Fourth Thursday of Advent: Moses Moments
“And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
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 will worship God on this mountain.”
—Exodus 3: 9-12 (Read Exodus 3)
During the fall semester of my junior year of college, I was trying to figure out who I was as a follower of Jesus.
I had spent my late teen years doing an impressive prodigal son impersonation before fully surrendering my life to Christ early in that same year, 2004.
Even though I was now living for Jesus, I still saw myself as the sinner I had been, and I did not think I was—or perhaps ever would be—qualified to be used by God.
It was during this stretch that God tricked me (trust me—he did) into applying for a student chaplain role on my Christian campus. I knew I was not qualified, and I did my best to prove this to the individuals who were insisting that I not extract myself from the interview process.
In order to show them just how mistaken they were, I decided to list every sin I had ever committed on my application.
I was granted an interview, but I fully expected to walk away from it with the confirmation that I had, in fact, messed up too much to ever serve as a spiritual leader. Besides, even if I hadn’t been so honest about my failures, there were more qualified applicants. Ministry majors. People called to lead churches. People whose lives (and applications) must have looked much cleaner. But these qualified candidates were not offered the job. Instead, it was given to me.
That semester became something of a “Moses moment” for me.
In Genesis 3, Moses finds himself unexpectedly standing on holy ground while God’s voice emanates from a flaming shrub. God tells Moses exactly what he is asking him to do, and then Moses spends most of the next two chapters expressing reservations about his qualifications to execute such a plan. After all, Moses had left Egypt like a fugitive after murdering an Egyptian. And years later, here he was tending his father-in-law’s flock in the wilderness, probably not believing he was—or perhaps ever would be—qualified to be used by God.
We know how that turned out for Moses. During that fall semester of 2004, like Moses years before, I discovered that God can use me. I discovered that God wants to use me.
And I discovered that I absolutely love campus ministry—a passion which persists to this day.
Many years later, looking back at a journal from that season, I was surprised to find that I had written this prayer:
“Lord, guide me and help prevent me from taking my eyes off of You. I love you and I want to see Your face. …I pray that I will be more faithful to you, because you are, I know, so faithful to me.”
I didn’t remember ever telling God I wanted to see his face. But when I read it now, I immediately think of Moses asking to see God’s glory. God responds by telling him that he will pass before him, “but you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).
After that, God instructs Moses to stand in a cleft of a rock, he covers Moses with his enormous hand, and then he allows Moses to see his back as he passes. The Lord speaks as he passes by saying, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6).
When I look back at that year in particular, I see the enormous hand of God clearly moving in my life—the hand of a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” the hand of a God who can and wants to use us no matter how unqualified we believe ourselves to be.
In Exodus 13:3, just before they traverse the parted Red Sea, Moses tells the newly-freed Israelites to “Remember this day in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place.” In fact, throughout this address to the Israelites, Moses repeatedly references the “strong hand of the Lord” every time he instructs the Israelites to remember.
Maybe you can identify a similar moment when the strong hand of the Lord intervened in your life. If not, maybe that moment is on the horizon.
If history tells us anything, it will likely be the next time you are convinced that you aren’t qualified, that you’ve messed up too much, or that surely God should find someone better to use for His purposes.
Years from now, perhaps you will discover that it was your response to this moment which led to the clearest example you have of the strong hand of the Lord guiding you out of one place and ushering you on to something new. Not because you, or I—or even Moses—are worthy. But because God chooses to use each of us. And because he is faithful.
What a beautiful truth to discover. And remember.
—Tyler Charles serves the CCO as Midwest Area Director.