With each excuse, we get a little closer to the heart of the matter.
After Moses exclaims “Who am I?!” (Ex. 3:11) and “Who are you?!” (3:13), he frets, “What if they don’t believe me or listen to me?!” (4:1) – all this just four short verses after God says, plain as day, “The elders of Israel will listen to you” (3:18). Yeah, but what if they don’t listen to me?
Nothing wounds like rejection. Most of us will do almost anything to avoid it. Whether it’s being denied access to a social circle in middle school, or not making the team, or feeling the searing sting of betrayal, rejection is a thorn-wound that can fester forever.
Nancy Reagan’s father, Loyal Davis, grew up in a God-fearing, church-attending home. When he was young he entered a Bible memory contest at church. He worked very hard and knew his verses cold. He aced the competition and was the clear winner, but in the end the trophy was awarded to the son of the pastor. Loyal never forgot, nor healed from, that wound; and he never set foot in another church.
For Moses, it likely had to do with the Israelites who taunted him after he killed the Egyptian guard (Exodus 2:14), or maybe it had deeper roots in his adoption into Pharaoh’s household.
Stuart Briscoe once said that the qualifications of a pastor are the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the skin of a rhinoceros. I get it, but I don’t know many qualified pastors – or other people for that matter.
Moses was no dummy. He knew that in such an outlandish plan rejection was likely. And he was right. But God didn’t promise him – or us – immunity from rejection. What he says to Moses is different: “What is that in your hand?” (4:2)
In other words, start with what you’ve got. If you start playing “What if” games (which is what Moses starts doing here), there is no end to that slippery slope of worry and doubt. God directs Moses attention to the present only. If he throws down his plain old shepherd’s staff, God’s power will transform it.
It’s what God is able to do, not what Moses might not be able to pull off, that’s important. It reminds one of Jesus in the countryside with thousands of hungry people. How are we possibly going to feed all these people? the disciples cry.
“You give them something to eat,” Jesus says calmly.
But that’s impossible!
“How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6) What is that in your hand?
When we place what little we have – or what little we are, or what little we’ve been reduced to – in the hands of the God of the Universe, anything is possible.