The OT Challenge: The Calling of Moses

When God Calls. . .

The story of Moses is one that spans many years and lots of stories but there is one story that is essential to understand if you want to know about Moses. It is the story of his call. It was clear as early as Moses birth that he was protected preserved for something special. Every life experience in Moses life led and prepared him for God’s call that came into his life.

We believe that every person on the face of the earth has a God-given calling in life. All of us have something that we should be doing with the talents, gifts and strengths that make us who we are.

It was an ordinary day for Moses the fugitive shepherd living on the backside of the desert, but everything was about to change. When he went out to tend to the sheep that morning, he had no idea that he would meet God. But meet God he did.

Moses story includes some enduring principles of God’s calling in our lives. The first one is:

1. God always “appears” to those he calls

 1 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,[a] the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai,[b] the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.” 

 4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  “Here I am!” Moses replied.
 5 “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father[c]—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.”
Exodus 3:1-6 NLT

What a moment it must have been. When you hear God calling seldom will it be in such a sensational way but He will make His will clearly known when you are listening to Him. 

When C.S. Lewis, the Oxford philosopher and literary scholar heard Christ call it was what he called “the seeker sought.” Lewis referred to himself as a “lapsed atheist” but describes in detail the movements that shifted him from atheism to faith in Christ. 

Os Guinness describes Lewis’s call this way: “A critical phase in the first movement centered on Lewis’s experiences of being “surprised by joy.” Suddenly without warning, ordinary everyday experiences triggered in him what he gropes to call a “memory,” a “sensation” a “desire,” a “longing” for something inexpressible and indefinable. Such experiences, Lewis said, were of “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction” – so much so that he cannot call it happiness or pleasure, which are too dependent on circumstances or the five senses; he must call “joy.” Later, in his famous essay, The Weight of Glory, Lewis described these intimations as a “desire for our own far-off country. . . .the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not yet visited.” 

All of us at one time or another have experienced a yearning or a longing to make a change, do something differently with our time and talents and treasure. I contend that more often than not God is in the middle of these stirrings in our lives.
Burning bushes today I doubt it. Burning hearts and flaming passion for God and pursuing His causes is an urge that shouldn’t be ignored. Servants who learn to take their shoes off in humility can be used by God to walk in power and purpose. I am sure more than once Moses remembered his burning bush experience and allowed that memory to hold him steady when life was challenging.
When God calls He always has an appointment in mind. 

2. God always has an appointment in mind

“7 Then the LORD told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10 NLT

Moses had been separated from his people for many nearly forty years and now God reveals to him what has been happening and how He has been watching over them. Moses must have been thrilled that God was mindful of his people but shocked when he learned that not only was God going to provide deliverance but that Moses was the deliverer!

When God calls us He always has an appointment in mind.

Young William Wilberforce was discouraged one night in the early 1790s after another defeat in his 10 year battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again: "Unless the divine power has raised you up... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might."

When we have a relationship with Jesus, He empowers us to serve Him in His name. Wilberforce would not seem like much of a man of stature for those who knew him. He was under medical care for 20 years. for that reason, he had to take medicine to keep his health in stable standing. Though limited, he would not let his infirmities keep him from pursuing the end of the British slave trade. He accomplished that goal. Only one month after his death, the Emancipation Bill was passed and slave trading came to the end in the West Indies in 1833. James Boswell (1740-1795) who once went to hear him speak said afterwards: "I saw what seemed a mere shrimp mounted upon the platform, but as I listened, he grew and grew till the shrimp became a whale." (A. Naismith. 1200 Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes. Great Britain: Pickering Paperbacks, 1988, pp. 101-102).

Jesus had made him strong in spite of his weakness because He had something for him to do.

When God called Moses had questions.

3. God has answers for our questions

Moses asked:

A. Who am I. . .?

Moses was educated in the palace of Egypt. It’s another part of the story but you will have to read it on your own. He received the best education and had been cultured but he also had been in exile on the back side of the desert. A person acting in the flesh is impulsive and sees no obstacles, but a person humbly walking in the Spirit knows the battles that lie ahead. 

God’s reply and answer is always the same: I will be with you. 

“11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
 12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
Exodus 3:11-12 NLT

Who we are is not important, that God is with us is important, for without Him we can do nothing. 

B. Who are you? 

“13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” 

 14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.[d] Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh,[e] the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.”
Exodus 3:13-15 NLT

This was not just an evasive question to avoid God’s call. There is no question that the Jews would need an answer to this question. God’s reply is simple: I AM WHO I AM. “I was, I am and I will always be.” In the New Testament Jesus adds 7 descriptions to who He is: 

I Am the Bread of life
I Am the Light of the world
I Am the Gate
I Am the Good Shepherd
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life
I Am the True Vine

C. What if they don’t believe me?

But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The LORD never appeared to you’?” 2 Then the LORD asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. 3 “Throw it down on the ground,” the LORD told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. 

 4 Then the LORD told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand. 5 “Perform this sign,” the LORD told him. “Then they will believe that the LORD, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.”
Exodus 4:1-5 NLT

In Exodus 3:18, God had just told Moses they would believe him so now we are just seeing open unbelief on Moses part. God actually showed him two miracles the shepherds staff and his hand turning leprous. 

These were to be his visible credentials. God will always take what we have “in our hand” and use it if we trust Him. The rod was nothing but with God it had power. Moses hand had killed a man, that’s why he was in exile but with God his hand was healed and could do wonders instead of death. 

D. What about my lack of gifts? 

“ 10 But Moses pleaded with the LORD, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” 11 Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD?
12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
Exodus 4:10-12 NLT 

God said, “I AM” but all Moses could say was, “I am not!” He was looking at himself and his failures instead of God and His power. Moses tried the old, “I’m not a good public speaker” line. Notice Moses is pleading here. This unbelief angered God to be honest with you but he sent Moses brother Aaron to be his helper. Just note this, God gave him a helper but this was not God’s perfect will. Aaron became the spokesperson fo Moses but he also became a hindrance more than once. He led the nation into idolatry and he murmured against Moses. Moses settled for a weak man of the flesh instead of the living God. 

The God who made our mouths can use them. God does not need nor desire the eloquence or oratory; He needs a clean vessel that He can fill with His message.

4. God provides assurance when He calls

Moses was still not ready to walk by faith and over the course of his journey back to Egypt God did a little more assuring.

He promised Moses:

A. His Word

Before Moses left Midian, the LORD said to him, “Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died.”  20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God.

 21 And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. 22 Then you will tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son. 23 I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’”
Exodus 4:21-23 NLT

God is always true. You never have to doubt His word. This is why over and over we remind you on a regular basis to pick up the book (Bible) and live in this book.

"You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us the promises in a quiet hour; God seals our covenants with great and gracious words, then He steps back and waits to see how much we believe; then He lets the tempter come, and the test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. It is then that faith wins its crown. That is the time to look up through the storm, and cry, "I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me." (Source: L.B. Cowman, "Streams in the Desert")

B. His Discipline

God disciplines those He loves! This is a strange bit of Old Testament history but upon reflection I guess it is not really all that strange. Circumcision was an important part of the Jewish faith, yet Moses living in the backside of the desert had neglected to bring his own son into the covenant.

24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted him and was about to kill him. 25 But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet[b] with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the LORD left him alone.” Exodus 4:24-26 NLT

The idea here is that God made Moses sick enough to die so that He could speak to him! I often try to remind God that I am listening so He doesn’t have to allow the circumstances of life to get my attention. When you are going through something you don’t understand try to hear the voice of God in the midst of your pain. God often uses the megaphone of our pain to speak to us. He doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us necessarily but He will use the seasons of our life to communicate with us. 

“My child,[e] don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”[f] 

 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
Hebrews 12:5-9 NLT

C. His Leading

God promised Moses that his brother Aaron would come to help him and now He speaks to Aaron.

27 Now the LORD had said to Aaron, “Go out into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So Aaron went and met Moses at the mountain of God, and he embraced him. 28 Moses then told Aaron everything the LORD had commanded him to say. And he told him about the miraculous signs the LORD had commanded him to perform.” Exodus 4:27-28 NLT

When you follow God you will find His hand in everything you do. You may not recognize it as first but eventually you will see that God has been with you all the time and is leading you.

D. The People’s Acceptance

 29 Then Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt and called all the elders of Israel together. 30 Aaron told them everything the LORD had told Moses, and Moses performed the miraculous signs as they watched. 31 Then the people of Israel were convinced that the LORD had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” Exodus 4:29-31 NLT

I need to warn you about something. When you work with people it can get messy. In fact it can get down right discouraging. Lynn Anderson wrote a book entitled They Smell Like Sheep.

These very same people who were willing to follow Moses and Aaron in the beginning later hated and criticized him because of their increased labor. Don’t live for people’s acceptance or their reactions for often they will fail to live up to their commitments. It’s just the way it is.

Every genuine Christifollower in this room has a calling of God on their life. You may choose to ignore it and not develop it but you will be miserable unless you answer God’s call.

You may have lots of excuses, you may feel inadequate but your inadequacies are God’s opportunities to use you for His glory and honor.

Murray McCheyne wrote: “It is not so much great talent, or knowledge that God blesses, as likeness to Himself. Therefore love, divine love for God and man, and entire dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit are the great essentials.”

Charles Cowman the great missionary from bygone years: “If you are willing to run risks for God, He will never fail you. Be sure that you are doing His will, then forward march, come what will. . .”

William Jennings Bryan: “The greatest things of the world have been accomplished by men and women who had faith enough to attempt the seemingly impossible and to trust God to open the way.”

Charles Cowman: God is looking for a man, or woman, whose heart will be always set on Him and who will trust Him for all He desires to do. God is eager to wok more mightily now than He ever has through any soul. The world is waiting yet to see what God can do through a consecrated soul. Not the world alone, but God Himself is waiting for one, who will be more fully devoted to Him than any who have ever lived; who will be willing to be nothing that Christ may be all; who will grasp God’s own purposes; and taking His humility and His faith, His love and His power, will, without hindering, continue to let God do exploits.”

By nature Moses was a man of action and not words. He was transformed as he learned the failure of his own self-styled actions and the power of his halting words when they came from God himself.

Slowly, incident by incident, and test by test Moses was shaped to be a man of God and a prophet. Moses was given this tribute: “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

He was called by a bush that was burning but wouldn’t burn up. It is as though God were saying I am about to set you on fire but I won’t consume you.

Do you ever get tired of running your own life? Do you ever wish that you could do something significant and meaningful?

Surrender your life to God. Sign up for His plan and wishes. You will be amazed, shocked and moved to places you could never imagine.

TWO GREAT DAYS There are two great days in a person’s life -- the day we are born and the day we discover why. SOURCE: William Barclay