“Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Most folks have heard or read the account of Moses. The Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt are two notable examples of films adapted from this account.
This place, the commissioning of Moses, is where the real story begins. The basket in the river? Cool. His mom raising him and being paid by Pharaoh’s daughter to do so? Sweet. Moses trying to stop an Egyptian slave driver from beating an Israelite? Commendable. Misguided in method, but a commendable thought. But Moses being commissioned by God? This is the pivot point in the story. This is where things get seriously crazy for Moses.
I’m going to suggest something that may or may not be totally supported by the text, so take it with a grain of salt (or, y’ know, with Lot’s wife after looking back). I think Moses was lukewarm in his relationship with God while he was in Midian. Here’s why I think so. First, God appears to Moses, but waits for Moses to notice the appearance before speaking. Fast forward to Isaiah and God appearing in the temple and God just starts in on talking. God knew He had Isaiah’s attention, Moses’ attention was somewhat doubtful, I think. Second, his sons are not circumcised. This was—and still is—common practice for Jewish males. It could be argued that Moses didn’t know that it should have been done. But, if that’s the case, why does God get angry with Moses for it? Third, no mention is made—none at all— about Moses worshiping or having set up an altar. I mean, the guy lives with the priest of Midian, but no mention of any sort of relationship with God in the years between “run from Egypt and marry Midianite woman” to “slog back into Egypt to bring out the children of Israel” is made. No mention at all. Fourth, Moses asks God who He is. God tells Moses that He (God) is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and instructs Moses to get his posterior on over to Egypt. Moses responds with, “Who’s sending me?” I know… I know… he’s asking so he can explain to the children of Israel. But the question—to my mind—reveals a lack of familiarity. If Moses had been walking close with God all those years then I think this scene would have read more like:
God turned to Moses and said, “Moses. We’ve been talking a long time now and I have decided that it’s time for you to go free the Israelites.”
Moses thought a moment before nodding and replied, “Will do. I’ll just drop off the flock, pick up the fam, and we can be on our way. Do I need anything specific or should I just get on the road?”
When Isaiah is commissioned, it goes more like:
God: I have a job that needs doing. Who can I send to do it?
Isaiah: Ooo! Me! Pick me!
God: Yes, you, the little scribe down in front.
I’m being flip, to an extent, but it’s about like that to my thinking. Notice that both speak with God and both are commissioned and both fulfill their commission. But Isaiah speaks with God as a matter of course. God appears and Isaiah doesn’t have to be told Who’s in front of him. He faceplants and repents of the words he knows God didn’t like coming out of his mouth. Moses has to be told Who he was dealing with.
What does this have to do with anything? Plenty. See, each of us is commissioned by God to something, even if that something is just the general commission given to all believers in Matthew 28. And many of us, if not all of us, will go through times of not walking as closely with God as we should. We will all, probably, have times when we are lukewarm. This does not mean that God is done working with us or that He is not still trying to get us back into right relationship with Him. In Revelation 3, Jesus calls the church of Laodicea to stop being lukewarm and repent and come back to relationship with Him. The burning bush is, I think, both Moses’ commission and his call out of lukewarm relationship into something far, far more intimate with God. Every Christian is likewise commissioned by God with some task. We may not be sent to rulers or any such thing, but we have work that God wants done and He has chosen us to get it done. And, if there is any merit to the idea that Moses had a lukewarm relationship with God at this point in the story, there is hope for every lukewarm believer who hears their commission and is hesitant to step out because of that distance between them and God. God is near. And we need only take the first step toward Him and we will find Him there with open arms and a return to His work.