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    Aug 11, 2019

    Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

    Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

    Passage: Exodus 3:1-10

    Speaker: Pat Botelle, Lay Speaker

    We clearly see in God's Word that anything He tells us to do, He will give us the ability to do it. But do we really believe it? Do we want to believe it? It's easier to come up with excuses for why we can't do things that are hard or that we really don't want to do. ~ Joyce Meyer

    Today we continue our look at stories from the Old Testament. There are many stories about Moses in the book of Exodus. Today I’m going to concentrate on God’s call of Moses.

    In one of Pastor Vivian’s sermons on Deborah, she made a statement that caught my attention, Deborah “wasn’t a ‘normal’ choice for a leader, but God doesn’t choose leaders the say way we do. For God, the best leaders are the best servants, and their leadership is grounded by their submission to God.”

    I knew, while I was listening to her sermon, that I would be delivering today’s message about Moses. I wondered, “was this statement true when it came to Moses? “

    Did you know Moses was a murderer? Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s household, but one day he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses killed the Egyptian and, when Pharaoh found out, he sought to kill Moses, so Moses fled to Midian. While in Midian, Moses married and had a family.

    Our scripture lesson today follows these events and sets the stage for Moses’ conversation with God. God had a need: free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. God had a resource: Moses. Now all he had to do was convince Moses to do what was needed.

    Ken Medema composed a piece called “Moses.” The choir has sung this piece several times during my life here at Reisterstown and I was hoping that they would be able to sing it this morning, but as they say, best laid plans, so I have a video with the song that I’m going to share. But first, a little background on Ken Medema:

    From the time he was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1943, Ken has been unable to see with his physical eyes. His sight is limited to distinguishing between light and darkness and seeing fuzzy outlines of major objects. “As a kid I was not widely accepted,” he says, “and I spent a lot of time by myself. Because I have lived with some degree of being different all my life, I have some sympathy for people who have been disenfranchised, whether they have been disabled or politically oppressed or whatever.”

    Music early became a major component of Medema’s life. “I started banging on the piano when I was five years old,” he says, “making up crazy little fantasies on my mom’s piano. When I was eight years old my parents got me a wonderful teacher who taught me the classics with Braille music and taught me to play by ear.” His teacher also taught him to improvise. “Every time I learned a piece my teacher would tell me, ‘Now, you improvise in that style.’ So music became a second language.”[1]
    In 1973, he began performing and recording his own songs while working as a musical therapist at Essex County Hospital in New Jersey. "I had a bunch of teenagers who were really hurting," he says, "and I started writing songs about their lives. Then I thought, 'Why don't you start writing songs about your Christian life?' So I started doing that, and people really responded."[2]

    I’m going to let Ken tell the story of Moses’ conversation with God in his own words. His introduction to the piece references some things we all have probably thought or said when asked to do something, especially if it is something outside our comfort zone.

    "Moses" - Ken Medema in concert at Azusa Pacific University 3/18/13 (Click to watch)

    Now, the story, as told in chapter 3 and part of chapter 4 of Exodus, has a lot more detail than what is in the song, but you get the idea. Moses had a lot of excuses. The more Moses wavered; the angrier God became.

    We all have excuses why we can’t or won’t do something. There is a sermon on by Greg Carr entitled “Stop Making Excuses.” In it, Carr lists five excuses Moses gave God as to why he could not do what God wanted him to do:

    1. I’m not qualified.
    2. I don’t have the knowledge.
    3. I don’t think I can do it.
    4. I don’t have the right gifts.
    5. I don’t want to!

    Sound familiar? Why do we make excuses? What are we really trying to say when we give an excuse? Probably the closest to the truth is number 5 – I don’t want to.

    God didn’t get angry with Moses when he gave him excuses one through four. It was excuse number five that really made God angry. 

    After Moses said, “I don’t want to,” God had Moses throw his staff down on the ground and turned it into a hissing snake.  Why did God do that? To get Moses attention! What did the staff mean to Moses? It was his security blanket, the tool of his trade, his identity and God made him let it go and turned it into something scary. Then Moses pulled back, but God said, “Pick it up, by the tail.”

    In Exodus 4:4, scripture says “Moses reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand.” I’m inclined to think there was a lot more discussion between Moses and God before he actually picked up the snake. Just like us. I think there is usually a lot more discussion with God before we take on something that seems scary to us.

    Scripture is full of references to help us with our doubt, our excuses:

    1. James 1:5-6: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
    2. Matthew 6:33-34: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
    3. Matthew 21:22: And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

    Once Moses picked up the snake, God turned it into a staff again. The important thing to realize is that the staff that Moses now possessed would help him do all the things God needed him to do: bring water from a rock, part the Red Sea, bring down the seven plagues on Egypt, set the Israelites free. The important thing was, as Medema says in the last part of his song, “The rod of Moses, became the rod of God.”

    Back in mid-July, Pastor Vivian reference a book by Adam Hamilton, “The Call – The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul.” In chapter one of the book, Hamilton talks about the puzzle of our lives and how God brings each piece together to form the complete picture.  Hamilton writes, “Think of Moses, who grew up in Pharaoh’s household and thus was the ideal candidate for God to use in liberating the Israelite slaves from Egypt.” (p. 21) But Moses was also a murderer, he left his people and fled to Midian, he married a foreigner, he stuttered, he had no self-confidence, but still God needed him. God took all the pieces of Moses – the good, the bad and the ugly -- and turned them into a complete picture of what God needed.

    Think back to the quote I used from Pastor Vivian at the beginning of the sermon, “For God, the best leaders are the best servants, and their leadership is grounded by their submission to God.” Moses leadership was grounded by his submission to God, but that submission did not come quickly or easily.

    What can God do with you if you are willing to give up your rod and let God turn it into something amazing?

    The last two and half minutes of the choral arrangement of Ken Medema’s “Moses” are very poignant and give me chills each time I hear them, especially when you realize that Medema did not use excuses but decided to share his talent with others. He could have said:

    1. I can’t see.
    2. No one likes me.
    3. My music is not very good.

    But he didn’t. He wrote this piece and many others that inspire, comfort and challenge the listener. Think of what we could do if we didn’t use excuses to get out of what God wants or needs us to do.

     Berkshire Christian College Chorale singing "Moses" (go to 5:30 to listen to the part referenced)


    [1] Ken Medema  Singing our stories, inspiring hearts