cecil B DeMille’s movie techniques to make him larger than life with all the awesome visual and sound effects. He was JUST A MAN. He was, indeed, mighty and in Jewish history is viewed as the sine qua non. No other was equal to him; much less did anyone ever exceed his ability, authority and accomplishments. He’s considered the greatest leader of the Jews. He founded the nation. Led the Hebrew children out of slavery and poverty. All stereotypes aside, that was no small feat. Through him, God gave the Jewish people the law…the Ten Commandments . . . which still forms the foundation of much of our own legal system. But keep in mind the path by which he came to leadership.
For some reason, I don’t sympathize with Moses the way I did with Joseph; but God selected him for the special assignment only Moses could carry out. He’s a man of deep passion. And compassion.
He’s also spent a good part of his life out in the desert. There he learned survival skills that must have served him well as he led the nondescript, newly emerging Jewish nation during their ambling, rambling, forty-year trek wandering in circles through the desert and right up to the place where he could actually look over into the “Promised Land.” Again, we’re made very aware of his “humanity.” Because of an unwarranted and explosive angry outburst toward God, he was denied the privilege of seeing the end result of the journey which he instigated and led.
He learned how to live in harsh conditions. Yet his early training (He was after all, the adopted “son” of Pharaoh’s daughter) was anything but austere. Perhaps he occupied the position of a prince. Certainly, he was accorded the status with all the fringe benefits that accrued to that position. Luxurious living accommodations, a privileged education. Courtly manners. Could probably work his way up the chain of command and knew his way around the palace, and around town. He must have had some access to information, otherwise how could he have known where and when to find Pharaoh on the path to his daily bath? He seemed to have possessed a certain bearing which is unmistakable in a leader. That early exposure in the Pharaoh’s court must have been beneficial in that regard. And without dwelling on it, we know the teaching and influence of his own Mother left an indelible impression on Moses. Personally, I don’t believe these things were mere “happenstance.” When God selects a person for a task, the timing is right. The selection is correct. Events seem to converge, almost inexplicably, in such a way that you get the distinct impression that “I know the Lord done laid His hands on” Moses.
Let’s consider some defining moments in Moses’ life. I’ll post the Scripture references if given permission. Otherwise, I’ll simply say where they are located.
He killed an Egyptian guard (Exodus2:11-15) Bare handed. It’s great that he had a sense of justice. He was outraged by the treatment the guard gave the slave. But he took matters into his own hands. I’m wondering what his options were? If he had any. There were no human rights organizations back then. I don’t know if Moses had any “clout” to get the guard disciplined or punished. Human life was cheap. Slaves were cheaper. Hebrew slaves were really dirt-cheap. Moses was right to recognize this was wrong. But was that the only option he had? Impulsively he reacted without thought. A friend whom I consulted on this point said it was “righteous rage,” and felt God shared that opinion. I’m not sure. All I know is that’s what got him in trouble and the reason he fled with a price on his head.
Now he’s a fugitive. Can you imagine! This guy is the person God has selected to found and lead a nation! And an APB alert is out. Perhaps a reward for his capture, dead or alive! Wanted posters all over the area! Would YOU select someone like that to lead anyone anywhere!!?? Left town quickly. Didn’t even pack his toothbrush. He wants to get as far away as fast as he can. Bible says he wound up on the “backside of the desert.” Really out in the boonies. When he decided to hide, he REALLY hid.
There was the incident at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1 and following). I don’t know what really happened there that day. But something sure did! I’ve read a lot of attempts to explain this simply as a natural phenomenon. The Japanese Maples in my front yard turn brilliantly crimson in the fall. But I never for a moment thought one of them was on fire. And the best staffed volunteer Fire Department in the country is across the street less than a hundred yards from my home. They’ve seen me burning leaves, but none of them ever thought my maple tree was on fire! It doesn’t seem that Moses viewed it that way. And, you know, sometimes I’ve found attempts to explain what clearly purports to be a miracle in some way that will make it more palatable to “reasonable, intelligent” minds. In some cases, I’ve found such explanations require more credulity, more sheer faith than it does to take the reports at face value. Personally, I don’t have a problem believing in miracles. To this very moment, I believe God can do what God pleases to do. If He cannot, then you’ve made Him less than the universe which He created. If you do believe in God, miracles are not only possible. They’re probably inevitable. Every sunrise is a miracle. Every drop of water. Every blade of grass. I understand that some people know how to split atoms. But they don’t know how to make them. They now presumably can “clone” animals. But can anyone make the “stuff” out of which cells are formed and program them so they’ll function as they’re supposed to function? Can stem cell research produce such results?
The episode of the burning bush marks the beginning of Moses “comeback.” He didn’t even know who was speaking with him from the bush. He was going about his daily business, and it seems God stepped directly across his path and said: “I have something much more important for you to do.” That happens. If it happens to you, some people may doubt your sanity. And you may, too. But sometimes there is a growing, overwhelming conviction. An experience that makes you feel you should “take off your shoes” and that you’re “on holy ground.” It happened to the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus. Sometimes God simply changes our plans, for His own reasons and in ways we cannot begin to explain or understand.
I really don’t know if “leaders” are born. Or made. I do know that spiritual leaders all seem to have a sense of being “called.” And “sent forth” (the word “apostle” means that quite literally, namely: one who is “hurled forth.”). I know no genuine ones who’ve been made “pompous” by such a call. And in the event they do become proud, self-seeking and self-serving, the ring of authenticity and God-given authority is erased. And sometimes they are the last to realize that. In the case of someone like Billy Graham, in my opinion one of the most convincing evidences of his “call” is his consistent sense of humility. He’s never seen himself as a ‘great’ leader. He’s never claimed credit for the astounding success of the simple message he’s delivered. He has a confidence, born of his simple, childlike faith in God, but it never even begins to look like arrogance. He has always kept in proper perspective that his role is simply as a “messenger” and that role is never as important as the MESSAGE.
It seems noteworthy to me that most often God has come to man at a time, and in a manner, when it was least expected. Think about that a bit. If you were God (we’re just “supposing” now), would YOU have picked such a leader in such a place and in such a way? With the grand stage for world events wide open and a defining moment in human history about to be launched, would YOU have done it this way? In other places, God is recorded to have said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are my ways your ways. For, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts (higher) than your thoughts.” I rest my case.
Always, without exception, the “Comeback Kids” are vivid, living examples of the love of God. His faithfulness. His grace. His ability and willingness to use us, even defiled specimens which we may become, to accomplish His will! Their “comeback” is a tribute to Him, not to them.
Something which seems especially worthy of thoughtful contemplation and comment to me is the incident when Moses was giving his excuses about why he (Moses) couldn’t possibly be the right choice for such an assignment. He began to derogate himself. “Aww. Shucks. I ain’t nobody. I can’t do nothing. I can’t talk. You ought to get somebody else.” As further evidence that he wasn’t the Sunday-go-to-meetin’ kind of guy, he added: “I don’t even know who you are.” The appearance was so unexpectedly abrupt, that God had to introduce Himself to Moses!! Sometimes, especially early on, the biggest “doubters” are those who later are turned into bulwarks of faith and hope.
This is what I consider another “Defining Moment” in Moses’ comeback: God stopped Moses’ prattle with a simple question: “What is that in your hand?” Evidently, Moses had been holding on to a rod or shepherd’s staff. Perhaps gesturing with it emphatically as he tried to make his point. Just a “rod. That’s all.” And God told him to “throw it down.” You know the rest of the story.
But have you ever thought about that this way? The rod was the symbol of Moses’ profession. As a shepherd, that was one of the main tools of his trade. . . the way he made his living. Does it take too great a stretch of the imagination to see that God is telling Moses: “Stop what you’re doing. Put that in my hands. Surrender your career.”
Now glance ahead and see the role that simple “stick” played as it was now no longer Moses’ rod. . . Instead if was the rod of God! If God were to confront you (as He’s likely to do any time He chooses), he’d probably ask you the same question: “What is that in your hand? How do you make your living? What is that in your hand? A stethoscope? A computer? Builders’ tools? A real estate license? Are you willing to surrender that (and every other area of your life)to my control? If the answer is “yes,” watch how much more He can accomplish with it, through you, than you could ever hope to achieve without Him!
HIS servant, your friend and fellow student ~donkimrey