“I will be with you”

signs along swiss hiking trails 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.)

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

10 Responses to “I will be with you”

  1. Charles Scouten August 30, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Doug, thank you. That message, “I will be with you.” is the affirmastive we all need to listen for – and hear amid the clatter, chatter, and just plain noise of our lives.

    • Doug August 31, 2014 at 1:09 am #


  2. Mandana Sharifi August 30, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    As always be FAB! (Faith+Action=Blessed) …we miss you …ps had any sushi lately?!! :0) lol



    • Lisa Blake August 30, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

      Thank you for your message. It always amazed me that every Sunday that I came to church you sermon always seemed to be what I needed to hear and now your blog is doing the same. God is good! I am Student teaching in third grade this fall. I need to know that God will be with me!

      Peace to you and your family!


      • Doug August 31, 2014 at 1:07 am #

        Thanks, Lisa. It’s good to hear from you. I usually say in sermons what I need to hear and then hope that a few other people need to hear the same thing. Sounds as though you and I are in the same place right about now.

    • Doug August 31, 2014 at 1:09 am #

      No sushi lately. Not a lot of adjacent oceans to Switzerland! You’ll have to visit and bring some with you. Or try the local Schnitzel. Good to hear from you!

  3. Georgia Hamilton September 2, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Doug, Thanks for the reminder! Each Sunday a minister says, “The Lord be with you,” and we respond, “–and also with you.” Your sermon emphasis gives that so much more meaning for me. Thank you.


  4. Betty Strunk September 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks, Doug. “I will be with you.” sounds like a reminder that God is love. A much needed reminder.

  5. Jack Henke (AnnArbor Rotary and AACRC October 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Doug, We miss you in Ann Arbor! Say “Hello” to Marv and Micki for Donna and me! Jack Henke

    • Doug October 12, 2014 at 12:00 am #

      Miss you too, Jack!