Excuses

I was preaching on Sunday evening on the leadership years of Moses. After 40 years obtaining a good education in Egypt (learning to be somebody, as DL Moody put it) and 40 years getting acquainted with the desert in the company of his father in law’s sheep, Moses encountered the call of God.

His initial response (Who am I?) may sound better than we sometimes think. His bottom line was that he didn’t want to do what God was asking him to do, so this sounds like an excuse; however it may have been an expression of self-effacing humility – a bit like David when God told him he would establish his dynasty (Who am I that you would do this for me?).

Then Moses asked God – Who are you? He needed to know who was sending him in case the Hebrews asked him.

Not that they would necessarily believe him anyway. At least that’s what he brings up next. Did the scars of rejection from his short-lived rescue attempt 40 years previously make him worry that it could all happen again?

And anyway why would anyone listen to him? What clout could someone like him – never eloquent, always slow of speech – carry in the sophisticated Egyptian court of Pharaoh? We know from Stephen (Acts 7) that Moses was well educated and was powerful in both word and deed: could it be that the desert years had robbed him of any confidence? How would an obscure sheep farmer manage to speak in the court of a king?

So could God not just send someone else?

Sometimes excuses have to do with ourselves and our inadequacies.

Humility is a fine and sometimes elusive virtue. It is the virtue which you lose as soon as you realise you have attained it. But false humility is another story. It’s the cringing inability to receive any kind of compliment. It’s the inability to recognise and nurture one’s God-given gifts and abilities. Is it possible to be so preoccupied with our inadequacies that we miss the call of God?

Interestingly, God’s response to Moses’ self-effacement was to say “I will be with you.”

Who I am matters less than who God is and his promise to be with me.

Sometimes excuses have to do with the size of the task.

“What if they don’t believe me?”

Moses knew what had happened the last time he tried to help. “I tried that before and it didn’t work.”

How many times does that get thrown up as an excuse – even by church leaders? It’s interesting that this excuse has a cousin – “We have never tried that before” – and both of them lead to inaction.

There are some tasks which ought to intimidate us. In fact, if we are not intimidated by them, we probably have not understood them. But there is a problem if intimidation leads to paralysis.

The God who calls is the God who accompanies and the God who equips. Maybe he wants us to be aware of the size of the task so that we remember to rely on him and not ourselves.

Sometimes we just want to be left alone.

In the words of Jill Briscoe, “Here am I; send Aaron.”

Moses was not the only Bible character who wanted to be left alone, or who wanted to turn away from the challenge.

  • Elijah, floored by fear and discouragement, prayed that the Lord would allow his days to end.
  • Jonah, the proud nationalist, tried to get as far away from Nineveh as he possibly could.
  • John Mark left Paul and Barnabas to go back home to Jerusalem.

Reggie McNeal – in a brilliant leadership book, A Work of Heart, suggests that “only God knows how many would-be leaders turn away from the burning bush.”

Despite Moses’ attempts to dodge the call, God did not let him off the hook. God’s call is not a casual invitation to volunteer; it is a gracious summons to involvement.

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