But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[a] will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:11-12 NKJV
When Moses heard God call him to the task of liberating the Israelites from Egypt, he questioned his ability to carry out the assignment. Each of his excuses exposed an inner crisis:
A Crisis of Identity
When Moses asked “Who am I?” (Ex. 3:11), it seems he had already settled on an answer: I’m a nobody. Though he was a Hebrew by birth, he had been rejected by his people forty years earlier (2:11-14) and he had no reason to believe they would now accept his help. And though he was an Egyptian by upbringing, Moses had a reputation for rebellion and murder, leaving him little or no influence among Egyptian royalty. Finally, he was a Midianite shepherd by vocation, and shepherds were considered an abomination by the Egyptians (Gen 46:34).
Like many people today, Moses likely struggled due to his background and how he expected to be perceived by others, whether because of his ethnic or cultural heritage, his past mistakes, his low social status, or all of these. Yet God reassured Moses. He promised His presence, vowing to bring Moses back to the exact spot where he stood (Ex. 3:12).
A Crisis of Authority
Moses was concerned that he wouldn’t know what to tell his fellow Hebrews. He wondered how to explain who had sent him (Ex. 3:13). Moses thought people would never listen to an outcast emerging from the wilderness claiming to speak to God, especially if he should not establish his authority by providing the name by which God identified Himself.
God answered that concern with an extensive outline of His identity and authority as Lord: He stated His name (3:14); He recalled His promises to the Hebrews (3:15); He declared Himself more powerful than the Egyptians and their King, as well as the Canaanites (3:16, 17, 19-22); and He reaffirmed His role as the God of the Hebrews (3:18). God reminded Moses that He rules over all the earth and its people.
A Crisis of Faith
Moses anticipated being met by unbelief. So God empowered Moses to do miraculous acts to demonstrate God’s presence and power (4:2-9). When people are prone to disbelief, miracles alone do not always prove convincing. Hearts often stay stubborn even in the presence of powerful signs (7:13, 22; Matt. 13:58; Luke 16:30, 31; John 12:37). On the other hand, miracles can strengthen the trust of those who want to believe. By studying God’s supernatural acts, we can be sure that the God who performed them speaks to us (ex. 4:5; John 20:30, 31).
A Crisis of Communication
Moses was certain he lacked ability as a spokesperson. “I am not eloquent,” he confessed to the Lord. “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10). This contrasts sharply with Stephen’s assertion that Moses was “mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22) – because Stephen was describing Moses after God empowered him to stand before Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel. Whatever Moses’ deficiencies as a speaker, God vowed to teach Moses what to say and to make his words understood (Ex. 4:11, 12). This can encourage us as we represent our faith through words (1 Pet. 3:15).
A Crisis of Obedience
Moses’ final excuse was his simple unwillingness to carry out God’s command. In effect, he asked, “Isn’t there someone else You could send?” (Ex. 4:13). His question seems astonishing after all God’s promises and signs. Moses’ statement kindled the Lord’s anger (4:14), and we can only imagine how God must feel when we contradict His clearly revealed will for our lives.
Doing God’s will is ultimately a matter of obedience. We may have concerns as we consider God’s directives, but after God has addressed all our worries, only one question remains. Will we obey?
Moses’ decision to obey (7:6) resulted in the Israelites’ liberation from slavery under one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world. When we obey God’s commands and find our confidence in Him, there is no limit to the good He may accomplish through us.
Which of Moses’ 5 inner crisis do you most closely identify with?