When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. In response, Moses made up excuses, telling God why he was not the man for the job.
In this sermon, we will look at Moses’ excuses and God’s response to them. As God’s people today, we, like Moses, have received from God a special calling. We are called not to deliver people from physical bondage but to preach Christ’s message of deliverance to a world in bondage to sin. We are called to “go into the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15; 1 Peter 2:9, 10). Too often, though, we behave just like Moses, making excuses.
Let’s begin by reviewing the story of how God called Moses. (Read Exod. 3:1- 10). Now let’s consider the five excuses given by Moses.
I. “WHO AM I?” (EXOD. 3:11)
Remember that Moses was once a member of the ruling house of Egypt. But now he was a humble shepherd. It had been 40 years since he had been in Egypt. He was 80 years old, already past the average lifespan for his generation.
For these reasons Moses wondered whether he was the right man for the job. But God’s response was quick and should have been adequate as He assured Moses, “I will certainly be with you” (Exod. 3:12). God promised to be with Moses, and this alone should have been enough.
Some of us may insist that we are insufficient for the task. It is true that by ourselves we are insufficient, but God can make us sufficient. (Read 2 Cor. 3:5, 6). Look what He did with the apostles, those 12 uneducated and untrained men (Acts 4:13).
Through Jesus, God has provided us the same assurance given to Moses (Matt. 28:20). With His help, we can accomplish anything He wants us to do. We can say with Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
Our excuses for not doing what the Lord has called us to do are lame and may merely indicate a lack of faith, yet we come up with excuse after excuse. When Moses’ first excuse was refuted, he quickly came up with another.
II. “WHAT SHALL I SAY?” (EXOD. 3:13)
Moses knew that if he went to the children of Israel, they were bound to ask questions such as, “Who is this God who sent you to us? Why are we to leave the country that has been our home for the past 400 years?”
Again, God’s response was quick. (Read Exod. 3:14, 15). God told Moses what he should say in response to the Israelites’ questions.
Again, we sometimes use the same excuse today. We may try to excuse ourselves by saying that our knowledge is inadequate. But God has told us what to say. It is really quite simple. (Read Mark 16:15, 16.) How simple? (Read 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2:2).
As we return to the story, we see that although God told Moses what to say, Moses soon raised a third objection.
III. “SUPPOSE THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE ME?” (EXOD. 4:1)
Now that he had been given words to say, Moses suggested that the people might not listen to him. Had he already forgotten that God would be with him? God responded by equipping him with several convincing proofs to demonstrate to the dubious Israelites.
• Moses’ staff, which turned into a serpent (Exod. 4:2-5).
• His own hand, which turned leprous (Exod. 4:6-8).
• The water, which turned to blood when it fell on dry ground (Exod. 4:9).
Some today hesitate for the same reason. The fear of failure keeps us from trying. But just as God gave Moses convincing evidence, so He has given us the evidences necessary to convince the honest and sincere person.
The Word of God, especially its evidence concerning the resurrection of Christ and fulfilled prophecy, is able to produce faith (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30, 31). For this reason, we cannot justify not sharing the gospel with others. One would think that by this point in his discussion with God, Moses would accept the call, but he quickly concocted a fourth excuse.
IV. “I AM SLOW OF SPEECH AND SLOW OF TONGUE” (EXOD. 4:10)
Moses claimed that he was not an eloquent speaker, but God was not moved by this objection.
• He already knows the inability of those He calls (Exod. 4:11).
• Again He promised to be with Moses (Exod. 4:12).
• He had even arranged a mouthpiece for Moses (Exod. 4:14-16): his brother Aaron. Aaron was sent earlier so as to arrive at the right time (Exod. 4:27).
Some Christians also try to use this excuse. They lament that they cannot speak well or are too timid to speak in public. But fear did not stop the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 2:1, 3, 4), and it has not stopped others. Some have even overcome real speech impediments to become preachers. I know of one who, despite a severe stammer, preached at any opportunity.
We have considered four excuses that Moses gave, but as we can see, they were not really valid. In Exodus 4:13, we learn the true reason that Moses kept making excuses.
V. “PLEASE SEND SOMEONE ELSE”
Moses simply did not want to go! His previous excuses were simply attempts to hide the fact that he did not want to accept God’s challenge. Now that the facade is removed, God’s impatience with Moses becomes evident. His anger is kindled against Moses (Exod. 4:14a). (Read verses 15-17 with an emphasis on the word “shall” to appreciate the anger of the Lord).
We may find similar parallels in our own lives. Usually the excuses we dream up are just that—excuses—not valid reasons. We would rather God send someone else! We really don’t want to do what God has called us to do.
With Moses, we know the rest of the story. He answered the call and went to Egypt. He led the children of Israel as God delivered them out of Egyptian bondage. In humility he trusted God and accepted the enormous challenge that had been given to him.
But what about us? What will be the rest of our story? Will we listen to the call to share the gospel with the lost? Will we listen to the call to obey the gospel of Christ? Or will we make excuses and one day suffer the wrath of God? Only time will tell, but if you know what you should do, follow Moses’ example and respond to God’s loving call.
General Conference Ministerial Association