“Who Gave Man His Mouth?” Series: “Questions God Asks”
August 5, 2018
If there’s anything that comes naturally to us as human beings it is the fine art of manufacturing a good excuse. The truth of the matter is that coming up with a good excuse is as natural as breathing air. That’s because each of us has a will, and when circumstances converge that frustrate our hearts’ desire, we immediately churn out a good excuse not to do whatever it is that we really aren’t passionate about doing.
Of course, some excuses are better than others, and in my years of doing church work I think I have heard them all, both good and bad. So, what’s the one excuse I’ve heard that to me has made more sense than any other over the years? It’s the one that has to do with not being talented in a certain area so that our being put in a certain place where we might be over our heads and not up to the task would inevitably lead to embarrassment and ruin. But in order to save face when it comes to our limitations, we often express our regrets along the lines of “When they were handing out singing gifts or speaking gifts or teaching gifts (you get the picture), I must have been in another line.” And who can argue with eloquence like that? Well, evidently God can.
Our text this morning comes from a most familiar part of the Bible, the book of Exodus. In the fourth chapter God appears to Moses on the back side of nowhere to summon him to return to Egypt and represent God’s people before Pharaoh, demanding that Pharaoh release the people from their bondage in the land.
As is so often the case in Scripture, God shows up in dramatic fashion – on this occasion in a burning bush. When Moses hears God’s call, he immediately balks, and with good reason. Moses has his picture in all the post offices in Egypt because of how in his anger he had killed an Egyptian overlord he had seen abusing an Israelite slave. God responds to Moses’ hesitation by turning his shepherd’s staff into a snake and then back into a staff, whereupon God tells him that from that point on Moses will weld the staff of God in ways that will be used of God to set His people free.
You would think Moses would have caved over such a demonstration of power, but he doesn’t. He persists in his excuses. “O Lord,” he says to God, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The implication is that there are many more people who are far more qualified than he.
But God is not deterred. Moses is His man and God sees something in Moses that Moses cannot see in himself, which is the meaning behind God’s arresting question: “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” What God wants Moses to see is that if God calls a person to a certain task God will also provide that person with whatever means will be necessary in order to accomplish it.
When I read this story, the one word that jumps out at me is the word “give.” “Who gave?” “Who gives?” The story invites you and me to see that each of our talents and abilities is ultimately a gift from God. We don’t manufacture talent. We might develop, but there has to be something in place for us to work on, and that something comes to us from above and is intended to be used to accomplish God’s sovereign purpose. That is why when God calls a person to a specific task, God has already gifted that person with abilities that person might not have yet recognized he or she possesses, and whatever else it is that person might need to accomplish that task, God has promised to provide and is capable of providing it.
We see this truth throughout Scripture. We not only see it in the story of Moses, we see it as well in the story of the shepherd boy David, who slays the giant Goliath and grows up to be the ruler that leads the nation of Israel to its greatest glory. We see it in the disciples of Jesus, that motley crew of fishermen and tax collectors that Jesus called to join him in bearing witness to the Kingdom of Heaven, whose were empowered at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit to turn the world upside down. We see it in the Apostle Paul, who at one time was “Public Enemy Number One” of the church, but who met the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus and became a missionary to the Gentiles. It was Paul who in his letter to the Philippians, which he wrote from a Roman prison, assured his readers that “my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Have you found that to be the case in your life? Have you seen the many ways in which God’s abundance makes up for our shortcomings and His power compensates for our weaknesses? Sometimes we limit ourselves by focusing on our numerous deficiencies instead of focusing on the joy that is possible when we concentrate on God’s unlimited strength. How did one person put it? “We all have gifts; it’s just that some of us haven’t bothered to unwrap them yet.” In other words, some of us have yet to trust God’s call to the extent that we lean upon God’s promise to do for us what in our own hearts we know we could never do for ourselves. But what is faith, other than leaning upon God’s promise to do a work in our lives that only God could make possible?
So, how do we get to that place where we learn to trust God’s promise and locate our purpose more in God’s power than our own? Here’s what the story of Moses teaches us. You begin by learning to surrender your deficiencies to God along with your abilities. Each day you own up to the excuses that are keeping you from joining God in the redemptive work that He is about and you begin to imagine how His grace in Jesus Christ can offset the places where you feel unqualified and inadequate. “I’m not old enough,” or “I’m too old.” Age has nothing to do with obedience. God uses people both you and old to advance His Kingdom purposes day in and day out. “I’m not smart enough,” or “I’m not rich enough.” God has always chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and has promised that the poor in spirit are in a perfect place to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. “There are other people who are more talented than I am.” Yes, there are. But the beautiful thing about the work that God does is that there’s a place for each of us and when we pool our abilities together we can do amazing things to advance the cause of Christ.
Can you do that this morning? Can you begin to trust your deficiencies to God along with your abilities so that God’s power might be perfected in your weakness and His glory displayed in your ordinariness?
We’re getting closer and closer to the beginning of another school year, where so many students get another chance to be reminded of what they do not know. I love the story of the young student who was taking a test in his American history class and was stumped by this question: “Name a distinguished foreigner who was a substantial source of aid to the American colonists during the Revolutionary War.” Of course, the answer to the question was the Marquis de Lafayette (or as they say down in Chambers County, “La-Fayette”). But try as he might, this student just couldn’t come up with the name. (We’ve all been there, haven’t we?) Still drawing a blank as the papers were being collected, the student in desperation remembered his grandmother’s admonition “to try God,” And so he scribbled as his answer, “It was God!”
He probably didn’t get credit for that answer, but perhaps he should have. Because when any of us finds himself or herself in a place where we need a lot of help, there is no better source to which we can turn than to God and what God gives and what God provides in an otherwise seemingly impossible situation.
So, what is it that God is calling you to do? Whatever it is, God is sufficient. Trust God by taking some specific and positive step of obedience, which will ultimately require you to lean upon Him more than upon yourself. Only then will you be blessed and only then will God be glorified.