“But Dad, it’s only 9 o’clock!”
That was my daughter’s excuse one recent morning when I asked her to do something. In her mind, listening to dad wasn’t something she was obligated to do until maybe 10 or 11am at the earliest. I must have missed that fine print in the parenting manual.
Making excuses is as old as Adam and Eve. “The woman who you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate,” Adam said. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” Eve said. (Genesis 3:12-13) Humans have been perfecting the art of rationalizing disobedience ever since.
Moses was no different. He used excuses that are still common and all too relatable today. I’ve personally used each of his excuses to drag my feet and justify my own disobedience.
In Exodus 3 and 4, God called Moses to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. Moses was to be God’s chosen instrument of deliverance for Israel. But Moses, less than enthusiastic with God’s plan, responded with excuse after excuse trying to convince God that he’d made a mistake.
Behind each excuse, however, we can see an underlying lie that Moses was believing. Ultimately, we can see through Moses’ excuses that bragging and boasting about ourselves isn’t the only way to steal God’s glory. Our excuses, fear, and refusal to trust and obey also rob God of glory.
“But I’m a nobody”
God told Moses, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10) Moses responded with his first excuse, telling God “Who am I?” In other words, why me? I’m a nobody. Have you seen my resume? Don’t you know I’m ridiculously unqualified to stand before a world leader like Pharaoh?
The underlying lie Moses believed was that God can’t use “nobodies.” Granted, at the time Moses didn’t have the roster of “nobodies” that God would later go on to use throughout Scripture. ”Nobodies” like:
- Gideon – “How can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15)
- David – “There remains yet the youngest [brother], but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” (1 Samuel 16:11)
- Jesus – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
- Disciples – “He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.” (Mark 1:16)
But Moses didn’t need examples. God countered Moses’ excuse with the fundamental truth we all need to embrace when God calls us to obey – he will be with us. (Exodus 3:12) It wasn’t Moses’ presence that was going to determine whether or not the mission succeeded. It was God’s presence with him that mattered. That promise should have trumped Moses’ view of himself.
“But they won’t believe me.”
Moses’ next excuse was, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.” (Exodus 4:1) The lie behind this excuse was that other people’s responses should dictate our obedience. But as Warren Wiersbe writes, “‘They won’t believe’ really means ‘I don’t believe.’” With this excuse, we try to sidestep God’s command and avoid potential confrontation. The truth, however, is that our obedience should depend on our fear of God, not our fear of how others might respond.
Just a few chapters earlier in Exodus 1 we have clear example of this. In his effort to control the growing Hebrew population, Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill any sons they helped deliver. Keep in mind, Pharaoh at this point was one of the most powerful and brutal people on the planet. He could have easily killed the midwives just as easily as he ordered the midwives to kill the Hebrew sons. The midwives, however, feared God more than they feared Pharaoh and therefore obeyed God rather than Pharaoh.
Maybe to convince Moses just as much as to convince the elders of Israel, God responded to Moses’ excuse by giving him signs to perform to demonstrate the Lord had in fact appeared to him. When Moses says, “They won’t believe,” God says, “Leave that to me. You just obey.”
“But I’m not eloquent”
Moses again looks inward instead of upward with his next excuse. “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
The lie? Our success in ministry depends more on our abilities than on God’s power. But as he always does, God again counters this lie with the truth. God says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11) God reminds Moses that he knows that he’s not a gifted speaker because he’s the one who created him. He’s the God whose power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He provides the power and we provide the weakness. That’s why he called Moses. So he says, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” God does the work through us when we faithfully obey and trust him.
Notice here that God doesn’t care about Moses’ self-esteem. He doesn’t try to tell Moses that he should think higher of himself. No, God instead tells Moses he needs to think higher of God. The self-help message that unfortunately creeps into Christian writing and speaking (I hesitate to call it preaching) does the exact opposite of what God does here with Moses. Self-help calls us to look inside ourselves to find the strength we need to accomplish something. God calls us to lift our eyes and look outside ourselves to the One who created and sustains all things.
“But someone else can do it better”
Moses finally sums up all his excuses with a request. “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13) Someone else can do it better. How often do we say this in our lives when it comes to engaging in our faith? There are other people who can share their faith better, so I’ll let them. I don’t have the gift of hospitality like they do. I can’t give as much as they do.
But the truth is God knows exactly why he calls who he calls. He determines when and where we live (Acts 17:26). He places us where he needs us. He calls us to step beyond our own strength and abilities for his glory.
Of course, God will not be denied the glory due to him. He is sovereign. We are not. Our disobedience doesn’t trump his sovereignty. When we disobey, he makes another way. In this case, God doesn’t let Moses off the hook entirely, but does in anger allow Moses’ brother Aaron go along to speak for him.
We might think of glory thieves as people bragging and boasting about themselves. We think of the professional-athlete types banging on their chests and shouting how great they are. We think of people like King Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)
But in reality, fear and doubt can steal God’s glory just like bragging and boasting. If God’s power truly is made perfect in weakness, then we deny his power when we live like our weakness surpasses his power. God’s power works through our obedience walked out in faith. Our obedience conveys the message of God’s infinite power and worth to the world. Our disobedience conveys the message that he’s not able and he’s not worth it.
Today, read his Word and pray. If you believe he is calling you to something and you find yourself making excuses, then confess and repent of your unbelief. Trust in his power. And obey to the glory of God.