What Matters is God’s Presence

God came to a shepherd in the desert of Midian and said to him, in essence, “I have an important job to be done in Egypt, and I have chosen you to do it.”  But Moses answered God, in essence, “Sorry, God, but, in your perfect wisdom, you’ve made a big mistake.”

Over the span of two chapters in the book of Exodus, Moses sets forth his arguments to convince God of what a mistake God made in choosing Moses for this job. 

Moses begins with the question (or accusation), “Who am I?”  It’s a good question.  Moses is not the leader of an army that could oppose Pharaoh.  The only ones following him are a bunch of sheep.  Over and over again in Scripture, we find that it is the least significant persons who are assigned the menial task of watching sheep.  Moses has no track record of success as a rescuer.  Many years earlier he had tried to intervene on behalf of Hebrew slaves.  He had failed; then he ran away.  Now he is around eighty years old.  Who would think of assigning such an old man to such a strenuous mission?

Later Moses makes the case that he is not a spiritual giant.  He doesn’t even know the name of the God who wants to send him to Egypt (Exodus 3:13).  The Egyptians believed that if you knew the secret name of a god, that god would be obligated to come to your aid when you called out that god’s name.  Since Moses does not know the secret name of god, he has no power to control spiritual forces.

Later Moses argues that he is not persuasive.  “Suppose they do not believe me or listen to me” (Exodus 4:1).  Lastly, Moses contends that he is not a good speaker (Exodus 4:10). 

Interestingly, God never argues back with Moses.  God never tries to convince Moses that he is, indeed, the right person for the job.  God never tries to convince Moses that he is, in fact, great enough, or wise enough, or persuasive enough, or anything like that.

When Moses questions who he is for the job, God simply replies, “I will be with you.”  According to God, what is most critical for the success of the mission is not the talent of Moses but the presence of God.

When Moses complains that he does not know the name that will enable him to call forth the power of God, God announces simply, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14).  This is not a title that will give Moses any kind of control over God.  Rather, it is God’s way of announcing that he cannot be hemmed in or nailed down.  It is God’s way of declaring that he is and always will be his own person.  Moreover, it is God’s way of proclaiming that he is always present and always in the present moment.  The key to the success of the mission is not an ability on Moses’ part to control God, but the presence of God, leading Moses.

When Moses argues that he is not persuasive, God tells him to throw his staff on the ground.  When Moses does so, the staff turns into a snake.  It is not that Moses learned some clever bits of magic to impress the Egyptians.  It’s that God reveals his own presence, and God’s presence is impressive.

And when Moses insisted that he was an ineffective public speaker, God assured him, “Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”  Again, God was making it clear that the key to success was not the talent of Moses but the presence of God. 

Like Moses, we may not think that we are much.  We may be well aware of our faults and failures.  We may think that we don’t know the needed insider information.  We may be certain of our lack of persuasiveness and of our public speaking deficiencies.  But our shortcomings don’t seem to bother God.  He just keeps looking for individuals who are willing to follow him.  And if we agree to follow God, what matters most is not our talent but the presence of God.  He will easily make up for whatever may be lacking in us.


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