Exodus 3:1-15, 4:1-17

I Will Send You to Pharaoh!

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Exodus 3:1-15, 4:1-17

I Will Send You to Pharaoh!

Richard Niell Donovan

Isn’t this a wonderful story! God appears to Moses in a burning bush, and calls him to serve. God said:

“Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh,
that you may bring my people, the children of Israel,
out of Egypt” (3:10).

How would you feel if God appeared to you in some miraculous vision to give you your marching orders? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that kind of clarity! You wouldn’t have to guess. You wouldn’t have to wonder. You would only have to obey.

Moses should have been honored! God had chosen him for one of the starring roles of history. He was to lead God’s people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. But how did Moses respond? Moses made the most astonishing protests:

“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh,
and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (3:11).

God said, “I will be with you” (3:12).

And then Moses said, “But who shall I say sent me?” (3:13).

And God told him, “I AM WHO I AM!” (3:14).

But Moses said, “Suppose they don’t believe me? Why should they believe me anyway?” (4:1).

And God said, “What is that in your hand, Moses? A rod? Throw it down, Moses!”

“Down, Lord?”

“Throw it down, Moses!”

So Moses threw his rod down on the ground, and it became a hissing snake. Moses jumped back! And then God said:

“Stretch out your hand,
and take it by the tail.” (4:4).

Now, if you know anything about snakes, you know that there are two rules. Rule one is, “Never pick up a snake.” Rule two is, “If you must pick up a snake, grab it quickly just behind the head.” If you pick it up by the tail, it will reach around and bite you. In our choir anthem, Moses explained that to God:

Lord, you have not lived here very long.
Let me explain rule number two.
Never pick up a snake by the tail

Pick It UP, Moses!

O Lord, the snake became a rod again.

If that had happened to me, I think I would have said, “All right, Lord, you win. I get the message!” If it had happened to you, you would have said, “All right, Lord, I’ll go!” But Moses was not quite there yet. He protested:

O my Lord, I am slow of speech.
You know that I hate to stand before a crowd.
I stutter.
I get stage fright.

Don’t get the wrong idea, Lord!
I am willing to do my part!
But what I really know is taking care of sheep.
So how about just letting me take care of these sheep, Lord.
And finding someone else to lead your people.

But God said:

Moses, go and do what I told you to do,
and I will be with your mouth
and teach you what to say.

And, with his back to the wall, Moses finally says what he really means. What he really means is:

“Oh Lord, please send someone else” (4:13).

There it is! Moses just does not want to do what God told him to do. Moses has learned to live a very comfortable life shepherding his sheep and taking care of his family.

• The last thing in the world that he wants to do is to go back to Egypt and to go nose-to-nose with Pharaoh.

• The last thing in the world that he wants to do is to start a fight with a man who commands a well-trained army.

• It is as if God were to call us to leave the quiet little community of Pacific Grove and go to Los Angeles to start a street ministry among the gangs in the inner city.

I could think of a thousand reasons not to go to Los Angeles, and so can you. I don’t need the traffic. I don’t need the smog. I don’t need the violent schools. “Lord, send someone younger. Send someone braver. Send someone less married. Send someone with no children. Lord, send someone else! I don’t want to go!”

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Isn’t that how we feel sometimes!

• Lord, I am tired; send someone else.
• Lord, I am busy; send someone else.
• Lord, I’ve done my part; send someone else.
• Lord, I’m not very talented; send someone else.
• Lord, I’m over sixty-five; send someone else.
• Lord, my children need me; send someone else.
• Lord, I don’t like board meetings; send someone else.

I want you to know that I did not choose this text for today. Bo chose the choir anthem for today, and asked me to preach my sermon on the Moses’ story. I am glad he did.

This is a perfect text for Annual Meeting Sunday. Today, assuming that we have enough people for a quorum, we will install our new officers for the coming year.

• It wasn’t easy to find people for all the jobs.
• Some people said, “Lord, send someone else.”
• In fact, we were not able to fill all the positions.
• Some of the people who accepted jobs would just as soon have said, “Lord, send someone else.”
• Most of us are tired—or otherwise occupied—or angry—or burned out—or not very talented. “Lord, send someone else.”

But God deals with us just as he did with Moses. He says:
Just do it!

I am reminded of a story—a true story about Nathan Soderblom, the Archbishop of Uppsala in Sweden; he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930 for promoting world peace. But finally, tired and discouraged, he said to the King of Sweden. He said:

“Your majesty, there is a little island
off the coast of Sweden.
One little church, only one main street,
and only a few hundred people on the island.
I want you to release me of my burdens here in Stockholm
and send me to that little church!”

The king replied:

“Ah, yes, I know that little island.
It is so very lovely.
The people there need a postman
to take the mail through town once a day.
Bishop, I would like to be that postman!”

When Soderblom left the king’s presence, the king was still the king, and the archbishop was still the archbishop. Each of them was left only to dream of the little church and the little postoffice—and to continue to fulfill their respective callings.

God seldom calls us to serve inside our comfort zone. He always stretches us a little—and sometimes he stretches us a lot—because he designed us and knows what we can do.

God called Moses, a shepherd, to go nose-to-nose with Pharaoh and, when Moses finally obeyed, blessed the world through his obedience.

God calls us, also simple people, to serve him in ways great and ways small. When we obey him, he will bless our church—and our community—and our world—through our obedience.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan