Temptations Moses faced


Imagine for a moment you are Moses.

You made a big mistake when you were young (who hasn't) and skipped town. You fall in love and end up working for your father-in-law because you have no other options. For 40 years you wander the back side of nowhere, chasing sheep. It's a big step down for a palace prince.

One day, tending the sheep, minding your own business, going nowhere, you see a bush burning, but it doesn't burn up. You stop, look and start listening to a voice that speaks to you. God speaks to you - out loud. He tells you he has a purpose for your life that is more than sheep. Go back to Egypt, the voice commands, tell Pharaoh to let my people go. You and God have a pretty major theological discussion. Toward the end of the discussion you hear God's anger rising and decide no one ever out argues God. You decide it might be nice to see Egypt this time of year.

You go and see Pharaoh, who, in an odd way, is sort of a relative (all Southerners understand this). You tell him God's plans, and he is not impressed. After nine plagues and a lot of hard-headedness on his part, you warn him something worse is coming. Pharaoh still isn't listening, and something worse does come and a lot of innocent people die because of him. He decides to let God's people go before his whole kingdom is gone. Your people get paid to get out of town. Before you go very far, Pharaoh changes his mind (again!) and comes after you. God sends a hurricane wind, parts the Red Sea and tells you to get moving. Pharaoh follows, the wind stops, and a lot of soldiers die, because it's hard to swim in armor.

That threat eliminated, you start toward Mt. Sinai, only to discover the people you lead are a big bunch of whiners (they were early Baptists). They complain, God provides, but they aren't picking up that they really can trust God.

When you finally get to Mt. Sinai, you and all the people hear the actual voice of God. It freaks the people out, so they push you forward and say, "You talk to him, and tell us what he said." When you go up to hear what God says, it takes a while. After all, God is building a nation from scratch. There are the basic laws, some discussions about holidays, talk about how to build a place of worship, and so on. While you're getting all this down, the people get restless, and hoodwink Aaron, your older brother, to make some idols. This causes all kinds of trouble, and the partying gets out of hand.

God tells you to step aside, he is going to make short work of these people and start over with you.

Hit pause. Would you be tempted by that offer? I would. No more children of Israel. Now we start the children of Moses. Has a nice ring to it. No more dealing with these hard-headed people. No more decision-making. No more having my older brother and sister giving me that disapproving frown that says, "We could do better." It would be back to simple life. Just you and the Missus, kicking back at the tent flap every evening, watching the grandkids.

Hit play. In a moment of great humility, Moses prays for these aggravating people, that God will spare them and have mercy. God does. There are some clean up details, but before long, you and the people hit the trail, headed for Canaan, the promised land.

When you are at the doorstep of the land God promised, you send in spies. They come back and tell you the land is better than you dreamed, but there is no way our army can beat their army. The people believe these guys and start whining - again. The ones at the front of the crowd pick up rocks to stone you and Aaron. So much for loyalty. God intervenes to save your neck and once again, declares his intention to wipe out this people and start over with you.

Hit pause. Would you be tempted by this second offer? I would. Past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. The road ahead looks like 40 more years of aggravation, suffering for other people's stupid choices.

Hit play. For a second time, you ask God to spare his people. Again, you plead for God to be merciful. Again, God listens. Again, God relents. You realize God must trust you a lot.

Now, stop imagining yourself as Moses. You are just you. How many of your prayers are not for yourself, but for someone else? Are you willing to load more aggravation onto your life so other people get a chance to follow God? What kind of character does it take to ask God to change his plans?

Maybe the best question is not how much you trust God, but how much God trusts you?

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.