Meditations in Exodus: 14. Who am I?
Ex 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
These are Moses’ first words of response to the Lord after He has revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. They are, very simply, a question as to the identity and authority of this apparent ambassador to the king of Egypt. Forty years ago Moses might have replied, “Fine, I am a prince of Egypt so I have every right to access to the king of Egypt. Whether he will accept what I say is another thing but, yes, this was my home so I am familiar with the court.” But forty years alone with sheep in a desert has washed away any of that. I’m just a scruffy shepherd now, one of the outcasts of civilised society so why should the king even let me within shouting distance of him? And if I did get to him, whatever makes you think this great man will listen to a nobody like me?
Who am I? is not a question that ‘big people’ ask, people full of confidence. Watch a young man or woman who has grown up in an affluent home, who has gone to preparatory school, then a well-known Public School (Private in the USA), watch and observe their confidence. Confidence is possibly THE main characteristic that is build into them in that system. They have had it all and been taught that they are superior and have a great future ahead of them. They are the people who often end up Prime Minister or some other ‘high’ position, but they will never end up leading a people out of Egypt.
Listen to the apostle Paul’s description of his outlook on life: “we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Phil 3:3-9) In his day he had all the right spiritual qualifications but he knew those particular qualifications counted for nothing with God. He considered his pedigree and his training ‘rubbish’ for none of them made him an apostle, none of them equipped him to move in the power of the Spirit, and none of them qualified him to be called a child of God.
Paul explained it to the Corinthians in this way: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor 1:26-29) I think we have so often got it wrong! It was not long back that any Anglican vicar had to have gone through either Oxford or Cambridge, the brightest of the bright! No wonder the Church of England is so often so spiritually weak. But be careful. How many other denominations require their ‘ministers’ to have gone through rigorous academic training indicating a high intellect? Please, this is not saying being bright is wrong or bad, quite to the contrary, but if we rely upon intellect as a spiritual qualification we will have gone far astray.
Moses had the right qualification: a sure confidence that he had no confidence and was not up to the job! But that did mean a long argument Now the Lord’s answer was in two parts, the first quite clear and the second somewhat enigmatic. The first part of quite clear: “And God said, “I will be with you.” (v.12a) Actually the more you think about that the more it might raise questions. You will be with me? What does that mean? Although we considered it previously He hasn’t yet said that He will intervene to deal with Pharaoh. For you and I today, if the Lord says, “I am with you”, we have plenty of content from the Bible that tells us what that means. For Moses, all he knows is that this is the God of the Patriarchs and the content to that statement is a little limited as we’ve seen before. It’s not so much a case of will you be with me but will you actually DO anything and what CAN you do? Well perhaps to say that to the One who has created the world is a bit silly, but these are the sort of things that go round in our minds when we sense this calling to do something spectacular. Sometimes when we are first faced with this sort of thing, it takes a while for all the realities to sink in. Our sense of inadequacy often smothers everything else.
Then comes the somewhat enigmatic part: “And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (v.12b) Excuse me but I prefer signs BEFORE the event but you are saying I will get the sign afterwards. Well, I suppose some sign is better than nothing. When we get back here (if that should actually happen) then, yes, it will have been a miracle and so yes it must have been the Lord, which perhaps is helpful for the ongoing future but not so much now.
The fact that Moses is watching a burning bush not being burnt and that he hears a voice speaking out of it, and the voice makes sense should, it seems, be sufficient evidence for Moses to move out. How often, I wonder, do we question and query when God speaks to us and gives us a commission? The truth of these two chapters is that God is patient with us and will persevere with our hesitations and questions. Rest in His love. If he speaks major change in your life, expect it to come at least three times, probably in different ways. It is knowing that it is Him tends to be our biggest question, which is why He, in His love and grace, will speak again and again. Thank and praise Him for this.