Avoidance Tactics

When parents want to emphasize to their child the need for obedience, they may say, “no ‘if’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’! ISometimes I needed such direction as I was growing up. Although children can develop skill in giving excuses, the determined mom or dad sees through these tactics. We will notice that God’s children can also use avoidance tactics when called upon to do their heavenly Father’s will.

Looking into the life story of Moses again, we focus on the episode of his call by God at the burning bush. Forty years had passed since he had heard those stinging words of rejection from his countryman, “Who made YOU to be ruler over us?” Moses’ self-sufficiency had evaporated like the dew in the Sinai wilderness. However, in God’s providence the time had come to fulfill His promise to Abraham and deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage (see Gen. 15:12-16). Their cruel slavery caused the Israelites to cry out to God for deliverance and He heard their prayers.

God could have acted independently of a human agent, but that is not His usual method of operation. He condescends to use human vessels, so His work is done in and through His people. Exodus 3:3-5 records,

“Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.'” God announced to Moses that He would deliver Israel from Egypt; they would worship God on Mt. Horeb, and be led into the Promised Land.[1]

Notice how Moses attempted to evade this awesome calling with some “buts”: “BUT Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11). Moses felt unqualified for such an impossible mission and his reaction was not unique. (When called by the Lord, Gideon felt too insignificant, Isaiah felt too guilty, and Jeremiah felt too young! Judges 6:15; Isaiah 6:5; Jer. 1:6.) Moses was to learn that God wanted his availability, not his ability. Later Moses complained, “BUT I’m not eloquent” (Exodus 4:10). God reminded Moses that He makes us with the capacities we do or do not have. The issue is, what are we going to do with what we have been given?

Jessie Penn-Lewis noted,

“The sketch that God had drawn out of His plan of operations looked simply impossible. Bring them up out of Egypt into a land now occupied by other nations! and he, one man, with no resources, no influence, no means, no co-worker! Impossible! But God can do impossible things! It matters not how great the scheme if God draws it out; it matters not how insurmountable the difficulties appear, if God undertakes the responsibility.”[2]

Moses also used some “ifs.” “WHAT IF they ask me to identify Your name?” (Exodus 3:13). God revealed Himself as the eternal, self-existent God who made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the I AM! Later Moses hedged, “But WHAT IF the leaders of Israel don’t believe me?” (Exodus 4:1). God answered this concern too. Moses was given three signs to perform in the presence of his people. The staff would become a snake, his hand would become leprous, [these signs were reversible] and water from the Nile would become blood on the ground.

After God’s words of confirmation and reassurance, Moses finished off with an “and.” Literally: “AND he said, ‘O my Lord, send, I pray You, by the hand (of him whom) You will send'” (Exodus 4:13). Moses was not willing to say “yes”, so he implied a “no”! God already had plan B in place since He is sovereign. Aaron would be Moses’ mouthpiece and Moses would miss God’s best arrangement.

Do we settle for second best -or miss out on God’s mission for us altogether–because of excuses? There may be a basis for natural worries and concerns, but excuses mask a heart which is unwilling to surrender to God’s will and trust His sufficiency.

We can also deceive ourselves with “hyper humility”: “O, God can’t use me because …” Of course, real humility is vital; I must give credit to those who make me what I am, not overestimating myself, but thinking soberly (Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 4:7). But “hyper humility” is really self-rejection and/or unbelief in disguise. Instead we need to affirm,

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:31-34).

The burning bush was both a sign and an object lesson. Major Ian Thomas imagines how God wished to get this across to Moses,

“‘If this bush that you have admired were depending on its own substance to sustain the flame, it too would burn itself out in 24 hours; it too would be a heap of ashes like you. But it is not the bush that sustains the flame, it is God in the bush; and any old bush will do! ‘ … Did you ever come to the place where you presented yourself for what you are–nothing–to be filled with what He is– everything –and to step out into every new day, conscious that the eternal I AM is all you need, for all His will?”[3]

Let us find our adequacy in God’s grace and obey His calling. He commissions us to cooperate with Him in the great work He is doing in these last days. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

Prayer: Our Father, we rejoice that we know You by name. Encourage us to stop hiding behind excuses. We respond to Your call, depending on Your enablement. In Christ, amen.

Lessons from the life of Moses. Part 2 of 4.


[1] “Sinai is mentioned, as a desert and a mountain, in 35 passages of the Old Testament. In 17 passages the same desert and mountain are called ‘Horeb,’ or ‘the waste.’ … applying both to the ‘Mount of God’ and to the desert of Rephidim, some 20 miles to the Northwest.”-I.S.B.E.

[2] Jessie Penn Lewis, Face to Face. (CLC), p.24

[3] Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ. (Zondervan), p.70.

Copyright 1999 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Please credit GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Honorable Mention

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