Scripture: Exodus 3:1-12
Nothing exciting is happening for Moses. His task at the beginning of Exodus 3 is monotonous, daily work. Verse 1 says, “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Edmund Burke, the 18th century British statesman said, “History is full of momentous trifles.” Momentous trifles – ordinary events filled with extraordinary meaning and significance. Moses already had experienced his time in the limelight 40 years earlier. He had been raised a prince in Egypt, discovered he was actually a Hebrew, then killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a Hebrew slave. He fled the country and started a life in Midian. That was all 40 years ago, ancient history to him. Now all the excitement of Egypt had been replaced by the quiet, low-key lifestyle of being a shepherd. He had a wife, he had a family, and he was content to be out of the fray. There is a lot to be learned about this period of Moses’ life by the names he gave to his sons. His first son was named Gershom – it means “a stranger.” Moses had been a stranger in a foreign land. The second son was Eliezer – it means “God is help” – God had delivered him from death at the hands of Pharaoh for killing an Egyptian. So day after day after day he follows the same routine – care for the family, care for the sheep. He’s not seeking anything greater – he is content, he’s happy. So when verse 2 happens, it occurs in the midst of a very predictable routine and faithfulness to the everyday responsibilities before him. He is busy, but the work is just daily work – its nothing spectacular. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2 ESV).
The lesson here is that God appears in the very ordinary things of life. Moses was not on a spiritual quest, he was not trying to be an overachiever for God, he was just being faithful to a steady routine. There are no indications that Moses was bored with his life – he was content with the ordinary. In the midst of that contentment with the ordinary, God appeared and called Moses into service. God used something happening that was very unusual, something out of the ordinary, to get Moses’ attention. Then the call to service came. Of course, Moses was shaken by the call, he didn’t want to respond. So, there are three things about this incident that give insight on how God may call you into service.
First of all, when God calls you into service, your life will be busy. Verse 1 again says, “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian,…” Moses was tending what was likely a large flock of sheep. He had been raised as a prince of Egypt in the home of Pharaoh. His early years undoubtedly had been easy. Servants waited on him. Work was likely something that was optional, not a necessity for life. He surely had a considerable amount of free time on his hands. Forty years later, his life is radically different. He’s a working shepherd, he’s a husband, and he’s a father. By this time chances are good he’s also a grandfather – he’s eighty years old. He’s a very busy man. God chooses this particular time to call him to service.
Throughout the Bible, God calls people to serve him when they are busy. Elisha was plowing – God called him to serve. Peter was fishing – God called him to serve. There is nowhere in the Bible that God says, “If you have time, I’d like you to serve me.” Instead, people made time. When God gives the call to service, it takes priority. “But pastor, I’m married, I have children, I have a job, where am I supposed to find time?” Where God guides, he provides. He will enable you to be creative with your schedule. My youth pastor years ago said, “People find time to do what they really want to do.” When God calls you to service, your life will be busy.
Then, when God calls you to service, your outlook will be bleak. Verse 7 says, ”Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings,” In Egypt, things were really bad for Israel. The cruel taskmasters were continuing to drive them to work in horrible conditions. The morale of the people was low. Forty years early, Moses was in a different situation. Then he had political power and clout. His body was young and strong. Now the political power is gone – he is an outcast. His body is worn from decades of tending sheep. To Moses, the obstacles are now too great. The goal of leading the people of Israel to freedom simply can’t be done. The outlook is bleak to make any kind of difference in the situation. Still, God calls him to service.
Moses’ focus was on the severity of the situation, and not on the sovereignty of his God. For you today, when the thought comes to mind of serving God in that particular way, your outlook is likely bleak.
“I don’t have the skills required.”
“I can’t make a difference with these kids – they are too rowdy”
“I can’t make a difference with these seniors – they are too set in their ways.”
“I can’t make a difference in the finances of the church – the needs are just too great.”
“I can’t make a difference in repairing or improving the church building – I fix one thing and two more break. This building is just too old.”
Moses was thinking, “I can’t.” You think, “I can’t.” The important to realize is that you are not calling you to service. God is calling you to service. God is leading, you are following. God loves to make a difference in difficult times. When the outlook is bleak, that is when God is most likely to move. There is a saying, “On the darkest day, God will find a way.” When God calls you to service, your outlook will be bleak.
Then, when God calls you to service, your self-confidence will be broken. Verse 11 says, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Who am I? God, I am the one who tried and failed. The story of Moses first 40 years is summarized well in Acts 7:20-25
“At that time Moses was born—a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months. When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son. Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action. “One day when Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel. He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. So Moses came to the man’s defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian. Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn’t” (NLT).
Moses is full of energy, of ambition, and he throws himself into the worthy cause of leading the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. It was a wonderful idea, but he tried doing it in his own time and in his own strength, and he failed miserably. When you try to do something for God in your own time and in your own way, even if it is a noble goal, you too will fail miserably. Moses’ self-confidence is broken now. He’s had 40 years for the failure to sink deep into his heart and mind. He is convinced now he isn’t the man for the task. He can’t speak (even though he is described as being powerful in speech), and he can’t win a following (he was sure the people of Israel would follow him, but they didn’t). Moses is a has-been when it comes to anything to do with his people and their plight in Egypt. Now, 40 years later, God calls this “failure” into service. So what is different now than 40 earlier? It is God’s time now, not Moses’ time. It is God’s power now, not Moses’ ability. Those two things make all the difference. Previously Moses had been high and mighty, now he is humble and broken. Now, he’s ready for God to use him.
For you, you may have aspired to serve God in the past, but that was another time.
Now you have too much sin in your past for God to use you.
You have hurt too many people for God to use you as agent of healing and comfort.
You have made too many mistakes for anyone to look up to you.
You feel like a has-been, your sense of worth is shot
The thing is, now your situation is different.
It is God’s time, not your time.
It is God’s power, not your ability.
Listen to what 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 has to say,
“…God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (NLT).
Will you respond to his call?