Sunday, May 20, 2012

Here I am... Who am I?

Exodus 3:1-12 (NIV)

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. 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.”
It’s not clear here if Moses knew exactly who he was speaking with when he said, “Here I am.” We don’t know if he was confident or filled with trepidation or merely curious. We are told Moses was afraid to look at God, which I certainly understand. (It strikes me that perhaps fear of the Lord in this manner is more of an Old Testament construct. Any more you’re far more likely to hear someone express anticipation at the chance to have this kind of personal encounter. But I digress.)

What really stands out here is the quick evolution Moses undergoes from “Here I am” to “who am I?” Obviously he hasn’t forgotten the answer to his own question, but he clearly realizes knowing his name is a far cry from understanding the purpose for which God called him. The almighty spells it out pretty clearly — Moses will be sent to the pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses does not question the identity of God in this case (the burning bush probably was pretty convincing), yet he openly questions God’s choice.

I don’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never seen a burning bush or any other such physical exhibition of supernatural powers. I’ve never heard the literal voice of God, addressing me by name, engaging in conversation and answering my questions. Given the chance, I would like to think that, unlike Moses, for whom all that physical evidence could not remove doubt, I wouldn’t feel the need to question anything.

Perhaps Moses isn’t questioning God’s will so much as he’s questioning himself. (“Who am I to take on this enormous task?”) And to be fair, his only marching orders from God were, “So now, go.” I know I don’t feel worthy of God’s love and forgiveness. To be fair, I don’t think any of us are worthy of such gifts. But I do try to be aware of what God might be calling me to do and to respond positively. After all, if God thinks I can handle something, why should I doubt my ability to shoulder the burden?

As with Moses, God promises to be with us as we try to live according to his will. It’s far too easy to ignore what God wants, or to decide we’re not up to the task, or to forget the strength and support we’ll get if we only follow where we’re being led. I know from far too many experiences. But I keep getting chance after chance to choose the right path. It seems God has far more faith in me than I do in myself.

These are lessons I hope to learn myself so I can pass them on to my kids and spare them the pain of learning the hard way. But I’m not sure that’s possible. I believe God speaks to us all in different ways, and learning to hear God, or to feel his call, or simply to understand when you might be presented with the chance to intentionally take positive action and embracing the opportunity, might well be something you can only grasp through personal experience. If so, the best I can do is pray for my children to reach such a place.

A prayer for May 20:

Lord, I thank you for continuing to speak to me, no matter how many times I refuse to listen. I thank you for your faith in my ability to choose the right path, and your willingness to bear with me all the times I make the wrong choice. I pray my children will develop their own ways to hear your voice and sense the way you move in their lives, and that we might grow to encourage each other to be more in tune with you and your will. Amen.

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