Sound Words, March 31, 2019

Sound Words, March 31, 2019

Inadequate, Inactive, Inexcusable

Why do Christians hesitate to speak the word of God they know is truth? It seems silly to suppose that saints who have been saved by faith in and obedience to the word of the Sovereign Lord would skirt situations in which they might spread that saving truth. Still, saints stay silent. And while there are, presumably, many reasons for this reluctance, perhaps one of the most prominent is a feeling of inadequacy. In short, we just feel that we are not good enough to speak for our Savior. We do not have the skill, the experience, or the confidence to confront and counter the dominant voices of our society. And maybe we are correct in our assessments of ourselves. Nevertheless, God’s prophet Moses serves as an illustration of how the Lord, as a limitless leader, consistently supersedes the limitations of His servants.

Moses’ encounter with God demonstrates that inadequacy is not an excuse; in fact, it is a given. The first response Moses gives to God’s marching orders is a self-deprecating confession of littleness in his own eyes. Moses objects, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NASB) Notably, God offers no assurance to the contrary. Instead, God simply reassures, “Certainly I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12 NASB). Although Moses utters his statement in a fruitless attempt to excuse himself from God’s directive, his assumption is accurate. Moses himself is no one special, and even if the account read differently, if we found Moses boasting of his prowess, he would prove only that he was blind to the human condition, for truly “we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14 NASB). Thus, God does not accept our frailties and inadequacies as excuses, since our limitations only prove that we are human—something our Creator knows very well.

In reasoning with Moses, then, God shifts the focus away from human weakness to divine strength. Moses again objects, “I have never been eloquent,” yet God responds, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:10-11 NASB) Try as we might to employ the same reasoning as Moses, we must recognize that no excuse Moses could offer would ever alter the reality that God defined the parameters of his very existence. God is intimately familiar with the limitations of our minds and bodies, including our tendency to limit the Lord of heaven and earth to what our feeble minds can conceptualize. Nevertheless, God again reassures, “I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Exodus 4:12 NASB). In the end, the issue is not whether we are strong enough; we most certainly are not. Rather, the question is whether we will accept the fact that God’s strength is enough.

The juxtaposition of Moses and God in this dialogue highlights the fact that God is not at all inadequate. God makes it clear to Moses from the beginning that it is His will to bring salvation to the Hebrew slaves. He says to Moses, “I have come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:8 NASB). God never indicates that any power but His own will be responsible for the mission’s success. God continues, “I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10 NASB).  Consistently, God communicates to Moses that it is not his fragile back but divine shoulders that bear the weight of this monumental task. The Israelites were God’s people, the deliverance of God’s design. Therefore, God was not misplacing trust in an inexperienced spokesman and leader because God was not placing any trust in Moses at all. Quite the opposite, God was appealing to Moses to place his trust in One for whom nothing is impossible.

Although the recognition of one’s own inadequacy is a healthy deterrent to self- reliance, there abides yet a more significant truth: God’s work never fails. Realizing that we are not strong enough by ourselves to accomplish the work God gives us is good, insofar as it leads us to lean on the counsel, strength, and guidance of the Lord. But acknowledging our dependent nature is pointless if we forget the fact that God always accomplishes what He purposes. God pronounces this clearly in the writings of Isaiah, “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11 NASB) We see this truth illustrated in the story of the Exodus, as God foretells the rebelliousness of Pharaoh, miraculous judgment and deliverance, and the riches with which the children of Israel would exit Egypt (Exodus 3:19-22). All these things happened according to God’s will and according to His word. And it is this truth we must remember if we are to place our confidence in the Lord, who boasts a perfect success rate in all He purposes to do.

Paul understood these lessons that we learn from Moses’ encounter with God, that though man is limited, God is not. He writes to the saints in Corinth, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NASB) On the one hand, no human may boast sufficiency for the service of our heavenly King. On the other hand, no human need obsess over the reality of personal weakness when providential strength eternally ensures that God’s will is done. God regularly equips the inadequate to accomplish the unthinkable. Therefore, we have no remaining excuse for failing to heed our calling as servants who would speak for God. And since there are no excuses, let us stop trying to make them.

BJ Young (2019-03-31)

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