GOD LEAPS OVER MAN-MADE HURDLES
During my secular service as in-charge of the railway track maintenance, I have come across many instances of people shirking responsibility to proceed to sites of accident or sabotage, attack by insurgents or sites of disasters caused by natural calamities, especially during nights, for obvious reasons, giving sundry and funny pleas. Such lethargic staff had to be revived and vitalised by cajoling or by threats.
By human instinct we create hurdles in the form of excuses when we are called upon to perform a responsible job. We hesitate to take up fresh additional responsibilities. We are happy if we are undisturbed and allowed to lead an easy-going life. If drafted to shoulder higher responsibilities, we try to avoid by giving excuses.
The Lord chose Saul as the leader of the Israelites to save them from the Philistines, and told Samuel to anoint him. But as Samuel spoke about the Lord's decision to Saul, he was not enthusiastic; instead, he started narrating excuses. Still, Samuel treated him as a VVIP and anointed him. The Lord gave a new heart and sent His Spirit to Saul. Yet when the Israelites were assembled at Mizpah, instead of coming forward for the official ceremony, Saul hid himself among the equipment (1Sam.9,10)!
Similarly, when Ananias was asked by the Lord to go to the house of Judas to lay his hand on Saul to get back his sight, he expressed his fear to face Saul, and was not ready to go (Acts 9:10-11). Of course, Ananias was persuaded to go. Perhaps Ananias' fear was genuine considering Saul's persecution of Christians. It is a universal fact that human beings initially resist any ordinance from God.
The above examples may be explained as spontaneous reactions of Saul and Ananias because they were taken aback on hearing the supreme orders, as they never realised that when the Lord gave marching orders, every provision would have been made for the appointed task.
But the man, chosen by the Lord to lead two million people was preparing for 80 years, Moses, in whom He had reposed immense hope. In many ways He showed that he was being groomed for the great divine mission. At birth, his entry into the king's palace, royal education, his longing to be identified with his people, escape from Egypt, the shepherd's life in the wilderness of Midian, and now the experience of the burning bush-through all these the Lord was revealing to Moses that he was being readied for a special purpose. But did he realise or at least understand the same? Did he at any time pause to ponder the sequence of events in his life and realise the intentions of the Lord?
Of course, yes. The Scripture says so and more! Moses believed in his Lord; his faith was total. He knew the Lord was guiding every event of his life. It was by this faith Moses preferred to suffer hardship and bear the shame of his brethren, rather than enjoy the pleasures and treasures of Egypt. By this faith, he left Egypt without fearing Pharaoh's wrath (Heb.11:24-27).
After 80 years' training, the Lord wanted to use Moses to redeem His people out of slavery in Egypt and take them to the promised land. He revealed Himself to Moses in the bush at Horeb, called him by name and unfolded His plan.
Moses heard through the plan. But when he learned that the Lord wanted to involve him, he got offended and started to question God's wisdom. Moses was a changed person altogether. Suddenly memories of Egypt flashed in his mind. 40 years rolled back. He remembered slaying the Egyptian, and the connected incidents leading to his escape from Pharaoh as a murderer. How could he face the Egyptian king with this charge on his head? Though he was the 'prince of Egypt,' he knew what his fate could be as the murderer of an Egyptian citizen. Here in Midian he was leading a quiet and peaceful family life free from the memories of the past. "Now the Lord wants me to go to Pharaoh? Never will I," he thought. He didn't like God's plan as he didn't want to enter Egypt again. So he started to raise objections and obstacles.
Moses was a man of faith in the Messiah who was to come and in the future reward (Heb. 11:24-27). Then what happened? Like any other human, like the Prophet Elijah (1Kgs. 19:2-4), 'fear' overpowered 'faith' in the case of Moses also.
A humble man further humbled himself and tried to find an excuse. He asked God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" (Exo.3:11). Am I worthy to stand before Pharaoh? What am I? How can I argue with the king, win him over, get the Israelites released and march them to Canaan? I am so insignificant that I am not capable of doing this highly risky job.
"Really this must be a great challenge hurled at the Lord which He can't solve," Moses thought, forgetting His capabilities. But it was not at all a difficult task for the Lord to tackle this unwilling leader-to-be. The Lord assured Moses that he would not be left alone; but He Himself would be with him. He also gave him a sign that the Israelites, on their way to Canaan would worship the Lord on the very same mountain (v12).
Moses protested as he was not intending to go. He wanted more answers as to which God was sending him to them, what His name was? "What is Your name?," he asked (v13).
The Lord maintained His cool. He said His name was 'I am who I am.' He also told Moses to tell the Israelites that 'I am' had sent him. He also promised to work wonders in Egypt to strike the oppressors and free His children from bondage, and take them to the land of milk and honey. To encourage Moses, He said also that when they started from Egypt they would come away with a full load of gold, silver and clothing (Exo.3:14-22).
Still Moses was far from obeying the Lord. He had more doubts to be cleared. He was himself presuming things. He again argued with the Lord, "They will not believe me, they won't listen and obey my words; they may even say the Lord has not appeared to me," thus expressing his unwillingness indirectly (Exo.4:1).
The Lord knew Moses' intentions, but showed patience because He wanted this mission to be accomplished by Moses himself. So He impressed upon him by doing three signs and authorised him to do the same before the Israelites so that they would believe him-the staff of Moses turning into a serpent, Moses' hand turning leprous and turning water of the Nile into blood (Exo.4:2-9).
But Moses was not a guy who could easily be persuaded. He continued playing tricks with God. He had more excuses justifying his personal deficiencies for not facing Pharaoh. Changing his tactic, he blamed the Lord that He had not set right his inability in speaking, even though He spoke to him directly. If He wanted Moses to carry out this mission, He must equip him for the job. He should have blessed him with the gift of speaking fluently. Moses also blamed that he was slow of speech and of a heavy and awkward tongue (Exo.4:10).
These statements were blatant lies. Moses was, in fact, educated in the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians; and he was mighty and powerful in his speech and deeds (Acts 7:22-Amplified). Moses was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter as her son in the palace knowing fully that he was a Hebrew child (Exo.2:6,10), and educated in the royal way to royal standards (Acts 7:22). He rejected the treasures of Egypt (Heb.11:26) which goes to prove that he was the heir of those treasures. The Lord was badly disturbed to hear these lies from Moses. He could have admonished thus, "You silly Moses, don't forget that I am the Almighty who created you. Don't you remember that I had test checked all my creations and seen to be very good and declared so (Gen.1:31)? If at all any discrepancy exists, I know how to compensate (1Cor.12:24-25). Did you forget that I had arranged for your education in Egypt and more importantly that you were very powerful and eloquent in your speeches?"
But the Lord told Moses, "I am your Creator and I know every bit of you. Don't try to excuse away from this mission I have set for you. I will help you to speak before Pharaoh and I will teach you what to speak there" (Exo.4:11-12).
Moses now knew that the Lord wouldn't let him out of His plan. But he was adamant not to see Pharaoh again. At last he came out with his actual intention. He requested the Lord to send someone else instead of him (Exo.4:13).
Finally, it was time for the Lord to show His true nature. After all, there was a limit for His patience as well. All the way the Lord was tolerating Moses so that he would get full credit and blessing for bringing out the Israelites. Now it was evident that Moses wouldn't get involved voluntarily. So, He proposed to press Aaron, Moses' elder brother, also into service, who would share a portion of the blessing originally marked for Moses alone.
The Lord got angry, raised His voice and said, "You still say you are not a fluent orator, but I know that your brother Aaron speaks very well. If you are not confident that My presence will benefit you, then speak to Aaron and tell him what to talk to Pharaoh. I will utilise him also in this venture, instead of you alone. Aaron will be your spokesman in dealing with the Israelites and Pharaoh, instead of you dealing directly with them, and you will lose much of the importance before your own people and the king. As Aaron will be your 'mouth' hereafter, you will lose the importance of your mouth and tongue. You will perform the signs/miracles also as and when I command (Exo.4:14-17).
Moses obeyed the Lord because he was afraid of the Lord who was very angry with him. The Lord assured Moses that he could proceed to Egypt boldly because those who wanted to kill him were already dead (v19), and also reminded him to take his staff which would be used to perform miracles.
Thus at last, the unwilling, unrelenting Moses was subdued into obeying the Lord. He returned to his father-in-law, took his wife and sons along with him to Egypt. On the way, Aaron also joined as the Lord had directed. Together they proceeded on their great divine mission.
The analysis of the episode makes the following clear: Moses' excuses were not genuine, but created to extricate himself from God's plan. God is all powerful to solve any such excuse either by diplomacy, tact or force. God gave three answers each to Moses' first three objections and as many as five answers each to his last two. Aaron became the spokesman and spoke directly to the Israelites and the Pharaoh, instead of Moses as originally intended by the Lord (Exo. 4:16). Most importantly, the office of the priests and high priest was denied to Moses and his descendants, and was diverted to Aaron and his descendants forever (Exo.28:1;29:9;40:15).
Let us introspect. Am I one who doesn't submit to His plans, but tries to be free from it? Do I question His wisdom or try to fool Him? Be warned. By not agreeing to submit oneself to God's plans, one will be playing a losing game. Whatever be the amount of your bluffing for avoidance, God won't let you escape from His plans once He has chosen you. The ultimate result is that you will be the loser.
The choice, of course, is ours.