I’m preaching about Moses on Sunday. That’s hardly front-page news, because I’ve done it before. Many times.
But what do you say about Moses if you’ve preached about him before, if over the years you’ve more than covered the subject?
Preachers will know the answer to this question.
What happens is that you come back to an old story and – this happens nearly every time – you find something new, a whole new angle on an old, old story. You think, “I’ve been hearing this story since I was a child in Sunday School, and how could I have missed that?”
I know the Moses story pretty well. I like it too, which means that I’ve used it in my preaching many times over the years because preachers always turn to their favorite stories. But this week I saw something that I’m pretty sure I had never seen before.
What often happens in these situations is that the new insight comes from somewhere else – a book, a conversation with a friend, just about anywhere. For me this week it was reading what a friend, a fellow preacher, noticed in the Moses story, and as soon as I read it, I thought, “That’s brilliant.” (I even emailed him to tell him so.)
When Moses told God that he – Moses – wasn’t really up to the job that God had in mind for him, that he wasn’t really a public speaker, that he wasn’t such a good fit as a leader, God did something surprising.
I think I might have expected God to say: “Moses, you’ve got to believe in yourself! You’re smart and good looking. You’re really a very talented person. You’ve got all the gifts you need – and then some. I chose you for this work because I can’t think of a better qualified person.”
But God – I had never noticed this before – doesn’t say that to Moses. God, in fact, seems to agree with Moses in his self-assessment. God seems to say, “You know, I think you’re right. You’re not much. You’re a shepherd, after all, without a lot of prospects for advancement. If it weren’t for a generous father-in-law, you wouldn’t even have this much.”
What makes the story memorable is that God says the one thing Moses most needs to hear, the one thing that most of us need to hear – namely, God’s promise that “I will be with you.”
Why do we imagine that God is like a parent whose child has had a bad day in school: “You’re really smart. You’ll just have to try harder.”
God may well think those things about us (I’m not so sure), but he says the one thing that we most need to hear. “I will be with you.” And in the case of Moses that was enough.
As always, I can’t wait until Sunday.
(Photo: Am back home in Switzerland, looking forward to Sunday and to some hiking.)