Moses' Five Excuses-and Ours

by Bill Jones

The story of Moses and the burning bush is one of the most well-known in the Bible. Found in Exodus 3:1-4:17, it relates an amazing episode.
Moses, of course, was miraculously spared from death as an infant, and was raised in Pharaoh's house. At the age of 40, Moses killed an Egyptian and fled from Egypt. For 40 years he herded sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro (Ex. 3:1).
One day in the wilderness, he sees a burning bush. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. Those dry bushes sometimes caught fire from a lightning strike or spontaneous combustion from the extreme heat. The strange thing abut this bush is that it burns but is not consumed. This intrigues Moses, so he moves closer to see why this bush burns, but does not burn up. It is then that God speaks to him from the bush. What a surprise this must be.
It is through this miraculous event that God reveals to Moses that he is to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of bondage. But Moses has a problem with that. In fact, he has five problems. Rather, he has five excuses. They mirror the excuses we often use today for not obeying God.
Moses' first excuse is his identity. He does not know who he is. In Exodus 3:11, he asks, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?" Forty years earlier, he had no doubts about who he was. He thought he was the one to deliver the Israelites from bondage, and he began by killing an Egyptian (2:2). Now, after 40 years of herding sheep on the backside of the desert, he doubts his value and ability, so he asks, "Who am I to do such a thing?"
God's answer is in 3:12. He basically tells Moses that it doesn't matter who Moses is-the important thing is that God will be with him. This, of course, is the whole point of the bush that burns but isn't consumed. Moses thinks there must be something special about the bush. God's purpose is to show Moses that any bush, instrument, or person can do the supernatural when God is in it. Lack of confidence in our ability is no problem to God. In fact, God is the solution for it.
Moses' second excuse-ignorance-is found in verse 13. First, he has an identity problem. Who am I? Now he has an ignorance problem. Who are You? Remember, God has been silent for 430 years. In Egypt, the Israelites have been exposed to many gods. When Moses appears to them and tells them that God sent him, their natural question will be, which one? So Moses asks God who He is (3:13). Ignorance is not a serious problem, if we have a teachable spirit. Obviously, at this point, Moses does. God responds, "I AM THAT I AMsay unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you"
(v. 14). It isn't spelled out in the account, but surely Moses must have thought, "I am?" "I am" what? The answer, of course, is that God is anything and everything we need. The Lord continues in verses 16-22 to tell Moses all that the "I AM" is going to provide for His people. What a comfort it is to know that the God who spoke to Moses is the same God who speaks to us. So, if we are facing pressure, difficulty, or demand, the great I AM is beyond sufficient for that, and has already secured the victory.
Next comes the third excuse-unbelief. In 4:1, Moses tells God the people would not listen to him. Moses didn't believe God. But even unbelief is no problem to our Lord, if we are open and have the desire to believe.
In 4:2-9, God puts Moses through a series of commands designed to strengthen his faith. The commands go from the simple, such as casting his rod on the ground, to the more difficult-picking it up, after it has become a snake, by the tail. Moses' faith is strengthened so that when God tells him He would cause water to turn to blood, Moses will not have to be shown. Unbelief is no problem for the Lord, if we are open and responsive to the truth. God will build our faith.
The fourth excuse-inadequacy-is found in 4:10. Moses has a speech impediment. Therefore, he feels inadequate. Who would listen and take seriously a man who stutters, or has a lisp, or whatever the impediment was? Again, God responds with great patience. He knows of the impediment. In fact, God gave it to him (4:11,12). This, again, is the lesson of the burning bush. God is saying, "Any old bush will do, as long as I am in it." God will be with Moses. The speech problem is no problem for God.
With Moses' fifth excuse-unavailability-a strange thing happens. In 4:13, he asks God to send someone else. And for the first time, God's anger is kindled (v. 14). In the first four excuses, God is patient. Now, His anger is aroused. Why? Because Moses has hit upon the one thing that kindles God's anger. Moses is saying, "I'm not available." That is the one excuse that will disqualify us. God tells Moses that He will use his brother Aaron. That does not remove Moses from the responsibility, but does remove him from the privilege of being the sole agent through whom God will receive glory in Egypt.
What is God calling you to do today? What excuses have you offered Him? Bear in mind that the only requirement God has of us is availability. Any old bush will do, if you are available to God.
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