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Monday, June 4, 2018

WHAT IF YOU'RE RIGHT ABOUT HOW WRONG YOU ARE?


 Blogging Exodus 3:7 -  4:17


And God said, "Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain   (Exodus 3:10-12).

From Exodus 3:5 all the way to Exodus 4:17 is one conversation.  Moses spent that entire 35 verses barefoot, on his knees, in the desert, in front of a bush --- that was on fire.  And, he was 80 years old at the time.  So it isn’t that big a surprise that Moses tried repeatedly to end the conversation early.

Five times Moses offered a question or observation meant to excuse him from the discussion.  Now, we might fault Brother Moses for trying to shirk his calling, but we cannot accuse him of deception because, according to God, each of Moses’ excuses were true.

When you tell somebody how powerless you feel, how undeserving you think you are, you want them to tell you that you’re not.  You want your friend to affirm your unseen greatness, your untapped potential, your kingship or queenhood.  You want a boost to your self esteem.   Maybe, you want a neutral but attentive and sympathetic ear.  What you don’t want is someone to listen and reply, “Yeah.  You suck in exactly the ways you just described.”  But that is exactly what God told Moses.

Excuse #1.  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

Here we’d expect the Lord to affirm to Moses that he had all the qualifications he needed. Maybe something like, “The Lord doesn’t call the qualified but qualifies the called.”  Nope.  None of that. 

God basically replied, “Yeah.  Only way you can pull this off is if God Himself goes with you, so I will.  And as far as assurances go, you get none.  You’ll know it works when you survive and make it back here.”

 “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12)

Excuse #2 .  Then Moses claimed that he was unprepared for an examination of his knowledge of correct theistic nomenclature. 
“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’ ” (Exodus 3:13)
The Lord could’ve told Moses, “Don’t worry about terminology.  Focus on faith,” but nope.  

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14).

I AM translates into our Yehovah (Jehovah).  By answering Moses with an actual, correct name the Lord confirmed that  “Yes.  You’ve just been making up stuff to call me.”

(In a later blog, we’ll loop back around to talk about this name thing.)

Excuse #3.  Then, Moses questioned his own credibility. 

But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, “The Lord has not appeared to you.” (Exodus 4:1). 

Right there is where you want your friend to tell you that your audience will feel your sincerity, they’ll look in your eyes and see the truth.  Right there is where you want your friend to say, “Don’t worry about what they think.”

But Yehovah was like, “Oh, let me give you something to show that I DID send you.”

So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
He said, “A rod.”
And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. (Exodus 4:2-4).

God called ole’ scared Moses back and said,  “ ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.’ And he reached out his hand and caught the snake, and it became a rod in his hand“ (Exodus 4:4).

There, the Lord said, now “They may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” (Exodus 4:5).

But just in case that’s not enough (because apparently Moses was VERY unbelievable), Furthermore the Lord said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.  
And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.
 “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.  

It seemed like the more the Lord looked at Moses the more unconvincing the reluctant prophet looked, so the Lord said, “ And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land” which roughly translates into:  Let me give you one more miracle just in case. (Exodus 4:6-9)

Excuse #4.  Moses follow up that exchange by pleading poor public speaking skills and a speech impediment.    

Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). 

God answered, “Yeah, I know and I don’t care.”

 “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?
Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:10-11).

Excuse #5. The tone of God’s response at this point indicates that He was pretty tired of Moses’ whining, a verbal cue which Moses somehow totally missed cause (bless his heart) was, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send” (Exodus 4:13).

All that “O, my Lord” stuff didn’t hide the fact that he’d just told God flat-out “No.” God did NOT miss that, and Yehovah was PISSED!
The Bible says, “ So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses,” (Exodus 4:14).
The rest of the conversation, verses 14-17, is a monologue that you have to read in the tone of an angry Black mother’s voice.  I’ll paraphrase.

Ain’t Aaron your brother? Can’t he speak well?!?  No don’t answer me when I’m asking you a question!  Aaron’s on his way.  No that ain’t a question!  Yeah, I’d already sent for you some help because I’M GOD and I knew you had a little stutter before I even I called you over here to this burning bush!  So now this is what you gone do.  You gone tell Aaron EVERY WORD I tell you.  I tell you.  You tell Aaron.  Aaron does the public speaking.
So now, you gone take this stick that turns into a snake and you gone take your self back to Egypt like I told you to and do all the stuff that I just showed you how to do.
Period.

The next verse is Moses telling Jethro that he has to go back to Egypt.

Moses wasn’t any more qualified than he was before his confrontation with God in the desert.  He was still a fugitive murderer raised by the rich folk in the palace who talked about revolution for a minute before running away and nobody back home has even seen him for 40 years.  Moses was still going to show up in Goshen with a new name for his people’s ancestral God, talking about God sent me to set you free, and he wouldn’t even be able to speak for himself.
But he wemt.

The self-critical things you say may be actually be true.  God knows you may be that unqualified, discredited, technically ignorant, and inarticulate.  You think the Lord is going to say otherwise?  God isn’t going to lie to you about you.
But God knew all of your issues and limitations BEFORE He called you to this position of authority and influence.   
God knows and He doesn’t care.
The Lord doesn’t require perfection or even adequacy.  God requires obedience and faithfulness. 


And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Just do the thing.  Do it as well as you can, which may be pretty badly at first.  Do it because it is yours to do. Accept the help that God sends you (like Moses accepting Aaron), and do the thing. 
Don’t do the thing because you can do it well.  Do the thing because God sent you to do it.  That’s obedience. 
Keep doing the thing with the help God sends, building the hard headed, attitude-laden, getting-on-your-last-nerve, vision-hating team God sends you (like Moses did with the elders of Israel).  That’s faithfulness. 


That affirmation you’re waiting on?  Stop waiting.  It ain’t coming.
Those self-esteem boosting words of encouragement?  Not gonna happen.  Move da’ crap on.
If social media is enough, you can get your fix of “encouragement” by just asking for it.  But you’ll also get the trolls who take your right back now 6 or 7 pegs by exaggerated or accurate recall of your faults.  
So don’t expect validation in words of affirmation.

Validation comes at the end, not at the beginning.

Moses knew that he was the right one only AFTER he had done the things in Egypt and brought the people back to Mt. Horeb/ Mt. Sinai.

The disciples knew that following Jesus was right AFTER He appeared to them physically resurrected.

You will know that your work has not been in vain, you will know that your calling was true, but you probably won’t know until AFTER you’ve faithfully done the doggone thing. 

So if you really need that confirmation and assurance ---- stop making excuses, get up off your knees, and get to work.


 --Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama. He writes a blog called A Word to the Wise at www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
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