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The Losers ClubLessons for the Least Likely Heroes of the Bible
By Jeff Kinley
ZondervanCopyright © 2005 Jeff Kinley
All right reserved.
CAN GOD USE ME?
October 13, 1990, was a red-letter day for the Glascock County High School football team. On that crisp, fall Friday night, the Panthers soundly defeated Long County High 14-0. It was the second time Glascock had beaten Long County that season. But that Friday the 13th proved to be an unlucky day for the team from tiny Gibson, Georgia, as it marked the last time they'd win a game all year. In fact, the Panthers wouldn't win a game the following year ... or any in '92, '93, '94, '95, '96, '97, or '98. Thus began the longest losing streak in the history of Georgia high school football.
Season after season the Panthers struggled, only to lose game after game. With fewer than 100 boys in the entire high school, the "pickins," as they say, were slim. Nevertheless, each Friday night, all 15 players kept giving it all they had. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough. With most boys playing both offense and defense, there just wasn't enough energy in their adolescent bodies to outlast their opponents. They simply couldn't produce a win.
The streak swelled to 87 straight losses.
Now, imagine if through some miracle of time travel, Moses could step out of the Bible and walk into the Panther locker room after one of those heartbreaking losses. Moses might take a knee, look each one of those teenagers in the eyes, and say:
"Boys, I know exactly how you feel."
Now, you remember Moses. He's the guy who delivered Israel from Pharaoh, received the Ten Commandments, wrote the first five books in the Bible, and courageously led an entire nation for 40 years, ultimately taking them to the Promised Land. If that's the Moses you recall, then your memory serves you correctly.
But that was the "public Moses," the image his agent might sell to a prospective nation needing immediate redemption. That's the official portrait. You know, the 8 x 10 glossy.
There's another Moses. Same guy, just a different season of his life. We know his famous exploits, successes, and accomplishments, but what about his foul-ups, failures, and disappointments?
Is it really possible that Israel's redeemer could identify with a group of high school boys? Is it really possible that Moses could identify with us, in our own times of struggle, doubt, and failure? Did Moses ever have a losing streak? Let's take a closer look at this larger-than-life Bible character.
Moses was born during a difficult time in his nation's history, a time when more than a million Hebrew slaves lived in Egypt. With so many slaves living in his country, Egypt's ruler, Pharaoh (possibly Thutmoses I, or "King Tut" to us), became very nervous. Concerned about a possible slave revolution, he devised a sinister plan to kill all male newborn babies. (Nice guy, huh?). "Just throw 'em into the river," he declared. However, his master plan had one glitch. Jewish midwives assisting in the birthing process feared God more than any human leader, and they were protecting the newborn infants. It was the world's first Right to Life movement.
God blessed these women for honoring him in this way, and the Jewish population kept growing. One of those babies was born to a woman named Jochebed. After keeping her boy's birth a secret for three months, she could hide him no longer. So this mother made a difficult decision. She wove a "boat-basket," laid her baby inside, and placed the basket along the bank of the Nile River, hoping someone would find her son.
And someone did.
By "chance," while bathing in the river, Pharaoh's daughter found the basket. Feeling compassion for the child, she adopted him and began raising him as an Egyptian.
Little is known about Moses' next 40 years, but the Book of Acts tells us, "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he was powerful in speech and action" (Acts 7:22). In other words, Moses received the best education money could buy. An Egyptian education included studying hieroglyphics, mathematics, science, medicine, astrology, the doctrines of Egyptian religion, and interpretation of dreams. Moses probably spoke several languages and was destined for an influential government job in the mightiest nation on earth. He really was the "Prince of Egypt."
However, later on something began stirring within this Hebrew hunk. Maybe it was a midlife crisis, but Moses wanted to know about his Jewish heritage and identity. Feeling a strong kinship with his people, he decided he'd rather live as a peasant Jew than as an heir to Egypt's treasures. Pharaoh must have thought Moses was crazy. How could he possibly do this, considering all Egypt had done for him? There was only one way.
Moses took a huge gamble on God, choosing to go with his gut feeling instead of Pharaoh's fortune.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
"Greater value than the treasures of Egypt?" Hello? Moses, do you realize what you're giving up? Think of all the good you could do for your people as an influential Egyptian politician. But you're throwing it all away for life as a slave! Where's the logic in that?
So Moses traded his cool, clean, comfortable bedroom in Pharaoh's fortress for the sweaty heat of a dirty mud hut. Lavish meals, servants, perks, popularity, and pleasure were all yesterday's news. Past tense. History. No more hobnobbing with heads of state. No more luxury, entertainment, or "easy street." The tenement tents of Hebrew-town would now replace his bird's-eye view of the pyramids. And to think, he traded it all away for a faint, faded promise that God made to Moses' forefather Abraham hundreds of years before.
"Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed." (Genesis 22:18)
Moses had it all, but he gave it up because he believed God would bring salvation through the Jews some day.
Some might label him a loser for taking a gamble like that.
Later, Moses saw a fellow Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, and something snapped inside. Pouncing on the man like a desert scorpion, Moses murdered him in rage and then quickly buried the body in the sizzling sand. Unfortunately, news of the murder reached Pharaoh, and a posse was formed. If caught, Moses would surely face a tortuous death ... such as being buried alive with thousands of flesh-eating beetles. But let's not go there, okay?
Now with a price on his head, Moses flied to Midian, a few hundred miles away. Following his long journey, the 40-year-old fugitive quenched his thirst at a desert well (Exodus 2:15). Some women came to the well but were chased away by local shepherds.
Moses defended the women and chased off the men. And to say thank you for this deed, Jethro, the father of these women, immediately gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses as his wife. (This gives the phrase "I kissed dating goodbye" a whole new twist!) Jethro also gave Moses a job watching sheep. It wouldn't be the last time a man went to work for his father-in-law.
So here's Moses, Pharaoh's former son, going from mega-wealth to mud huts to murder to menial labor. His dream of becoming a Jew again had taken an unexpected wrong turn.
Fast-forward 40 years. The sun is still beating down on the desert sand. The Jews are still suffering in Egypt, and Moses is still working for Jethro (not much room for promotion in the sheep-watching business). By this time, the power and promise of Egypt must have seemed like another life to Moses. Eighty years old, and what does he have to show for it? He's a senior citizen living in a tent in the wilderness. Hardly a success story, he's become the poster child for downward mobility. By now, he should be retired, buying ice cream cones for his grandchildren. Instead, he's on the back side of nowhere babysitting a bunch of stupid, stinky animals.
I'd say Moses was on a losing streak.
But sometimes God has to break us before he can use us, often using life's painful circumstances to do that. Maybe you know what I'm talking about. Maybe you've lost to someone inferior or you've been cut from the team, dumped by your girlfriend or boyfriend, or rejected or abandoned by a parent. Life sometimes involves losing. Some days you feel like it's just not worth the effort of crawling out of bed
So maybe you understand what it is to feel like a loser. It's during those experiences that you finally give up, lay down your pride, and surrender it all to God. At that point your brain fog fades away, your vision clears, and your heart reboots. It's time to hear from heaven again, and you're ready. You're finally humble.
That's where Moses is. He's had 40 years to think out there in the desert, and that isolation actually did him good, preparing him for a defining moment in his life.
It was just another ordinary day for Moses. Wake up. Get dressed. Eat breakfast (a glass of goat's milk, scrambled eggs, NO bacon). Kiss the wife and kids, then trudge off to the sheep. And it's a shepherd's job to find green pasture for his sheep, so Moses led his flock to a grassy spot along the side of some mountain (a mountain he later climbed to receive the Ten Commandments). Perched atop a large rock, Moses was faithfully watching his sheep when something caught his attention.
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." (Exodus 3:2-4)
Okay, picture this scene. There's a bush on fire. Not a big deal considering it gets hot in the desert. But this isn't a typical bushfire. This burning bush isn't burning up! Obviously, this phenomenon goes against the laws of nature; something very unnatural is happening here.
Curious, Moses walked closer, and things got even more bizarre. The bush started speaking! A talking bush? This multimedia demonstration convinced Moses he was in the presence of the Almighty. This wasn't one of Pharaoh's fictitious deities. Oh no. We're talking GOD here ... as in THE God of the Universe. Creator. Master. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The real and true God.
This wasn't going to be an ordinary day after all.
God's voice called twice from the flaming bush. "Moses. Moses!" And as there were no sheep around named Moses, the shepherd man responded. Wouldn't you?!
"Here I am."
Moses was mesmerized. I mean, what an unlikely place to meet God! There wasn't a palace, temple, tabernacle, or church for hundreds of miles. No choir, music, or pipe organs. No pulpits, preachers, or pews. Just rock, mountain, and sand. A rugged wilderness sanctuary.
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:5-6)
Moses did exactly what anyone would do ... he shook with fear. God was there! Traumatized by the presence of One who shakes mountains and commands thunder and lightning (2 Samuel 22:8-15), the shepherd hid his face, fully aware of his sinfulness. God's glory x-rayed Moses' heart, revealing every character fl aw, moral defect, and human imperfection. And this drove Moses to his knees.
Right where God wanted him.
The Lord didn't come to condemn Moses that desert morning. Instead, he came to call him. Often we think of God as a celestial policeman who pulls us over only to write us a ticket. But more often, God asks for our help in accomplishing his will. And that was the case with Moses. God commissioned Moses with the task of delivering the Hebrews out of four hundred years of slavery and oppression (Exodus 3:7-10). And while the exiled Jew must have enjoyed the divine attention, that little phrase "I am sending you" must have been a real shocker. Apparently so, for Moses gave God five reasons he was the world's most unqualified candidate for the job. In reality, they're excuses given by a man who believes he's a loser.
LOSER EXCUSE #1
"I'm a Nobody. Why Would They Listen to Me?"
"Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11)
Moses goes from "Here am I, Lord" in verse 4 to "Who am I, Lord?" in verse 11. "Come on, Lord, look at me!" he says. "I'm a fugitive from justice.... a m-m-m-murderer for heaven's sake, an 80-year-old sheepherder. For this mission, you need somebody who's qualified. Somebody with experience. Somebody who's ... somebody. Not me. I'm the biggest nobody this side of the Nile!"
Moses began his protest by discrediting himself, hoping to convince God to rethink this bad idea. His argument is based on the belief that this job is for somebody "important." But while we might expect the Lord to use rich, intelligent, beautiful, talented, and influential people for his kingdom, that rarely seems to be the case. We think, Wow, if Tiger Woods or Bill Gates were Christians, imagine what they could do for God! But apparently God doesn't think that way. He delights in using ordinary people to accomplish his purposes (2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). This doesn't mean God never uses rich or powerful people. It just means he doesn't need human resources to achieve his purposes. He only needs willing hearts. When a common person accomplishes a God-sized task, only God gets the credit. And God likes it that way.
"It's not about who I call," says the Lord. "It's about who's doing the calling." Moses isn't being recruited for this mission so he can become a legend. The point is for Israel to remember Yahweh's name, not Moses'.
"The purpose in bringing Israel out of Egypt is so that they may worship me," God says (Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1). And God wants Moses to know that he will be with him (3:12). Moses may be a "nobody," and you may be a nobody, too. But God is a "Somebody"! "And that," he says, "is enough."
Nice try, Moses. Score one for God.
LOSER EXCUSE #2
"But I Have No Authority!"
After his first attempt failed, Moses tried another approach. He asked God to excuse him from this huge task because he had no political clout, social influence, or respected voice in society.
Moses said to God, "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?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:13-14)
God responded, saying influence and power aren't required for spiritual success. Popularity isn't necessary to influence others for God. Our confidence in serving God isn't found in our own reputation or resources, but in God. It's not about the messenger; it's about who sends the message. Think of the difference between a piece of junk mail and a letter from a friend. One you toss in the trash, and the other you can't wait to read. One you reject, and the other you tear into. And what makes the difference? It's the return address. A letter from a friend has immediate importance. The sender has value to you, so you read it with great interest.
Moses feels like a piece of junk mail. What he needs is a "return address," some way to convince Israel his message of deliverance is credible. In effect, God says to him, "My name will be your return address, Moses. You just tell them 'I AM' sent you, and they'll believe you."
Jethro's son-in-law needed absolute confidence his message would be received. Yahweh's personal name and authority would be that confidence.
God 2, Moses 0.
LOSER EXCUSE #3
"But I'm Not Persuasive!"
Okay, let's be real. Moses was no wimp. Forty years of intense heat, sandstorms, and other challenges of desert living had given him a thick skin and a tough mind. We see him applying that toughness as he tried to make his case against God's proposal. God answered each of Moses' objections word-for-word, argument-for-argument. But that didn't stop Moses. Next, he argued that even if he did go back to Egypt, he'll have no proof Yahweh sent him.
Excerpted from The Losers Club by Jeff Kinley Copyright © 2005 by Jeff Kinley. Excerpted by permission.
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