Digging in Deeper: Exodus 3:11-12

“But Moses asked God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He answered, ‘I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever felt unworthy of the situation you are in? Every now and then I’ll have one of those out-of-body moments when everything is going really well, and I’ll suddenly be struck by the feeling that I’m really just an actor playing a part written by somebody else to make a really compelling story. Who am I that I should be experiencing all of these good things? Who am I that I should get to have this position or to enjoy these blessings? When God told Moses what He wanted him to do, this is how he responded to it as well. Let’s talk about what’s going on here.

Think about the last time you had one of those days when it did not turn out at all like you expected. Moses was having one of those days. He had gotten up that morning the same way he had hundreds of times before. He had probably been out with the sheep for several days or even weeks, grazing them in a place that was perhaps far from his home. That’s part of being a sheep rancher. You have to move them around on a pretty regular basis. They clean out one area of land, and then you move them to another. We don’t know if Moses had other people with him on this particular journey – he probably did because of the dangers of traveling alone then – but he was doing the same things he always did.

The day started out like any other day too. He followed the sheep while they grazed, occasionally calling to some and crooking others that tried to wander off in directions he knew weren’t good for them to go. Then, out of nowhere, he sees a burning bush that isn’t burning. Then, from out of the bush, a voice calls out his name, identifies itself as God, and tells him that he is going to be the one to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to a new land God had chosen for them. To belabor the point just a bit longer: this was not how Moses expected this day to go.

We’ve already talked about Moses’ early life and his difficult adjustment to what became his new reality. And here, just as he was thoroughly settled into things as they were going to be for the rest of his life (he was almost 80 at this point), here comes God telling him that He is going to send him back to do the thing he had wanted to do before but at which he failed rather miserably when he tried the first time. Moses’ reaction was probably right on point with what yours or mine would have been.

What now? You want me to do what? Where? Really? Are you sure? Why me?

Now, as we are going to see over the next few days, Lord willing, while Moses’ response here was the right one, it probably came from more of a place of doubt than genuine humility. The process of building up his humility muscle to the point that he was eventually given the title of the most humble man on the face of the earth (we can talk later about whether he gave himself that title or a later editor added it in) would take a few more years. Here, though, he was just insecure. He was, in fact, almost sinfully insecure. Again, we’ll explore that more later. For now, this really was the right response.

Who am I, Lord?

God’s response is really interesting. He doesn’t build Moses up. In most cases, our response when someone asks a question of their personal value is to build them up. We tell them all the good things about them we can think of. We tell them how they make the lives of the people around them better. We will even go so far as to tell them why they are better than the people around them. We inflate their sense of worth as best as we can. This, however, is a false inflation and a fool’s errand. God doesn’t do it with Moses.

God’s response to Moses’ question of worth is to tell him that He will be with him. The Hebrew is actually stronger than just that. My translation phrases it, “I will certainly be with you.” The idea is that God is going to be with him in a special way. In other words, Moses isn’t worthy of the task God is setting before him. God is going to use him anyway. His worth will come from the God who is sending him and will empower him with His presence.

This theme of God’s being the source of Moses’ worth continues into His revelation of the sign that this whole endeavor is going to be from God: “When you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.” Notice there is no doubt on God’s part regarding the success or failure of this task. He doesn’t say, “if this happens you will worship,” but rather “when it does.” You will know this was all me and that I chose rightly when you bring everybody back here and worship me. In other words, it’s not going to have anything to do with you. It’s going to have everything to do with me.

There is a truth here we dare not miss. None of us is worthy of what God wants to accomplish in and through our lives. In fact, none of us is worthy of anything more than judgment and punishment for our sinful rebellion against the holy and righteous God who created us. That we receive anything other than that at any given point in our lives does not reveal something of significance about us, but rather about the God who stays His hand. It reveals His profound graciousness and patience and love. No, our worth as creatures does not come from us. It comes entirely from the one who made us.

That’s true more broadly, by the way. The worth of a particular thing doesn’t come from the thing itself. There is nothing in this world that is inherently possessed of great worth. Worth comes only and always from external sources. A thing is merely a thing. Its worth comes from the estimation of the things around it. In our case, our worth comes from our being valued by our Creator. Because the Creator values us, we have value. Period. To put that yet another way: He is the one with inherent value. We have value because He has extended His value to us. We have worth because He has declared it.

This idea is radically countercultural today. In a world that is desperately searching for meaning and value and which actively and even aggressively tells people their worth is inherent and thus should be honored as such, this offers up a narrative that diverges sharply. It is offensively divergent, in fact, to people who have been trained well in our cultural narrative. Yet when we compare the fruits of our culture’s narrative of worth to the one we see being crafted here, the results could not be more different from one another.

Those who tune in to the world’s narrative that they are inherently worthy nonetheless continue to desperately seek out affirmation of their value. If our worth really is inherent, then why do we have so many lingering doubts about our worth? When we don’t feel worthy, we have to get the people around us affirm it instead. This is why you see so many social media posts that are essentially cries for affirmation. The likes and attaboys and affirming comments we receive are morsels for our hungry souls, but they never fill us for long. We have to get more. And if we don’t get them, if the world doesn’t respond with an affirmation of our inherent value, we quickly start to go down an even darker path that does not have any happy endings at its conclusion.

For those who accept the narrative of the Scriptures that our worth is from God, and that His valuation of us is already set in stone, though, the results are entirely different. They walk around with an unshakable confidence in who they are. This confidence can be perceived as pride by those who don’t understand it and don’t have it for themselves. Yet while they are not immune to drifting into pride, this confidence actually comes out of a deep and profound humility. This is because they know their value is not inherent. They know further where their value lies, and they trust in His estimation. These folks live their lives with a deep sense of gratitude. They don’t need the affirmations of others even as they welcome them when they are accurate and true. They don’t fear criticism, and are able to quickly discern false criticism from true criticism, rejecting the former while graciously receiving the latter and leaning into the Holy Spirit to help them make necessary changes.

So then, here’s the answer to the question: You are someone who is infinitely valued by the Creator of the universe. He made you as a perfectly unique individual to bear His image in a special way that nobody else in the world can do. In spite of your sin, He loved you so much that He sent His Son to die in your place so that you don’t have to, but can instead live forever with Him in His eternal kingdom in a glorified body and renewed heart and mind and spirit, fully formed into who He made you to be in the beginning. When you know that, much of the rest of this world will fall into place from there.

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