As he led his sheep in Midian, did Moses think he had a future? Did he consider his early effort to execute the calling on his life without regard for God’s time and power to be an absolute failure that ended the calling? Afraid real purpose was ended?
Why look at Moses? Because we, too, have a tendency to focus on failure or weakness, and mislabel ourselves, to miss the power for purpose that God has for us. We conclude God will have to find someone more suitable. In a different method than with Peter, God helps Moses rediscover power for purpose. It’s a good illustration of God’s heart toward us as well.
Moses had been well educated, trained in military skill, led a successful military campaign against Ethiopia and was known as an influential speaker. Sounds like a well prepared, fearless, brilliant leader, doesn’t it? Then he visited his Hebrew people and killed an Egyptian. Rather than risk Pharaoh’s wrath, he fled to Midian, married a woman there and served as her father’s shepherd for 40 long years. How humiliating. His son’s name meant “driven out, an outcast.” He felt humiliated as a shepherd, convinced there was no better future. He settled, fearfully certain of complete failure and no more real purpose.
God restores Moses to purpose and power
In Exodus 3 and 4, Moses was with sheep and noticed a burning bush. Rather than the usual quick flash fire, it continued to burn so he checked it out. When God saw him notice the bush, He told him to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground. In that culture, shoes were worn to protect feet from defilement and dust, so removing them was considered acknowledgement of personal defilement and unworthiness. While Exodus says he went over to look or investigate, Acts 7:32 says he did not dare look. The difference is explained in different meanings of the word “look.” In Acts 7, it means “to consider fully, to exercise the mind.” In other words, he went to see why it kept burning, but he could not comprehend the impact for his life. Humiliated and ashamed in God’s holy presence, he had trouble considering what God was saying to him. Unworthiness was not the end at all!
First, in Exodus 3:6 God assured him He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to remind Moses that God would be consistent through the generations, that the covenant made with Abraham applied to all the generations. This assurance was repeated in verse 13 to emphasize its importance. God was reminding Moses that what He had promised before was still in effect. The real purpose from before was still in effect. Nothing had changed. In verses 7-10, God was telling him, “It’s time!” Nowhere in these verses does God chastise him for taking things into his own hands. He is not condemned for his faltering faith in what God has said or in how long it took to prepare. God almost seems to ignore what Moses did. He simply tells him it’s time to go free Israel, and gives him specifics as to what He will do. But Moses responded by covering his face because he was so afraid. Like a phobia. Not logical or reasonable (to God) at all. Exaggerated belief of failure.
Then the struggle to embrace his future begins. Second, in verse 11, Moses asks, “Who am I that I should go do it?” God’s patient response? “I’ll be with you. In fact, when you came back by here again, you’ll worship Me on this mountain.” Moses was going to succeed in this monumental task! Don’t skip over what is not said. No condemnation. No chastisement for any failure, perceived or real. What would God say to you in a similar situation? Be assured there will be no chastisement or condemnation. God’s corrects in unconditional love, assuring us of success in purpose.
Third, in Exodus 3:13, Moses asked who he should say sent him. Would the Hebrews see any credibility or calling? What might have gone through his mind as he contemplated God as the God of his own future? Did he feel hopeful again as he listened to God spell out in greater detail some of what would happen as he delivered the message to Pharaoh? Or is he still protesting, “But I’m only a shepherd!”? God reminds him He is the God of his future. Still!
Fourth, in Exodus 4:1, Moses must still be certain his people will remember him from 40 years earlier. He asserts they won’t believe him, listen to him, trust him or obey him. And they will wonder if God really sent him. Moses, take the peanut butter out of your heart ears! Can’t you hear what God says to you? In Exodus 3:18, God told him they would listen to him. He’s just told him who sent him and how to explain it. Moses is really stuck in that false identity of Worthless Failure.
Three object lessons to help him remember
Unlike some of us might have been, God remains patient with him about it. God gave him three very significant pictures. They are object lessons, not only for Israel, but for Moses. In the first one, his shepherd’s rod or staff is changed into a snake and back into a rod as he follows God’s directions. The snake represents Egypt’s belief in the divine power of her gods. The restored rod represents spiritual power and authority. In other words, God is telling him “I know you’ve been a shepherd for 40 years. But I didn’t change your calling. Your job title is still Deliverer, and you will have all the power and authority you’ll need for this job.” With what was already in his hand. All the preparation contributes to purpose.
In second object lesson, his hand became leprous and was restored again to portray restoration of Israel to their land following the plagues in Egypt. God would use Moses to restore Israel, to lead God’s people back to their Promised Land. The third object lesson turned the Nile River into blood. That river was a key to their idolatry and to their economy, but God would bring them down, as He had said in chapter 3.
God renewed His original purpose that Moses must have believed was all over. The object lessons would convey to the people that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had sent Moses. God assured him they would believe him. God would know; He had prepared their hearts to believe.
Fifth, in Exodus 4:10, Moses asserts that he doesn’t speak well and never has. Wait a minute! Didn’t we see in Acts 7:32 that he was powerful in speech and action? Great orator? Still, God does not condemn him or chastise him. Even if Moses forgot all the care God had taken in seeing he received a royal education, great military training, the finest leadership training, God compassionately reminds Moses that He made his mouth to begin with. Made the mouth that was powerful in speech. Further, He will be with him, will teach him what to say. Will cover for how worthless Moses feels as a speaker.
Finally, in Exodus 4:13, we see the real issue Moses has. Send someone else. Moses just could not believe God was able to do all this. He could not be confident that God would actually be all he needed. Wow! That finally made God angry. Even so, Aaron could go and do the talking, but Moses would have to get from God every word Aaron would need to say.
What does Moses and the bush tell us
Likewise, God understands when we feel so utterly useless and worthless after “what we’ve done.” Yet His purpose for us is still in effect. Our certainty of failure is illogical, unreasonable and just as exaggerated as Moses and Peter. When God renews the call on our lives because the time has come, He takes great care again in restoring our confidence in purpose and in supplying all we need to fulfill it. He will be with us in power and ability. He will provide all we need, regardless of how we feel about our ability because of all our weaknesses and failures. He helps us be adequate, no matter what happened before. It helps if we can remember He is the One who has fully prepared us through those sometimes-detestable life experiences.
Qualified. Fit. Worthy. Sufficient.
Take a look again at the responses God gave Moses when he felt utterly worthless and discouraged. He kept telling him God Himself would be with him. He gave him enough specifics about the future that Moses could see the results of God’s ability at work. He gave him powerful, life-changing object lessons. He even gave him Aaron. But He didn’t give him condemnation or chastisement. (photo via google images)
Has something about your life caused you to believe your real purpose was all over? You blew it, and there’s no getting it back? What would God say to you? What resources would He commit to you? Notice what God will do for you: 6 [It is He] Who has qualified us [making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient] as ministers and dispensers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not [ministers] of the letter (of legally written code) but of the Spirit; for the code [of the Law] kills, but the [Holy] Spirit makes alive. 2 Corinthians 3:6 (AMP)
Qualified. Fit. Worthy. Sufficient. Other versions use words like “competent” or “adequate.” I don’t see anything in those words about useless or worthless of finished by failure! Our trials are not the end of purpose. Even though they are not God’s original plan for us, He uses them as part of our purpose.
With what was already in your hand. All the preparation contributes to our purpose. Prepare for great breakthrough and power for purpose!
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
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 Smith, Stelman and Cornwall, Judson. The Exhaustive Dictionary of Biblical Name. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1998. P 59.
 Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History Old Testament. London: Religious Tract Society, 1890. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
 Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, David Brown. A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments. Toledo, OH: Jerome B. Names & Co., 1884. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
 Strong, James. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. Hebrews #2657.