Because of the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, when people think of Moses the face millions of them see is Charlton Heston’s. But the real Moses was no Hollywood he-man. He was a man with flaws and faults just like us, and if we are open to God’s leading, He can use us in spite of our flaws just as He used Moses.
Most people who have read the book of Exodus (or seen the Heston film) know that Moses had to flee from Egypt because he had murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. So Moses was no sinless poster boy from the very start. His temper plagued him at the end as well; in chapter 20 of the Book of Numbers, while the Israelites are in the desert God tells Moses to speak to a rock at Meribah and water would flow from it. Moses was angry at the people’s complaining and struck the rock instead; for his disobedience God kept him from entering into the Promised Land.
We also know that during the time between these two events, God used Moses in a way Moses could have never imagined. Through Moses God brought the 10 plagues upon Egypt, freed the Israelites from bondage, parted the Red Sea, oversaw the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, gave the Israelites great military victories, and brought them to the brink of the Promised Land.
However, I think the episode of Moses’ life that is the most amazing (and instructive) is his encounter with God at the burning bush. In real life, Moses was not nearly as composed as Charlton Heston when coming face-to-face (so to speak) with God. In fact, Moses did something I’m sure all of us would swear we would never do if God were before us: he argued with God, not just once, but five times. Here are Moses’ five questions or excuses, followed by God’s response, when God told him to go to Pharaoh:
Moses: Who am I that I should go? (Exodus 3:11).
God: I will be with you; when you come out of Egypt, you will serve me on this mountain (Exodus 3:12).
Moses: But what is your name, that I may tell the people who sent me? (Exodus 3:13).
God: I am who I am, Yahweh, the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:14-15).
Moses: How will the people believe that you have sent me? (Exodus 4:1)
God: Responds by turning Moses’ rod into a serpent then back into a rod (Exodus 4:2-4), then He makes Moses’ hand leprous then heals it (Exodus 4:6-7), and finally instructs Moses to turn water from the Nile into blood if the people still do not believe (Exodus 4:9).
Moses: I am not eloquent; I am slow of speech (Exodus 4:10).
God: I, Yahweh, am the one who made your mouth (Exodus 4:11).
Moses: Please send someone else (Exodus 4:13).
God (finally getting angry at the excuses): Your brother Aaron will go with you; you will speak my words to him and he will speak to the people for you (Exodus 4:15-16).
I think there are several lessons in this encounter. The first is that it’s amazing God chose Moses at all, given the flaws he had already exhibited. The second is that God is patient when we think we’re not up to the task or when we don’t immediately grasp His calling. Finally, Moses’ life makes clear that if we will be obedient to God’s call in spite of our fears and shortcomings, some incredible things can happen. We may never part the Red Sea, but we may do equally amazing things, from sharing the Gospel halfway around the world on a mission trip to helping feed the homeless in our own neighborhood.