Monday, October 31, 2016

What Is That In Your Hand?

And the Lord said unto Moses, “what is that in thine hand?” And he said a rod.
And He said, “Cast it on the ground”. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent;
Exodus 4:2-3

When Pharaoh heard of the killing of an Egyptian by Moses, he sought to kill Moses; fearing for his life, Moses ran off to Midian where he made acquaintances at the local well with the daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midian, who took him in and gave Moses one of his daughters, Zipporah, in marriage. The bible said: and Moses was content to dwell with the man (Exodus 2:21).

This contentment lasted long enough until Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush in Horeb; one that will change his life forever, even against his will. As the bible tells us, though Moses had fled Egypt, his kinsmen were still there suffering under Pharaoh; they were still groaning and calling on God for deliverance daily, but to no avail – at least, in their own thinking. In Moses, God saw an instrument with which to use to deliver His people from Egypt. However, as far as he was concerned, Moses did not see himself as a good or the right instrument for the job God had in mind, and he did his possible best to extricate himself from the assignment. Listen to his many excuses:

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

Here, Moses must have inspected himself from head to toe; inspected his hands, legs, chest, biceps and triceps, gluteal muscles, and even stood next to a tree to measure his height, and realized that he was not quite the right build; looked around the area to see if there was someone else standing nearby also named Moses that God may be talking to; and even wondered if he was listening to a false god. Convinced in himself that he lacked the height, strength, and the courage – all the outward qualities that humans consider - to qualify to lead Israel out of Egypt, he wondered if God had his head screwed on straight that He even thought of him for such assignment. “Why in God’s green earth will you choose me of all people for such a difficult task?” he must have wondered in exasperation. “I am here minding my own business, raising my father in-law’s flock of livestock, taking care of my family, and tending to other needs of the community as they present themselves, and you want me to go back to a land where I am a wanted man to save the people that betrayed me in the first place. God, this time, you got it really wrong”. Clearly, Moses was not expecting to be called by God, or any other person of authority, for any assignment either in Egypt or anywhere else; he was very comfortable with his job as a shepherd. Even if something was to develop in the pipeline, he did not expect it to be back in Egypt; an assignment hundreds of miles further from Egypt would have been acceptable to him.

2.       And Moses said unto God, behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say unto me, what is his name? What shall I say unto them? (verse 13)

From Moses’ second excuse we could deduct that he had lost with the first one. Also the word “when”, as used by him confirms that he may have realized that arguing with God might be a lost cause. Since the first attempt had failed, Moses tried a second time. This time, it was not about his physical attributes, or lack thereof; instead, it was how to convince the Israelites to believe that God, their real God, sent him. “God, let’s say that I agree to go, you know these people are stubborn and very hard-headed; if I go there all by myself and just tell them to believe me that you sent me, they will laugh their heads off and even attempt to commit me to a nut house. I need something to show them as proof that you sent me, because they will not believe a simple shepherd like me who still lives and works for his father in-law”, Moses must have said to God; anything to make Him decide that Moses may not be the right person for the job after all. Moses may have either been expecting a sign – some kind of magic he can perform before the gathering of the people, or an angel to accompany him on this journey; some kind of support mechanism that will make his task easier – if he could not wiggle his way out of it.

3.       And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. (Exodus 4:10)

If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. Since God dismissed his first excuse and gave him a “sign” in the second one, Moses decided to try a third one: his stammering problem. “God, you know very well that before our meeting at this burning bush, and since afterwards, I was, and still remain, slow of speech; how do you expect me to appear before Pharaoh in this condition and convince him to set your people free? He may not have the patience to sit there and wait for me to blabber all day just to make one sentence. This is not going to work, Lord, it just won’t. Just imagine the fun the people will make of me; even the children will fall over themselves in jest of me. Please, Lord, just send someone who is not just eloquent in speech but very commanding of the spoken word. Someone that Pharaoh will respect”. Who knows, there may even be a law against stammering in Egypt after Moses had left.

4.       And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou will send (verse 13)

Even at some point, we get tired of giving excuses. Moses had given every excuse or reason that could have convinced God that he was not the right person to go to Egypt, and God had countered every one of those excuses; so, the only option left was to come out and just say it: “please, Lord, just send someone who is physically, mentally, and oratorically qualified to confront Pharaoh, I am not that person. Just leave me let me tend to my in-law’s livestock and, in due course, he will set me up as an independent man. I am not cut out for all of this bravado and drama, just find someone else from another tribe, if you wish”.

All these sound familiar to you? They should. We all have a bit of Moses in all of us, whether in answering the call to spread the gospel: “oh, I am not spiritually equipped enough yet”, or “I am too shy”; lead a project team at our jobs: “there are others who have been here longer and more experienced, or better educated than me”; represent our community in public office: “Ah, those people?. Will they even bother to listen to my message let alone vote for me”, or “nope! I am not the political type”; or venture into a new business: “the money is not quite enough for that at this time”, or “I have not actually decided on what kind of business to invest in”. We also look for excuses to refrain from being in a relationship: “I am not old enough or ready yet”; “I do not enough experience”; “I don’t have the right job yet”; “I am not making enough money at my current job”; “I am not psychologically prepared”; “I just cannot handle all that nagging”; “I love my peace”; or “I want to be a graduate first”. The list goes on forever.

However, just like God dismissed all the many excuses Moses proffered for not being the right person for the task at hand, we can, and are well equipped to look beyond our physique, our age, intelligence and academic level, our financial readiness, spiritual maturity, and social status in our community before taking up a task. Many times, all that stands between us and our life goals and assignments is fear of the unknown. Yes, the task may be daunting when looking at it from the outside, and we may feel, like Moses, that we are not equipped or cut out for it; but, upon further review, we might discover that, just like God provided Moses with all the tools he needed for the assignment in Egypt, He will also do the same for us; He will provide our needs according to “His riches in heaven”. All that he requires of us is a little faith and trust in His ability to equip us for any task He assigns to us.

To be successful in life, we must not let our fears and concerns impede our attempt at trying our hands on God’s assignment for us. Our height, weight, speech impediment, preference for an obscure life, or fear of what is along the way, or at the end of the tunnel, must not stop us. Where those concerns exist, either from the beginning or along the way, we must always remember that God is with us; His promise of never leaving us unattended or forsaken is not a bogus one. What is it that you hold in your hand? A staff? A faith as small as a mustard seed? A love for community service? Desire to spread the word of God? A friendly smile? The gift of gab? Whatever it is, think of how best you can use it to do God’s work when the call comes. No more excuses!

Felix Oti
Arlington, Texas

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