Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Moses said to the LORD, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’
A chaplain I know once asked how many burning bushes Moses may have missed before he noticed the one we read about in the Scriptures. She wanted to make a point about the persistence of God, who calls us despite our fear and doubts. A bush is burning but not consumed, the voice of ‘I AM’ is heard, and a series of signs are given, all of which convince Moses that the Lord is calling him.
Persuading him that he is the right person to go to Pharaoh, however, is a whole different story. Moses is aware of Pharaoh’s power: he has seen the weight of his might and Moses is under no illusions about where he himself stands in the scheme of things. Fear is a normal reaction.
Moses’ reflections on whether or not going to Pharaoh is a good idea may well have been based on what he would have seen from the political engagements in the palace. It is likely that he would have been aware that those who gain an audience with Pharaoh must be fluent, confident, and able to speak well… and so he counted himself out.
Fortunately, God does not limit himself to the power analyses and strategies which we devise in our own human wisdom. This means we have to overcome the temptation to lean on our own understanding when God calls us to something new. Yet we should also trust that he will do immeasurably more than we imagine… so we could be in for some surprises along the way.
It seems Moses will have to make some adjustments now that he is no longer walking alone in Midian but instead with the God who ‘gave human beings their mouths’ and their ability to see, speak, and hear. This God, the God of his ancestors, is worthy of all his trust.
It can be unnerving yet wonderfully surprising to walk with the God of Moses. At times, we might feel out of our depth with what God has called us into. We may wonder whether he has got it wrong. But he knows you by name, he knows where you have been, and he will guide you on by the power of his gentle hand… even if he has to light a few bushes along the way.
Tutor and Lecturer in Political Theology at St Mellitus College