This Sunday at CBC, we observed in the life of Moses several lessons on our significance in Christ. In that vein, here is an excerpt from Pastor Frank Damazio’s book, The Making of a Leader, discussing the call of Moses. He provides a treasure trove of principles from Moses’ calling related to our identity in Christ. Pastor Frank’s focus, of course, is leadership; however, all believers will be encouraged by this message.
THE CALL OF MOSES
Moses is one of the most interesting men of the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 34:10 states, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto the man Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Moses was obviously a man with unique relationship with the Lord.
Hebrews 11:23 states, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months by his parents, because they saw he was a proper child, and they were not afraid of the king’s commandments.” Moses was born of faith. His parents had a living faith in the God of their fathers. We have the Old Testament account of this in Exodus 2:1-10. The verses immediately following do not tell us what transpired during the early years of the life of Moses. But with the help of Scripture and history, we can begin to understand a portion of what happened.
The Youth of Moses
Moses was adopted and raised in the house of the daughter of Pharaoh, which meant he lived in the royal household. Acts 7:22 states, “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” From this verse we see that Moses had all the education of the known world available while in the royal house of Pharaoh. Any university or tutoring scholar, as it were, would have deemed it a privilege to tutor the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
Egypt was, at that time, one of the most productive and progressive countries of the known world, with educational achievements far above any other land. Their economic and social life, too, was highly developed. Even today, Egypt’s colossal pyramids, with their mathematical precision, confound the understanding of the most educated builders in the world. This was the environment in which Moses was raised from his youth.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus gives one account of Moses which provides an insight into his power and ability. Josephus says that Ethiopian armies attacked, and were on the verge of inflicting a terrible defeat on Egypt. Moses, apparently, was appointed to go forth and command the armies of the Egyptians in an attempt to save the country from a disastrous downfall. Moses, reportedly lead the armies into battle and brought a great victory. If true, this account gives us a good glimpse at the man that Stephen described as “the man which was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22).
As we look at the scriptures concerning Moses, it is evident that the Lord must have spoken to him something during the early years of his life. Hebrews 11:24-26 states, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.”
This reference makes it very clear that Moses faced a very difficult decision in life. He had to choose between royalty and peasantry. Moses had to choose between all of the wealth, power, influence and glory of Egypt and the slavery of his own people Israel. Would he identify with the royalty of Egypt or the bondage of his own people?
Hebrews 11:27 tells us that “By faith Moses forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.” Moses was at the age of forty when he made this life-changing decision. Moses’ decision challenged and changed his life, to say the least. In saving a Hebrew from a cruel beating, he slew the Egyptian who was beating him. This led Moses directly into a personal forty-year period of wilderness wanderings. Why would God use a wilderness to prepare a leader of His people? God’s ways are always different and sometimes opposite to man’s ways, especially when it comes to dealing with His servants.
The Stripping Process
A transition from the royal courts of Pharaoh to the backside of the desert would have been a drastic change for anyone. But God had a purpose in it for Moses’ development; God was going to put Moses through some years of divine stripping. Moses had been a long forty years in the courts of Pharaoh learning all of the wisdom, ways, power and tools of men. He had, in a sense, all of the academic degrees that Egypt could offer him. But the Lord God of Israel was not going to use these Egyptian methods to free His people from their bondage. God was going to strip Moses of all his Egyptian wisdom, and begin to mold him for a task that only God’s wisdom could accomplish through him.
For forty years, Moses was on the backside of the desert, where he shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep. He could not claim to possess so much as his own sheep. He was just a common herdsman of another man’s flock. In addition, Moses’ wife was just an ordinary woman of the desert. She was a far contrast from the royal young maidens that he could have married in Egypt. The question naturally arises at this point, “What was God’s purpose in all of this?” God was totally stripping the man whom he was going to use greatly.
The effectiveness of all of God’s strippings was very evident in the way that we see Moses respond to God’s call at a later time. As we shall soon see, Moses was stripped of self-confidence and Egyptian pride. These attitudes would have made it impossible for him to accomplish what God had called him to do. In the great task that Moses was going to face, he would need to know that God, not man, was the source of his strength. As with Moses, God has a desert for all of His servants that He is going to use in a mighty way. The stripping process is part of the plan of God for all who will respond to the call of the Lord. A leader dare not challenge God’s process of calling and preparation.
The Burning Bush
In Exodus 3:1-11, we read about the call of Moses. When he was called, Moses was on the backside of the desert. Moses was tending sheep in the dry desert, as any other day’s work would normally have required him to do. Exodus 3:2 states, “And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush: and behold the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed.”
The fact that the bush was not consumed was the fascinating attraction that caused Moses to turn aside to see what this strange thing was. Exodus 3:4 states, “And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses.’ And Moses said, ‘Here am I.’ ” When God revealed himself to Moses out of the burning bush, He told Moses to draw near so that He might speak to him.
The Lord told Moses His plan to deliver the children of Israel out of their Egyptian bondage. God told Moses how the children of Israel were in great distress, affliction and mourning because of their Egyptian taskmasters. Because Moses already understood the sad plight of the children of Israel, he did not hesitate to agree with the Lord that Israel greatly needed help. Moses’ agreement with the Lord showed that he had a definite burden for his people.
The Failure of Moses
Moses had already tried once to deliver his people in his own might but had failed (Exodus 2:11-15). Now the Lord was saying to Moses, in essence, “I am going to deliver the people this time by my own power, and in my own way.” Because God told Moses that He Himself was going to deliver the people, it must have come as a real shock to Moses when he heard God say to him what seemed to be just the opposite: “Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of bondage” (Exodus 3:10).
Similarly, all men and women of God experience times when they fail to deliver the Church from her bondage, because they try to do it in their own power and their own way. After breaking them down, God consequently arises to give them the same commission as before. Only the second time, God delivers the Church through His servant by the power of His Spirit. In doing so, God humbles His servant so that He Himself can receive all the glory from His mighty deliverance of His people.
Moses received a direct call from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He did not doubt that his call was from the Most High God, because he heard it with his own ears. But how did Moses respond to this call/? In the following section, we will observe the different responses that Moses had to God’s call upon his life. Throughout history, men and women of God have responded to the calling of the Lord in these very ways.
The Response of Unworthiness
Moses’ first response to God’s call was a response of unworthiness. It is found in Exodus 3:11, where the Scripture states, “And Moses said unto God, ‘Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ ” Moses said that he was not worthy of the great task to which God was calling him. Moses’ feeling of unworthiness was a feeling of being undeserving, useless, valueless and inadequate.
This sense of inadequacy was probably a real contrast to Moses’ personality forty years earlier. At that time, he may have been the commander of the armies of Pharaoh. He was the man who was mighty in words and in deeds and had been reared in the royal house. Moses probably never felt unworthy in the royal house. All of Pharaoh’s servants bowed to him and waited upon him as they did for all of the royal family. But in spite of all this royal heritage, the Lord had so stripped Moses that when he heard God’s voice out of the burning bush, he could only exclaim, “I am not worthy of the work of the Lord.”
In response to Moses’ statement of unworthiness, God said, “Certainly, I Am will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12). Although many men who are called of God feel unworthy of the calling, God’s divine enablement and protection causes them to respond fully to God’s call, as Moses eventually did. The “I Am” in Hebrew carries the idea of “I will be all you need when you need it.”
The Response of Fear of Rejection
Moses’ second response to God’s call was a fear of rejection. It is found in Exodus 3:13-16, where the Scripture states, “And Moses said unto the Lord, ‘Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, “The God of your Fathers hath sent me unto you”; and they shall say to me, “What is his name?” What shall I say unto them?’ ” Moses feared that Israel would reject him if he did not know the specific name of God, who had called him to deliver the nation. Because Israel knew the specific names of the Egyptian gods, Moses wanted to tell the people that the one and true God of Israel had sent him.
Moreover, Moses feared that the people would not respond to the authority in which he was coming to them. He remembered what was said to him the last time he tried to deliver the children of Israel (Exodus 2:12-15). When Moses told an Israelite that he was wrong in fighting a brother Israelite, the man replied, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?” The rejection had made a lasting impression. Consequently, Moses asked the Lord to give him something to tell the people when he went to them this time.
The answer that the Lord gave to Moses is in Exodus 3:14. “And God said unto Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.’ ” God sent Moses forth in the name of the Lord (Yahweh), the great I AM. In giving to Moses His name, God gave Moses the key to overcome his fear of rejection. Moses had not only been rejected by the Egyptians, but he had also been rejected by his own people. Therefore, he needed a strong and encouraging word which would enable him to overcome this feeling of inferiority. In essence, the Lord told Moses that if the people rejected him, they would be rejecting God Himself. In the confidence of God’s name, Moses would take courage and go forth to deliver God’s people.
An important theological fact is illustrated through this: God will not let His name be ridiculed. God will uphold His name in whatever ministry He has chosen. Just as Moses did not go forth in his own name or strength, so every man called by God to lead should only go forth with such a divine accompaniment. It is a Bible principle that applies to all who are called to the work of the Lord. All that are called must ask themselves, “Am I going forth in the name of the Lord, or am I going forth in my own name?” The presence of a divine commission makes all the difference in the spiritual productivity of a ministry. Self-sent, self-made or self-empowered ministries, who are not commissioned by the Lord, are sure to fail. The confidence of the call and name of God, however, are keys to helping a leader overcome the fear of rejection.
The Response of Unbelief
Moses’ third response to the Lord’s call was that of unbelief. Exodus 4:1 states, “And Moses answered and said, ‘Behold they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice, for they will say, “The Lord hath not appeared unto you.” ’ ” We can see again how the previous years of Moses’ experience in the land of Egypt had affected him. The people of Israel had not hearkened to him forty years earlier. Why would they hearken to him now? This unbelief was not the familiar voice of the mighty Moses as he had been in the land of Egypt. He had been very mighty and bold in both words and deeds, but now he was afraid that his people would not even listen to him.
In response to this, the Lord gave Moses three signs. The first sign was of the rod turning into a serpent. The second sign was of his hand becoming leprous. The third sign was of the water turning to blood. In each of these signs, a spiritual lesson is learned. These signs illustrated the conversion of the natural into the supernatural, and the normal into the miraculous. By these signs, God demonstrated to Moses the power by which he was to deliver the children of Israel: His Spirit. Zechariah 4:6 clearly states this principle of God’s power, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
The Lord told Moses to look at what was in his hand. Moses saw that it was his old, familiar rod with which he had daily tended the sheep. The point was that the Lord’s provision for Moses was in his hand at the very time that he was questioning the Lord. God told Moses to cast the rod down and to step back. Moses obeyed the Lord, and the rod turned into a serpent. Moses was startled at the sight of the serpent, but the Lord told him to pick it up. Moses knew from his Egyptian background that the only way to pick up a serpent was by the head, so that it could not bite him. However, the Lord told Moses to pick it up by the tail.
In the very act of his picking up the serpent by the tail instead of by the head, Moses was learning obedience to God’s commands in contrast to the ways of Egypt. Moses was learning that it was not going to be by Egyptian reasoning or logic that he would deliver Israel, but that if he would deliver the nation at all, it would have to be by God’s Word and Spirit. The fear and unbelief that Moses showed was answered by God through his miraculous experience with the rod. The other two signs of leprosy and blood also showed Moses that the most common things in the hands of man become opportunities for the Lord to show forth His power when they are submitted to His command. In a similar way, God must teach every one of His leaders that His Spirit is the key to ministry success.
The Response of a Lack of Eloquence
Moses’ fourth response to the call of the Lord was that he was unable to speak. Exodus 4:10 states, “And Moses said unto the Lord, ‘I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken to thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.’ ” This inability to speak is quite a contrast to the Moses of forty years earlier who was a man “mighty in words.” Moses had lost all confidence in himself as a spokesman.
We can logically ask, “Where were Moses’ past skills? Did not the Lord choose him because of what he had learned in the land of Egypt? Did not the Lord want to use all of his Egyptian training and degrees?” Apparently not. God wanted a man that would obey His word and depend upon His Spirit. He wanted a vessel through which He should show His glory—not Moses’ glory. God’s response to Moses’ feeling of non-eloquence was simply, “Who made man’s mouth?” In asking this question, the Lord told Moses that He would teach Moses what to say. We can apply this principle to all of God’s leaders. The Lord will give all of his leaders the words to speak and the ability to speak them, when they will speak out of their weakness, to His glory.
The Response to Inferiority
Moses’ fifth response to the calling of the Lord was an attitude of inferiority. Moses believed that the Lord had made a mistake in his choice. Exodus 4:13 states, “And he said, ‘O Lord send, I pray thee, by the hand of him who thou will send.’ ” The Amplified Bible translates the verse in this way: “And he said, ‘O Lord, I pray you, send by the hand of some other whom you will send.’ ” Moses’ attitude was one in which he would rather have seen someone else take his place of leadership.
This was a form of inferiority, in which Moses was not acting like the proud prince of the Egyptian kingdom he had once been. He was now acting like a humble shepherd from the backside of the desert who had been stripped of all his pride and self-confidence. In the end, God did give Moses his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece, not out of His wisdom, but simply to satisfy Moses’ endless requests. Moreover, Aaron would always be a reminder to his brother that he must always depend upon God’s help and strength in his ministry. Similarly, God reveals to all of His leaders their own inadequacy, that they might depend on Him. God also gives his leaders specific ministry assignments to show them that they cannot be “one-man bands,” but must depend on Him and one another for help.
The Response of Unfruitfulness
Moses last response to God’s calling was his accusation against the Lord because of no apparent fruitfulness in what the Lord had told him to do. In Exodus 5:21-22, Moses asked, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me?” Moses had gone to Egypt as the Lord had commanded him, and had even spoken the words that the Lord had told him to speak. What Moses had expected to happen did not happen, and he was profoundly disappointed.
Indeed, instead of any sign of progress in the situation of the nation of Israel, things became worse. Pharaoh did not hearken to the word of the Lord through Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh had the taskmasters beat the children of Israel because of what Moses had said. Moses was displeased because of this apparent unfruitfulness in his ministry. But at this point, the Lord was testing Moses to see what kind of reaction he would have. The Lord was in control of the whole situation all the time that it was “getting worse.” Moses expected results sooner than the Lord wanted to give them. Moses was learning patience.
All leaders must learn that everything works according to God’s plan and God’s timing. Leaders may feel impelled to hurry to get everything done, but the Lord demands patience in waiting for things to come to full fruition. All ministers have to learn to restrain anger or impatience with God when the fruit of their ministries is slow in coming, or comes in unexpected ways. Leaders must remember, above all, to Whom their ministries belong in the first place.