Proper 17
Exodus 3:1-15

On May 31, 1792, a little congregation in Nottingham, England heard a shoemaker preach about people far away in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had a vision of reaching those multitudes, and he called on this congregation to catch the vision. “Expect great things from God!” said William Carey. “Attempt great things for God!”

Almost to a man, they made excuses. One of the ministers there is reported to have said, “Sit down, young man, when God is pleased to convert the heathen, he will do so without your help or mine.”

God called Moses in the burning bush encounter in the wilderness of Horeb. Moses made excuses. God still calls his own to his service, and still we make our excuses. In this chapter and the one that follows, Moses made five excuses that sound disturbingly familiar.

I. His first excuse: Who am I that I should go? (Exodus 3:10).

That might be genuine humility or false humility. It does not matter. In either case, the answer is: You are a nobody that God has chosen to make somebody. You are nothing, but God is everything. Moses was trained in all the arts and sciences of Pharaoh’s court, but Egyptians sneered at shepherds. Never mind. God had in mind for Moses to shepherd the whole nation of Israel. Nobody, Moses? You are the one Almighty God is calling! He has a big job for you, and he is promising to go with you (Exodus 3:12).

II. His second excuse seems to be “Who are You?” (Exodus 3:13).

Moses thought of going to his people and claiming the God of their fathers had sent him. Then they might reply, “Which God are we talking about?” What would Moses say? God told him to tell them the Sovereign God sent him. Tell them, “I am who I am.” Tell them “I AM” has sent me unto you. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:13-14). He is the God who really is God – the self-existent One. He is the God who sees and knows and cares. He is the God who can and will bring his people out of bondage.

III. His third excuse was “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” (Exodus 4:1).

To this excuse God graciously gave Moses some reassurance. At God’s command, Moses threw his rod on the ground and watched it become a snake. At God’s word, he picked it up by the tail, and it became a rod again. God also showed Moses his hand miraculously become leprous when he put it into his cloak and become clean again the same way.

When I was a young man, another young man struggled with unbelief and wanting to believe. He said, “If I could just see one miracle, I could believe!” I don’t know if he ever saw a miracle or ever did become a believer. I do know that God does not ordinarily accommodate such prayers. When you think about it, if you have proof, what do you need with faith? In fact, if you have proof, is faith possible?

In the case of Moses, this may have been more a fear of failure than a lack of trust in God. Everyone ever called to work for God can identify with that! What if I go and utterly fail? Like Moses, we need to see that the results are up to God. Our job is to be faithful.

IV. A most familiar excuse comes next: “I’m not a public speaker!” (Exodus 4:10).

“O Lord, I have never been eloquent . . . I am slow of speech and tongue.” Sound familiar? God calls us to go next door and give a word of testimony to a neighbor. Oh, what would I say? Or God calls someone to teach a Bible class or preach a sermon. Oh, not me! I could never do that!

But God says, “Who gave you your mouth? . . . Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (cf. Exodus 4:11-12). Do you think you are telling God something he doesn’t know? He knows whether or not you can speak. He made you – personality and all. You can’t speak? So what? God can still speak through you.

V. Finally, we come to the heart of the issue: “Send someone else!” (Exodus 4:13).

The bottom line for most of us is the matter of willingness. If you are not willing to let God use you, he just might pass you by. In the case of Moses, a gracious and super-patient Sovereign gave him the help of Aaron to be his spokesman. God is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6), but our rebellion can push him to his limit. “The Lord’s anger burned against Moses” (Exodus 4:14), but God kept after Moses until he obeyed.A man in his mid-fifties had a family to support when he finally resigned his job. He packed up and moved family and all to seminary. He said, “God called me when I was young, but I would not go. He would not let me alone. I wish I had obeyed when I was young, but God has a way of making us willing.

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