20 Questions

A sermon brought forth from Exodus 3:1-14 preached on October 3, 2021

Most likely Moses was minding his own business when he noticed something glowing out of the corner of his eye. This burning bush on holy ground. On fire but not burning up. This fire radiated God’s life and power, and Moses, this shy desert wanderer, couldn’t look away.

“I’m here.” The first two words Moses speaks to this new mysterious presence that has appeared in front of him. Moses had heard of this God, the God of his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that’s about it. Hearing about God is one thing; encountering God, having God speak to you, having a conversation with the divine, is quite different.

“I’m here,” Moses says to this presence. Moses seems to know, or at least have a hunch about, what he’s seeing and who he’s hearing. He knows enough to realize that he’s in the presence of something or someone, really, who requires his complete attention and availability. Right away, Moses seems to know that whoever this God is, this God wants all of him, all his attention, all his life, from the very first moment. In just these first two words, “I’m here,” Moses makes himself available to God. But Moses has conditions.

Moses was a shepherd, a wanderer, and a murderer. He was a loner in a lonely land. No credentials to his name. There was nothing remarkable about him. He was from nowhere, a bit of a lost soul. His mother was an Israelite, but he was raised in Pharaoh’s courts as an Egyptian. Then, he was kicked out of both his families, left to wander the wilderness on his own. Moses belonged nowhere and to nobody. So, when God speaks to Moses and tells him the plans God has for him we can forgive him for thinking that God has the wrong guy. Moses’s life story up to this point reads more like a criminal record than a resumé fit for a messenger of God.

Moses’s next words to God are

“I’m sure you’ve got the wrong person. Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt? I’m pretty sure I’m not the guy for the job. You should do a background check, God, because once you do, I’m pretty sure you’d go with someone else. Who am I that you’ve called me to do this?”

Moses keeps asking that question as if to talk God out of all this. But God doesn’t seem to be interested in what Moses does for a living, what he’s done in the past, or what his qualifications are. That’s not God’s criteria. God comes confidently to Moses. He won’t take No for an answer. Moses throws out 20 excuses, and God answers all of them with some variation on, “Get going. I’m sending you…”

When Moses saw this bush that was on fire but not burning up, he had to find out more.

“I must go over and see this strange sight.”

His curiosity drew him into the presence of God. He couldn’t resist. Maybe it was his curiosity, his ability to attend to the stuff of God, that led Moses into the plans God had for him. It could be that Moses’s curiosity is what drew God toward Moses. Curiosity is a spiritual gift—Paul forgot to mention it in his list of them, but I’m sure it’s one of the most important spiritual gifts. “I must know more,” Moses said.

We have something to learn here. Moses became a part of God’s story because his curiosity drew him into it. However much he tried his best to wiggle himself out of it, he never stopped being curious. And however unsure Moses is in himself means very little to God. God doesn’t call the equipped. Moses assumes that’s how it works. God equips the called. Moses thought he needed to be something more than himself to be good enough for God, but God tells Moses he doesn’t need to be anything. He can be himself. God will be God. Moses will be Moses. And that’s all that God needs to work His way into anyone’s life.

This is not a story about how Moses enters into God’s life. This is a story, one of many, about how God enters our lives and starts something new in us, for us, with us. The world transforms when God enters our stories, and we will be transformed when we become a part of His.

The longer Moses listens to God’s plans for him, the more he regrets making himself available to God. This is where that initial “Here I am” turns into “Who Am I…? I don’t know about this.” Moses starts protesting God’s plan for him. That initial openness and availability suddenly turn into severe self-doubt. If you’ve ever felt in over your head, if you’ve ever given yourself to something only to find out it was way too much for you, then Moses is your spirit animal, and this is your story.

Once God gives him his mission, Moses starts backpedaling.

“God, I’m not sufficient for these things. You don’t even understand how wrong I am for this!”

If we read further, we’d see Moses launch into a litany of excuses about why he’s not who God thinks he is. All these doubts and shortcomings come pouring from his mouth, but for every one of these objections, God makes another promise to him. See, Moses is focused on what he can’t do, while God is focused on what God can do through Moses. Moses is under some mistaken impression that it’s about him, but it’s not. Moses is sufficient not because he’s got the resume to match the job but because God is sufficient and will help Moses each step of the way. If Moses has 20 questions, God has 21 answers.

Here, at this sacred Table we encounter God. It’s God’s presence that makes what happens here holy. We are called to gather around this Table, take our seat. And those called here will be equipped. It’s at this Table that God meets us in ways that not everyone has the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the heart to notice, and the curiosity it takes to come close.

Moses had the devotion to follow and trust something beyond himself more than he trusted anything inside of himself. Here, God wants to pull us out of ourselves and into the life of Christ. Here, God communes with His people, calls us His own and gives us purpose and significance, promises rich provision—milk and honey—and commits Himself to us, walks alongside us.

At this Table, in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the cup, God has the same promise for us that He had for Moses that day:

“I will be with you, and this will be a sign for you…”

Friends, God chooses to be known. Known in this place. Known at this Table.

Are you watching out for burning bushes? Keep your eyes open. God gets the attention of the curious. Curiosity is a spiritual gift that turns all the places beneath our feet into holy ground.

In his book, The Curious Christian, Pastor Barnabas Piper writes,

“Curiosity will lead us deeper into a beautiful relationship with God…Without it, we tread the same paths to and from work and school, in and out of relationships, through our churches, across the pages of books and scripture, all without ever seeing what’s really there. 1

Perhaps the best first question we can ask God is, “I’m here. What’s next?” Then listen for God to answer.

All praises to the One who made it all and finds it beautiful. Alleluia! Amen.