Posted by: mikenicholsblog | February 12, 2010

epic or empty?

I would dare say that if 100 people were asked to name a top 5 list of epic heros from the Bible, a few more than 99.9% of those surveyed would have Moses somewhere on that list.  Does it get any more epic than starting your life floating down the Nile in a basket because of a mother’s selfless love, a royal ascension to Egyptian Prince, burning bushes, meeting alone with God on a mountain, stone tablets, being hand selected by God to lead His people out of slavery, leading an entire nation through a supernaturally parted Red Sea with the Egyptian army in pursuit, having Charlton Heston play you in perhaps the most epic biblical movie ever?!!  OK, maybe I got a little carried away on the last one.

But who could disagree, that Moses’ life and the monumental roles and circumstances that characterized it, were nothing short of epic.  But it’s the “hand selected” statement above that when looked at in finer detail, begs the title question of this post.  You see, for all his epicness, Moses had a major inadequacy complex.  In the face of God’s bold declaration that He had heard the cry of His people and had specifically chosen Moses to be their deliverer, he said to God, “Who am I …?” (Exod. 3:11).  This begins a recurring exchange with God that finds Moses questioning or pleading …

… then what shall I tell them?” (3:13)
What if they do not believe me or listen to me …?” (4:1)
… I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4:10)
… O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (4:13)

God responds to each question, lament and petition.  He assures Moses that He will go with him.  And that, “I am who I am.” (3:14)  He shows Moses some miraculous signs and offers them as “backup” when Moses goes to speak to the Israelites. And finally, he tells Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (4:12)  Over and over Moses recoils, and God pursues.

When Moses finally submits, and things don’t go well in Egypt, we find God and Moses back in the same spot once again.  This time Moses seems even more certain that he is not the right man for the job.

But after another brief exchange, and one last repeat of his inadequacy, the momentum of deliverance begins to shift.  Moses pushes back one last time, saying, “why would Pharaoh listen to me?”  To which God responds with a brief, but specific narrative of exactly what He will do to deliver his people.  Nestled almost unnoticed within the list of things God has planned and will do, is a simple and clear request to Moses and his brother.  “You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.” (7:2)  It is as if God is saying, I am going to act out the entire scene, and draft all its narrative.  And all that I ask of you, is that you bring an empty vessel, open it’s mouthpiece, and allow my narrative to pour out.

Throughout the remainder of this story of epic deliverance, you find no more questions from Moses.  Only repeats of God’s declarative …

Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them.” (7:6)
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded …” (7:10)
Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded …” (7:20)

What struck me as I read the accounts of all the plagues that God brought because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, was the repetition of  God’s instruction and Moses and Aaron’s immediate obedience.  Verse after verse, chapter after chapter, plague after plague.  God instructed, they obeyed, God acted.  God instructed, they obeyed, God acted …

When you look closely at the “epic” in the life of Moses, you can’t help but see the “empty”.  If I can be so bold to say it, God didn’t choose Moses because of his qualifications, He didn’t need them.  What God wanted, and was able to use in an epic way, was the empty.  Do we think it’s any different in our own lives?

John 3:30
He must become greater;
I must become less.

When you examine your life today, and who you are becoming, let me ask you this question … epic or empty?


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