Moses, the Not Good Enough
We’re not told exactly how long passes between Moses fleeing Egypt to Midian and his encounter with God, who for the first time identifies as Yahweh or I AM (rendered the Lᴏʀᴅ in most English translations). We know it was long enough that the previous Pharaoh has passed away. Through these intervening months or years, the Hebrews have remained in brutal slavery but Moses seems to have concluded there is nothing he can do about it after losing his influence along with his temper in killing an Egyptian. So now, in Exodus 3, Yahweh has appeared to Moses and told him that he would be the representative to free his people from their slavery and return them to the Promised Land.
Before continuing, take a moment to put yourself in Moses’ position. When Moses was a grandson of the Pharaoh, he probably would have had the power and influence to help his people, but then he lost that position when his violent attempt to help ended up hurting instead. He doesn’t have that power anymore. Now he is a disgraced shepherd, probably living a reasonably comfortable life but definitely not a powerful one. On top of that, the Hebrews didn’t trust him as the violent Pharaoh’s grandson who could turn on them as easily as he did on the Egyptian foremen. Even though the Pharaoh was now dead, it is safe to say many Egyptians remembered this traitor and didn’t trust him, either. He has no influence. He has no power. He has no money.
And he has no voice with “a slow mouth and a thick tongue” (4:10 CEB) which is usually understood to mean a stutter or another speech impediment. To derail from the main story for a bit, I also have a speech impediment. It isn’t a huge one, but I have a lisp (pronouncing s) and also have a lot of trouble with r’s, which can get awkward when your name is Ryan Robinson. I get a lot of people thinking my name is Wyan or Lyon or sometimes people go as far as something like Juan (despite me being very white). Usually they figure it out on the second or third try, but occasionally – probably one a year – I have to show it from a screen on my BlackBerry or something similar for people to get it. So I get the hesitancy with a speech impediment. I definitely think there’s plenty that God can use me for, particularly in the age of the Internet where I can type instead of speak but yes, in many vocal ways, too. But would I ever consider that I was the best choice to lead a huge nation out of slavery… by speaking up in dramatic ways? Not. A. Chance.
But here, as in many other cases throughout the Bible, God doesn’t choose who we think should be the best person for the job. It is no doubt a powerful experience to realize that our weaknesses make us no less vital to the work of God and in some ways our weaknesses actually make us strong (2 Corinthians 2:9).
If you are, by all earthly estimates, the great person for the job, be careful that you aren’t using this power poorly. Being gifted in an area is something to be embraced and used for God’s Kingdom, but as we saw with Moses’ prior attempt to help his people out of his position of power, it is often true that relying on our power to get what we want – even with good intentions – ends up causing harm instead.
If you are, by all earthly estimates, not the best person for the job, maybe that isn’t the same thing as saying that you shouldn’t do it. We often feel this way in confronting many social justice issues. Maybe you don’t think you have enough money, or enough influence, or the prerequisite skills. And if you tried to do it on your own in the usual ways that we go about things, maybe that’s true. But when we align ourselves with God’s mission of justice, we can do amazing things.