LIVING AS APPRENTICES
I have a friend who has been struggling with her faith for years because her “go-to” method of relating to God is to ask God, “Why?” She is in good company. When the story of Moses begins, he is constantly questioning God. God gives Moses a “God-sized” task: take leadership of a group of people who have been living with a slave mentality for more than 400 years, confront their oppressor, and then walk out of oppression to a new destiny. God gives him specific directions on how to accomplish this task, but Moses responds by asking “Why?”
- But why me? “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3: 1)
- What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?” (Exodus 4:1)
- Why, Lord, have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23)
- “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (Exodus 6:12)
God patiently answers Moses’ questions and even gives him assistance: a staff which turns into a serpent to give him credibility and his articulate brother Aaron to address his fear of speaking. But what Moses really needs is to listen to God’s basic response: “I am the LORD” or “Tell Pharoah I am the LORD.” Moses needs to believe that God is in control, that he lives in an unshakable kingdom, and that no matter what happens to him, he is safe!
Eventually Moses begins to see what “I am the LORD” means. We read this response throughout the rest of the story of the deliverance of the people of Israel: “And Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them.” In the rest of the book of Exodus and the other four books that tell his story, Moses is portrayed as a man who did what God asked; his life is a character study of listening and obeying. With one exception. That breach of faith (striking a rock rather than speaking to it) kept Moses from crossing into the Promised Land. However, Scripture speaks of Moses in this way:
For no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. Who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharoah and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses d id in the sight of all Israel (Deut. 23:10-12).
How often do our “why’s” get in the way of our relationship with God or stall the task God is calling us to do? Why do we ask why? Look at Moses. Why couldn’t he stop asking why? He was afraid. He was embarrassed. He thought he knew better. He thought God’s plan couldn’t work. Perhaps he just didn’t want to be challenged.
The “why?” that stops me often shows up as “who: “Who do I think I am?” It has stopped me many times. It temporarily halted my writing of a book after the first two chapters. And behind the question who lie all the fears listed in the paragraph above. It was my faith in the unshakable kingdom of God that got me through that. I reasoned: If I write a book and it isn’t published, I am still safe. If I write a book and no one reads it, I am safe. If I write a book and it is widely booed, I am safe. If I take all this time to write this book instead of doing something else, I am safe – and probably wiser.
My friend’s question is “Why would a loving God allow pain and suffering?” No attempt at an explanation is good enough for her. I believe that she, like Moses (and the rest of us), needs trade her questions for trust and allow God to show her what life in the strong and secure Kingdom of God is like.