“Sink or Swim You Gotta give it a Whirl”
Some time back, John Michael Montgomery wrote a song called ‘Life’s a Dance.” The first verses says,
When I was fourteen I was falling fastFor a blue eyed girl in my homeroom classTrying to find the courage to ask her outWas like trying to get oil from a waterspoutWhat she would have said I can't sayI never did ask and she moved awayBut I learned something from my blue eyed girlSink or swim you gotta give it a whirl
I love the line. “Sink or swim you gotta give it a whirl.” This motto reminds me of the road travelled by Moses in the Old Testament.
Burning Bush Moments
When Moses was born, the Pharaoh of Egypt had made the decision to kill all of the male children of the Hebrews in order to control their population. He was afraid that they would outgrow the Egyptians and then take over. Moses’ mother and maid servant hid Moses in a basket and floated him down the river when he was a baby. He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted Moses. He was actually nursed by his own mother. When Moses was a bit older, he witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew so Moses, in anger killed him. The next day Moses say two Hebrews fighting and when he stepped in to break up the fighting, the two guys told him he had no right to scold them after killing the Egyptian. Knowing that the truth was out, Moses fled to Midian, where he met his wife and became a shepherd. Exodus 3 begins the story of God telling Moses what he intends to do about the situation,
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."[i]
Moses is out minding his own business; he now has a wife and a family. He is working for his father and law and then he walks past a bush that is on fire, but not being consumed. He is very curious about this, so he walks up to take a closer look. When he does, God calls out of the fire. God proceeds to tell Moses what he wants to do and he invites Moses to be the leader.
One thing that is clear from this passage is that God is not hiding his plans from Moses. He has gone out of his way to show Moses what he is about to do. Part of me wonders how long it actually took God to get Moses attention. He may have walked past a number of things before he noticed God. God DOES NOT hide his will from us, rather God seems to go out of the way to help us know it.
As David Harr said to me while I was writing this sermon, “I wonder how many burning bushes we walk past all the time.” We have to understand that God is in the business of bringing liberation through burning bush moments all the time. I am convinced that God continually calls us to liberation and calls us to bring liberation to others all the time through burning bush moments. We need to open our eyes to see these moments so that we can work with God in being liberated and liberating others.
The interesting thing about Moses is that even after God speaks to him, plain as day, in a bush that is on fire, he still comes up with a list of reasons why he cannot commit. Of coarse God has an answer for them all. Notice,
Moses says he is unworthy of the task 3:11 God says he will be with him 3:12
Moses does not know much about God 3:13 God tells him who he is 3:14-22
Moses says the people will not listen 4:1 God will provide signs 4:2-9
Moses says he is incompetent 4:10 God will send Aaron to help 4:12
Moses asks God to send someone else 4:13 God will be with him 4:14-16[ii]
From this chart, it is clear that Moses was wrestling with the things God is telling him and for good reason. Moses had just made a life for himself and has a family. God is telling him to give it all up and do these new things. I have heard this type of this called “A Crises of Belief.”[iii] Moses now has a huge choice to make and he is not going to make a change without a fight. However, God counters all of the doubts that Moses has so that Moses agrees to do what God wants him to do.
As Moses takes this charge from God, he does not have success. As a matter of fact, his very first meeting with Pharaoh was a near disaster. Moses, along with Aaron meet with Pharaoh and tell him that God has sent them to tell Pharaoh to “let the Hebrews go,” to which Pharaoh responds by making their work load harder. The Hebrews then turn on Moses and Aaron because their actions have just made matters worse.
Can you imagine the frustrations of Moses. God has just spent two chapters building up his confidence just to turn around and allow him to fail in front of Pharaoh and to be discredited by the very people he wants to help. Amazingly, this will be only one of many such disappointments and failures. Each time though, God comes back to encourage Moses. In chapter six, God tells Moses to wait and see, that he will fulfill his promise and that he will be Moses’ God.
It is so easy to allow life’s small disappointments, frustrations, and failures to get in the way of us accomplishing God’s desires in the world through us. Not long ago a college student and good friend came by my office to talk about a couple of things. It was more like a casual conversation than me giving her advice. As we were talking, she mentioned to me that she was having a difficult time deciding what God wanted her to do with her life. As she continued on, she told me that she really believed God was calling her to work as a teacher in the Dominican Republic. This person has been to the Dominican Republic a couple of times and really developed a passion for the kids there. This calling made a lot of sense to me given her history there.
The problem she was having was that her major in college was not education. In order to be able to teach, she was going to have to make some tough decisions like changing her major or getting a second major. She may have to even get a masters degree. The problem is not that she does not want to do this work. If you know this person, she is a very hard worker. The problem she is running into is that she cannot get anyone at UTC to help her figure out what she needs to do.
As a result, she has been doubting this calling to go to the Dominican Republic that she so clearly felt God calling her to a short time ago. She is feeling a bit of the discouragement that Moses and Aaron felt when the calling they were so assured of suddenly seemed to be heading a to dead end.
I do want to encourage her and anyone else this morning that just because there may be some moments of sinking or some roadblocks in the way, which does not mean God is closing the door. God could have the door cracked and just want you to push a little. Don’t let failures stand in the way of doing what God is calling you to do. Understand that God will be faithful to his promise for you.
Michael Jordan once said, “If you're trying to achieve something, there will be roadblocks. I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around.” I believe God is calling us to follow him on the road he has for you and there will be roadblocks, but know that God will fulfill his promises if we will follow him through the roadblocks.
I believe in some way, God is calling each one of us to be a Moses to someone or in some circumstance. I believe we are all called to walk down the road of liberation. I also believe the main reason we are quick to give up is because we often want to see instant results. When we do not see our efforts pay off overnight, we quickly loose home. We have to understand that God’s promises are fulfilled over time when we take the long haul. We have to be patient as we follow God.
The book of Hebrews tells is that by faith Moses left Egypt because “he saw him who is invisible.” I want to submit to you this morning that those who follow God call in their lives, in the both the big and small things, do so not because they know the going will never get tough, but because they see the “one who is invisible.” They recognize that they may sink and they may fail in the short term, but they are not afraid to follow God because they will eventually swim when God fulfills his promises of redemption.
[i] TNIV Exodus 3:1-10
[ii] Chart info comes from Terence E. Fretheim, Interpretation: Exodus, ed. James Luther and Patrick Miller Jr. *John Knox Press: Louisville, 1946) 52.
[iii] The study book Experiencing God uses this language to describe the process we go through when we hear God’s will and have to make the decision to change our wills to fit Gods.