On Career-Ending Failures and New Beginnings

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June 21, 2018

Exodus 3:11-14; 4:1-3, 10-13

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 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.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

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Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

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10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

CONSIDER THIS

I get a fair amount of reader email. I got a note a couple of weeks back excoriating me for construing God’s in-person conversation with Abraham as prayer. You remember the one, where Abraham seems to bargain with God over how many righteous people it would take to justify sparing Sodom from destruction. The reader thought this preposterous—that a face to face conversation between God and Abraham could be remotely related to prayer.

The underlying assumption seems to be that for prayer to be prayer, a person must be addressing a God who is somewhere other than, well, “right here, right now.”

We find ourselves in another extended negotiation; this time between God and Moses. Moses’ moment, which surely he thought had passed, now presents itself again. Here we have an Israelite, miraculously spared from genocide as an infant, who grew up with all the privileges of a son in Pharaoh’s palace. Imagine the promise and sense of destiny Moses once possessed. Then he killed the Egyptian slave master and along with that, his future. For the next forty, count them, forty years, he wandered around behind a herd of sheep on the plains of Midian. “What a waste,” his former friends and colleagues must have remarked to one another when talking about Moses.

I used to think it remarkable how Moses could so disqualify himself from God’s clear calling and assignment for his life. As I look at it now, I see it differently. Of course Moses felt disqualified. I see him back then as a defeated man. At least his responses tell that story:

Who am I . . . what shall I tell them . . . What if they do not believe me or listen . . . I am slow of speech and tongue . . . Please send someone else. 

Permit me a moment of pastoral intervention into what could be the lives of a considerable number of readers out there. No matter what failure (moral or otherwise), squelched calling, squandered opportunity or missed moment may scream from your history, your future remains as bright as the promises of God (to borrow a phrase from the late great Adoniram Judon). God is not done with you.

Moses, whose life was derailed by a moral failure of epic proportions—breaking the most egregious command he would later receive—became the most towering figure in the history of the world, second only to Jesus.

Maybe you walked off the playing field a long time ago. Might it be time to get back in the game? Your next and perhaps most important assignment of all could be a prayer away.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now.  Thank you for never giving up on us. Thank you that you are bringing to completion the good work you have begun in me. Forgive me for disqualifying myself. Thank you that my worthiness comes from you and not from myself.                                                                                                                                      Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Do you see prayer as necessarily speaking to a God who is distant? Why not right here, right now?
  2. How do you see yourself in Moses?
  3. What do you feel disqualifies you from receiving a calling or assignment from Jesus? Are you ready to let that go?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed’s Sower-in-Chief.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for your consistency in bringing God into the everyday lives of individuals! It is what I like most about the Daily Text. The individual and their relationship to/with God on a daily basis is a concept that is quickly becoming extinct in the progressive hierarchy of The United Methodist Church.

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