Call to Ministry Series: #6 You May Have Wondered Why I Called
June 13, 2012
Read Exodus 3:7-10
Most introductory words to those called in the Bible begin with a simple "and he said" or "and the Lord said." So begins the explanatory and preparatory word to Moses from the Lord. God has observed the working conditions of the Israelites in Egypt. Their condition is described as "misery," "suffering," and "oppression." The Israelite cry over their plight has come to the Lord and he has decided to step in. In fact, he has selected Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and to the land of Canaan.
The first two chapters of the book of Exodus depict how a new Egyptian dynasty had come to power, one "not knowing Joseph" (Ex 1:8), and the relationship with the Israelites slid downhill rapidly. Fear will destroy most relationships. The Egyptians feared the growing strength of the Israelites so they introduced forced labor, with difficult quotas for prescribed work, and infanticide, the killing of newborn males. How long this oppression festered or if it was sporadic or constant is unclear, but we are told that it extended from Moses' birth through his first eighty years. He had witnessed the Egyptian cruelty himself and had killed over it, fleeing for his life when the deed came to light (Ex 2:11-15). After forty years absence from Egypt, God tells him he wants Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom. Their need is clear.
God's words to Moses remain general at this point in the story. He is told that he has been selected to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and away from their misery, but no further instructions are given. He is not told how to approach the departure from bondage other than he is to go to Pharaoh, nor is he told that he will need to introduce compelling natural and supernatural plagues to persuade Pharaoh, nor is he instructed on how to proceed through the wilderness to the land of Canaan with the huge mass of people. Further instructions will come in time, but at this point Moses simply receives his marching orders.
It is clear that God sees the need and wants to address it through Moses. An important part of God's instructions stems from the revelation of the need as God sees it. The person called receives insight into divine perspectives on whatever the need is. In Moses' case, he already knew from personal experience.
If biblical accounts prove instructive, the needs that God seeks to meet can vary quite widely. They can range from political oppression to spiritual myopia. In fact, due to this lack of instruction other oppressed peoples have used the exodus account to apply to their situation, from the plight of slaves in the western world in England and the United States to the conditions found in central and South America. Liberation theology uses the Moses story as a primary hermeneutic for liberation from oppression. Even feminist theology alludes to the Moses story as a model for God's desire to speak against oppression by a male-dominated society.
The means to answer the call can span from military prowess to prophetic office. In today's world the needs can vary just as widely and can be met by a wide variety of roles. The common factor remains the human factor; God calls people to meet the need.
Moses' call is one of leadership, a leadership that will take on many dimensions over time, including military leadership, administrative leadership, and spiritual leadership. In chapter three, he dons the "deliverer's" mantle that will start him on the road to becoming one of history's pivotal characters.
God provided some simple instructions to start Moses on his leadership journey. God will give instructions or guidance with the call, even though it may be a general word to start. Most biblical passages communicate clear instructions of what God wants in general terms. It may be a leadership role in delivering an oppressed people or a prophetic voice that is doomed to fail or a targeted people group as large as all non-Jews (the Gentiles). But it will be at least a general word that clarifies something of what God's call will entail.
The specifics will come later in the journey. Moses did not know anything about the grumblings of the people he would lead which was probably a good thing.
In fact, instructions may continue throughout the ministry of the person. The words of encouragement to Moses after his initial failure with Pharaoh (Exo 6:2-8) or, for that matter, to Joshua after Moses' death (Josh 1:1-9) could be understood as further instructions from God for the tasks ahead. We will see several possible instances where additional instructions change a person's life and direction.