Are there times in your life when it feels like fear is all around? Life is never stagnant and sometimes change can be unsettling. The unknown changes can lead to fear that covers us like a shadow keeping us from engaging in life. After my divorce, I feared an unknown future, whether it was moving to a new place, finding a job or even trusting my relationships with friends and family. Finally, at a certain point, I was determined to overcome my fears! To this day, when I feel the fingers of fear creep into my life, saying the words, “I will not let fear win,” gives me the courage and determination to move forward. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing to fear except fear itself.”
If we jump to the Old Testament, we find that these words were used with some well-known characters like Abraham, Hagar, Joseph and Joshua. Each time the words were spoken they could be certain that God was near and working with them to fulfill God’s promises. However, in the case of Moses, instead of God or an angel saying these words, he spoke those words to the Israelites when they were trapped between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian army. The text tells us that the Israelites feared being killed by the Egyptians or at the very least, driven back to the land of their enslavement. But Moses knew God had made a promise to deliver this chosen people from slavery. He did not fear the Red Sea or the Egyptian army. How was Moses so sure about God’s deliverance? Was it because of the signs and wonders he performed for Pharaoh? I don’t think so. I think his belief and confidence in God began at the burning bush.
When you read the story of Moses found in the Book of Exodus you will discover that he was a conflicted soul. Born a Hebrew but raised and educated by Egyptian royalty. When he saw the oppression of his birth family he killed an Egyptian, then for fear of being arrested and killed himself, he fled to another country. In this new country he became a sheepherder, married and raised a family, and nowhere in the text does it say that he found a great faith in God. But that was about to change with the burning bush. At the bush, God tells Moses that he has been chosen to lead the Israelites out of slavery and out of Egypt. Moses balks… Remember, God was sending Moses back to the land in which he was raised and also wanted for murder. I understand his anxiety. According to the text, Moses did not think the people would recognize him as a leader and questioned God saying, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” Then God answered this argument with “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex 3:13-14). He continued to deflect in a number of ways ending with an argument about speaking as an effective leader. Even through some irritation, God countered with an answer for each of his reasons not to serve. Moses’ life was about to change and I believe, like most of us, he was afraid of the unknown. Might he have even considered saying no to God? It is clear to me that the conversation between God and Moses wasn’t one of great faith or trust by Moses and yet he did as God commanded. What changed his mind? I believe Moses saw something in God’s essence that satisfied his fears.
In her book, The Interior Castle, Vol. 2, Teresa of Avila describes the burning bush encounter like this, “Neither was Moses able to relate more than God willed of what he had seen in the burning bush; but unless the Almighty had clearly revealed certain mysteries to his soul, causing it to see and know its God was present, the lawgiver could never have undertaken so many and such great labours. Such sublime revelations were shown him amidst the thorns of the bush as to give him the needful courage for his great deeds on behalf of the Children of Israel.”1. I think Sister Teresa offers us fresh perspective of the relationship between God and Moses. The man chosen by God to lead Israel was flawed and yet God did not throw up the holy hands and go find another more faithful person. God persisted and according to the good sister, revealed to Moses a bit of God’s own heart and soul. To me, this revelation is what changed his reluctant mind and eased his fear of being the leader. Moses would not lead alone but walk with God through the wilderness.
I believe the same is true for us today. Each time we read God’s Word, pray to a listening loving God, the Holy Spirit invites us to learn more about God’s heart and soul. The words, ‘Do not be afraid,” applies to us the same way it did to all of the biblical characters. We do not have to fear because God is working with us in our messes. The same God that chose a flawed Moses to lead a broken people empowers us daily to trust and believe in God’s guiding Spirit. God is faithfully walking beside and working with us on life’s pathway. Remember what Moses said to the people and take comfort that you, like them, are not alone, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for your today…” (Ex. 14: 13a).