God Prepares the Called

Sunday, July 7, 2019
Intern Eric Nelson

Exodus 4:1-17

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

“O Lord, please send someone else.”

What a great story to hear next on our series of “Expecting the Unexpected.” Moses was certainly not expecting this calling from the Lord.

Moses is regularly remembered as a confident hero of the faith. Maybe you have the old movie portrayal of Moses in your mind as Charlton Heston raises his staff and the Red Sea parts. This confident Moses is not the one we see in conversation with the Lord in Exodus 4.

Today’s reading is actually quite a ways into an interaction between the Lord and Moses. The Lord is speaking from a still-leafy-and-green burning bush. As Moses turns to see this astounding sight, the Lord tells Moses of the cry and misery of God’s people in Egypt. This is when God says Moses will be sent to Pharaoh to bring God’s people out of Egypt.

Then Moses’ excuses start: ‘Lord, who I am I to go do that?’ and ‘If they ask the name of you, Lord, what shall I say?’, and then ‘What if they say the Lord did not appear to me?’, ‘What sign can I give them?’, and ‘Lord, I am not good at speaking.’ And finally: ‘Lord, please send someone else.’

Moses clearly does not want to go. Can you blame him?

He enjoys his life as a shepherd. His family lives here. He has a good relationship with his father-in-law. He is living in this land of Midian in safety. What awaits him in Egypt?

Will there be punishment for the Egyptian guard Moses killed who was beating a slave? Will the Pharaoh who has essentially un-checked power even let Moses speak to him? Will the Israelite people accept Moses as one of their own or see him as an outsider? If Moses lives through this, will his life ever look the same again?

Though Moses seems to struggle with everything required in returning to Egypt, he does show trust in God.

Moses displays great trust when the Lord gives a sign to show the people that the Lord had truly appeared to Moses. God tells Moses to throw his staff down and God turns the staff to a snake.

It was easy enough to throw the staff and wait for whatever God was going to do, but then the Lord tells Moses to pick up the snake by the tail. By the tail!

Moses is a shepherd. He’s no fool! This is not his first time encountering a snake. You do not pick up a snake by the tail! It will swing around and bite you. If you absolutely have to grab a snake, you grab it right behind the jaw so it can’t turn to bite you. You limit the risk. In most cases you wouldn’t touch the snake at all. Yet, Moses trusts the Lord. He grabs the snake by the tail and it becomes a staff again.

It seems Moses trusts that the Lord will not bring him harm here. Moses just isn’t sure about God’s call to the dangers in Egypt. Yet, throughout all of Moses excuses, God keeps saying ‘I will be with you.’

Moses simply turned to see this amazing sight of the Lord in this burning bush. He had no idea the words of God that would follow. Moses thinks, ‘I’m not ready for this!’

I have heard it beautifully stated before, “God does not call the prepared, God prepares the called.”

Moses is not prepared for this, but God is.

God goes in this work with Moses and is fully equipped to handle this. God prepares Moses for the mission of freeing God’s people, the Israelites.

The Israelites had become slaves back when they handed over their land and their service to the Pharaoh during the great famine in the time of Joseph’s leadership. This put essentially all power and possession in the hands of the Pharaoh. Relations were good at that time so the Israelites lived relatively well in the land, but now there was a Pharaoh who did not remember the Israelite Joseph and the previous good relations who was increasingly harsh with the Israelite people.

This ultimate power of the Pharaoh is what leads to the conditions God needs to save the Israelites from.

This ultimate power among people has always been trouble throughout history.

We saw this in the steady rise of Nazi power before World War II.

“First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.”

“Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.”

“Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.”

“Finally, then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Those well-known thoughts are from the German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller.

Martin Niemoller was a contemporary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and shared together in a movement of the protestant church to stand against Hitler and the Nazis in World War II. This was a small fraction of the church in Germany that stood opposed.

After all, they were safe. They were like Moses far off in the land of Midian. They didn’t need to act. They could live with relative safety.

However, they too turned aside and heard God’s call to witness to the truth and protect all people.

This is who God is and how God continues to be for the people. People like Niemoller and Bonhoeffer may not have felt prepared for what was to come, but God doesn’t call the prepared. God prepares the called.

Bonhoeffer spoke in a sermon of how Christians were compelled to stand against Nazism “because God is too strong in them.” He says “How often they wished for peace and quiet and calm. How often they wished they did not have to threaten, to warn, to protest, in order to witness to the truth. But a compulsion was laid upon them: ‘Woe unto us if we do not preach the Gospel.’ (1 Cor. 9:16)”

Moses may have longed for peace, quiet, and calm, but Moses is to bring the gospel to the Israelite people. The gospel is to be free from oppressive forces, to be free to worship and serve God. The gospel is God’s liberation from what binds us and oppresses us.

This is all about who God is in the face of oppressive forces. You and I may not feel prepared or ready, but God still calls us to go and bring that gospel message. God still prepares us.

The first task is seeing the burning bush, seeing where God is showing up around us and then engaging in conversation.

Moses may have made a heap of arguments about not going, but he engaged God in conversation in the first place. He turned aside to see God. He saw God’s presence in the world bringing the burning power of destruction without any scorch on that bush.

How will we turn aside to see God’s astounding presence in the world and hear God send us out to bring God’s freedom to the people of this world?

The answer is usually uncomfortable.

Many times, this means removing ourselves from convictions, affiliations, and settings in which we find comfort. We may not be in the place of Moses, Niemoller, or Bonhoeffer, but we are still called to question where we are called and how we follow God into difficult places as we bring God’s good news.

Without the baggage previous affiliations, we look at our neighbor asking how God would have us grant the freedom God desires.

This is true as we pursue housing options for those without shelter in our county. This is true as we consider how we grant love and care to immigrants on our southern border. This is true as we feed the hungry around us. This is true as we sit in discomfort with someone else in pain. This is true as we follow God’s call into many new places.

I told you it would be uncomfortable.

If God is expecting us to show up for God and for our neighbor – that comes first. Don’t follow society. Don’t follow your politician. Don’t follow comfort. Follow your God.

We are called to turn aside and see what God is up to and how God is calling us to act. God can handle our excuses just as God handled Moses’ excuses and assures us that God is with us.

God knows that we don’t come fully equipped for what lies ahead. Moses’ complaint of being slow in speech is finally met with God saying, “Who makes mortals to speak? Go and I will be with your mouth.”

God knows the gifts you have and the barriers that hold you back. Those aren’t barriers for God. Those aren’t barriers for our maker. God goes with you.

We are not promised it will be easy or risk free, but we know that God goes with us in God’s work.

What is your own burning bush that God draws your eye to? Engage God in the conversation and remember: God does not call the prepared. God prepares the called.

Thanks be to God. Amen

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