Moses’ Five Excuses

Rev. Tony Cooke

Moses is an amazing case study of an individual who was called by God, and his initial reactions provide lessons from which we can all learn. His initial response to God was not, “Here am I, send me.” Instead he offered five revealing excuses — he apparently felt he had to convince God how unworthy he was. I’m not saying Moses was insincere in his responses. Having spent forty years tending sheep after murdering an Egyptian, these feelings were probably all very genuine. Here are his responses:

Excuse # 1 – Who Am I?

“But Moses protested to God, ‘Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 3:11).

I’m sure that many of us can relate to issues of inadequacy and inferiority. Of course, Moses’ sense of self had been affected by his journey through life. D. L. Moody stated: “Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.”

Moses wasn’t going to be able to serve God effectively if he was focused on his past successes or his past failures. It’s God’s grace and presence that qualifies us for service. In this sense, Moses really had to “get over himself” before he could focus on God’s enablement in his life. 

Excuse # 2 – I Don’t Know Enough.

“But Moses protested, ‘If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).

We never know enough in the absolute sense. That’s why it’s imperative that we always trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and not lean to our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5). Even Paul said, “We know in part…” (1 Corinthians 13:8). God revealed to Moses what he needed to know to get started — his name, and I know God continued to teach Moses throughout the rest of his life and ministry. The point is, we never know all we could know, and we always need to be positioned to be a life-long learner. You can always use what you don’t know as an excuse not to get started, but God wants you to start where you are with what you know now.

Excuse # 3 – No One Will Believe Me.

“Moses protested again, ‘What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The LORD never appeared to you’?” (Exodus 4:1).

I suppose all ministers have to deal with this at some level or another. There is no guarantee that people will believe us, and yet we still have to share what we know. Not everybody believed John the Baptist, or Jesus, or Paul. When Paul preached on Mars Hill, “some laughed in contempt, but others said, ‘We want to hear more about this later’” (Acts 17:32). When he taught the Jewish leaders from morning until evening, “some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe” (Acts 28:24). We can’t control who does and who doesn’t believe, but we are 100% responsible for our obedience to share God’s word as effectively and as faithfully as we can.

Excuse # 4 – I Don’t Speak Well.

“But Moses pleaded with the LORD, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled” (Exodus 4:10).

I’ve always found this statement interesting, especially since Stephen said that “Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action” (Acts 7:22). Yet Moses said that he had never been good with words. I’m not doubting Moses’ sincerity, but is it possible that his failures and having been with sheep for forty years blurred his memory and distorted his sense of competence? 

It’s important to realize that a minister’s effectiveness is not measured exclusively in how eloquent he is from the pulpit. I’m all for solid teaching and preaching skills, but how good is that is it’s not rooted in humility and in a genuine love for people. God’s not in need of showboats, but life rafts! I’m not being negative against people who do speak well, but ministering the heart of God requires more than skill in the pulpit.

Excuse # 5 – Anybody But Me!

“But Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else’” (Exodus 4:13).

There was something in Moses that absolutely did not want to do what God was asking him to do, and yet thankfully, he came around, said “yes,” and obeyed God. Maybe you’ve felt that way also… “God, send someone else.” But if God wanted someone else to have done, he would have called them, but God spoke to YOU. Though you may have protested like Moses did, God already knew all of the reasons and all of the excuses you were going to offer, yet he chose you anyway.

Here’s a great verse to consider. Paul told Timothy that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). 

Please don’t think for a second that this only applies to people who are called to preach. Some of us are called to serve behind the pulpit, but many of us are called to serve behind the scenes. It’s not the visibility of what we do that matters most. Rather, it’s our faithfulness in being obedient to God. He wants our service, not our excuses. Even if we don’t start out the best, let’s be sure that we finish well and finish strong.