“And Moses answered, 'Look at me. I stutter. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?'”
“God told Moses, 'Look at me. I’ll make you as a god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.'” Exodus 6:30-7:1, The Message
When Moses enters Pharaoh's court still covered in the dust of Midian and delivers his fateful “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Let My people go...'” to Pharaoh, the divine ruler of Egypt opines, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him...? (Exodus 5:2, NIV) The rest of the story of Exodus is pretty much the sovereign, almighty God's answer to that question. “Who am I? Well, let Me show you.” Upon reflection, it would have been better for Pharaoh to just get with the program and comply but we humans in general have a long history of non-compliance and unbelief.
|That face doe|
Of course, it's not just the pagan kings of the earth who need persuading that their earthly trappings aside He's boss and they're not. His servants and followers frequently need convincing as well. Take Moses for example. As much as I like Charleton Heston's version of the man in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, his portrayal seems to miss the fact that where once he was a proud prince of Egypt by the time of the burning bush episode he is a man awash in insecurities. Exodus 3:11-4:17 gives the inside scoop on just how resistant Moses was to God's call
“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11)
“What if they do not believe me or listen to me...?” (4:1)
“I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.” (4:10 Msg)
“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (4:13)
Somehow, I can't see the Heston Moses being so wishy-washy, even on his worst day.
|Even Sir Ben looks pretty cool as Moe|
And it doesn't end with his reluctant return to the land of his birth. As called upon Moses delivers Yahweh's message and Pharaoh unceremoniously throws him out and at the same time increases the work load of his enslaved countrymen. Now everybody is mad at him. But Yahweh coaches him up and sends him back for more to wit Moses replies, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”(6:12) After a pause in the narrative wherein Moses family history is relayed if only to underscore the point that clearly if ever there was someone chosen to take on the emperor of the world he is the least qualified to do so, the story reboots in Exodus 6:28 with his now familiar response to God's command to tell Pharaoh what's what: “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” (v. 30).
Personally, I prefer The Message rendition of it. Here's Moses with his familiar whine. “Look at me,” he says to Yahweh. “I stutter.” To wit Yahweh promptly responds, “No, you look at me. I'm God. You're not. In fact, I will make you a god to your brother Aaron who will be your prophet” (okay, some of that is my paraphrase but you get the point.) We are forever looking in the mirror when we need to be looking at the Lord.
When I look in the mirror, I am reminded of what's wrong with that picture: Why, at 53, do I still deal with acne? Why is my nose so big? And why won't my waistline decrease my exercise regime notwithstanding? I suspect most people who look in their mirrors see much of the same – the flaws, the inadequacies, the intractable history.
As people of God, we know where our identity is supposed to be – in Christ. As Paul wrote to the Christian community in Colossae,
“God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me” Colossians 1:26-29, The Message
And, a few verses later:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:8-10, ESV
Admittedly, like Moses, it's hard to get that into our heads and hearts. We are quick to come up with a plethora of reasons why we cannot do the things we feel God is calling us to do. We feel too weak, too inadequate, too messed up, too dumb, too old, too normal. We look in the mirror and depending on the day we may even resent the fact that it feels like we are the butt of heaven's joke. Just look at me, we think. And then Paul counters that line of thought deftly:
“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.” 2 Corinthians 4:7, The Message
Eventually, the Ned Flanders' Moses of the early part of Exodus emerges as the Charleton Heston version (complete with glory-face) by the incident of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). At that point in the story, this is not a guy to be messed with. He and Yahweh are tight. But what I intuit as I re-read the story in my regular devotions this year, is that Exodus, among other things, is a tale about how one man learned to look on God's face regularly – so much so that he literally had to wear a covering over his own face because the brightness of the reflection was so blinding – and learn the truth found there: I Am Who I Am and it is enough to know this.
As someone no less than D.L. Moody once remarked, “Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; then he spent forty years on the backside of the desert realizing he was nobody; finally, he spent the last forty years of his life leaning what God can do with a nobody!” I hope I learn this lesson before I turn 80.