The image of Moses that’s lodged in my mind is a great, gray-bearded, mystical looking fellow, a man who gathered in a God-tent regularly to hold divine discourse, emerging from the entrance with a glowing disposition. Moses, for me, is a man of intimidating spiritual stature, one whose communion with God seems almost unparalleled.
Another Picture of Moses
But Exodus 3 and 4 paint another picture. When Moses is called to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, he’s no mystical communer with God; he’s a dread-filled doubter. His blood courses with the fear of men. Take a look at his response to God’s calling. It’s a five-step process.
- Self-doubt (Exod. 3:10): Moses asks, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” God responds with the same pronoun: “But I will be with you” (3:12). In the context of his calling, Moses starts by fixing his eyes on himself. God directs his vision elsewhere.
- Credibility check (Exod. 3:13): Again, Moses looks at himself and says, “They won’t trust my credentials; I don’t even know your name. If I say that you’ve sent me, they’ll call my bluff. How am I going to counter that?” God responds with one of the most noteworthy passages in the Bible: ” ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”‘ ” (3:14). God reveals to Moses a special name that he will use to sure up his credibility (or to sure up God’s credibility).
- Doubting again (Exod. 4:1): Now Moses’s doubt moves from himself to what God has said. This is dangerous territory. It’s an attempt to take divine providence into human hands. “They won’t believe me; they’ll just deny that you’ve appeared to me.” In a great act of grace, God gives Moses three signs: a slithering staff, a leprous hand, and a water-to-blood converter kit.
- Standards of men (Exod. 4:10): Moses then measures himself against the standards of men: eloquence of speech. “I can’t do this, Lord. I don’t speak well. Who ever heard of a public figure with shoddy discourse?” God’s response is, again, to direct Moses to himself as the creator and sustainer of all things: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (4:11). Paraphrase: “Pay no attention to the standards of men. I’m the one who makes men what they are. I will make you what I want you to be.”
- Challenging God’s will (Exod. 4:13): In this final step, Moses brings to the surface what may well have been lurking in the depths all along. He challenges God’s will. It’s not just that Moses is saying, “Pick someone else, please!” He’s saying, “You’ve got the wrong guy. Change your will and choose someone else.” God won’t stand for challenges to his will. His angered is kindled against Moses. As readers, we can smell the smoke. Showing immense patience, God partially transfers Moses’s task to his brother, Aaron. He also transfers the relationship: God was going to speak through Moses. Now Moses will speak through Aaron. Moses, in other words, will end up one step removed from his calling.
Are you like Moses? Am I? Yes . . . yes, we are. How, exactly? We’re doubters, fixated on everything but God. In other words, when given a call to do something beyond us, we all tend to look everywhere except to the God of greatness—the God who is always with us—for affirmation and hope. We stare at ourselves. We stare at others. We stare at gifts we think we haven’t been given. But we don’t stare at God, do we? Perhaps it’s because God is the one we can’t see, and so he’s the one we don’t factor into the equation. But in Exodus 3 and 4, God says, “I wrote the equation. Stare at me. Don’t look elsewhere. Keep your eyes right here.”
Christ in Moses
But our story, just as the story of Moses, is really a story about Christ (Luke 24:27). As our heavenly Father looked upon doubting Moses, he saw his doubtless Son—the one who would stare into the divine eyes of his heavenly Father for his entire earthly life. Christ did what Moses could not do. Christ did what we cannot do: Christ kept his eyes fixed on his Father, in the power of his Holy Spirit.
If you find yourself doubting today, the solution isn’t to reason your way of out it. You’re not going to mount enough evidence in favor of your own abilities. You’re not going to make yourself perfectly acceptable in the eyes of men. Don’t try. Just don’t.
The solution is a matter of focus. In the midst of every doubt, direct your gaze Godward. Stare at the one who is with you, who is in you. Stare at the Trinity. The rest is details.