“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” This powerful Shakespearean quote is often lost among some of Shakespeare’s more famous lines. It’s not as famous as Romeo and Juliet’s “a rose by any other name” and it’s not as elegant as Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy. Yet it is this line that causes us such struggle because in our heart of hearts we want to be great, we desire to be great, we want to change the word, but we often find ourselves lacking in ability to accomplish the task. We recognize that we don’t have the will power of other famous people who were able to do great things, men and women like Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and Desmond Tutu. And so instead of trying to do anything, we run from responsibility, convinced we are never good enough. Maybe we should be reminded of the story of Moses.
“Moses, not Moses,” you might say. “Moses was a great leader, a powerful voice, a strong man of faith. I could never be like Moses.” But we forget, Moses didn’t accept his call with fanfare and great parades. Oh, there was a time when he was Prince of Egypt, when he thought he could change the world, but that time was over. After trying to save Israel on his own he was branded a murderer and he fled Egypt for Midian, never to return again. But then a funny thing happened after walking around the hills of Midian for 40 years, God decided it was time for Moses to be great and called him to be the leader of a nation.
“Moses, go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let my people go so they can worship me,” It seems like a simple enough task and yet Moses knows he can’t do it. The last time he was there Pharaoh tried to kill him. The last time he was there he almost ruined everything. How could he ever go back to Egypt and look Pharaoh in the eyes? It was an impossible task, so the excuses began.
First it was an excuse of not knowing God’s name. Then it was an excuse that Moses needed some sort of sign to accompany his words so that the people would believe him. Then Moses complained because he wasn’t a very good public speaker, he could never accomplish the task. Moses was giving excuse after excuse trying to shrink from the responsibility that God was laying before him, willing to do anything except what God had in store. And yet God kept reassuring him, God kept answering the excuses. God kept telling Moses, “it’s going to be OK, I will be with you.” Finally Moses has enough and simply says, “God I’m not going, send someone else.”
It’s only at this point that God gets angry. The text literally says, “the anger of the Lord burned against Moses.” (Exodus 4:14) God is tired of the excuses, he’s tired of the responses, he’s tired of Moses trying to shrink from the calling and run away from the task. Yet still, even in his anger he doesn’t let go,instead he provides another way to accomplish the task by working through Aaron. While it wasn’t God’s first choice it still will get the job done and thus Moses realizing there is no way out, resigns himself to his fate and heads back to Egypt and ultimately into his place as one of the great leaders of God’s people.
We need to be reminded of this story of Moses lest we miss the inherent warning contained in it. Moses, that great man of faith who boldly confronted Pharaoh and said, “let my people go” almost missed his calling. He dodged his calling. He ran away from his calling. He made every excuse imaginable to avoid his calling. We need to be reminded of the story of Moses lest we make the same mistake. I wonder, what Great task has God laid before us that we are in danger of missing. What momentous calling is God calling me to that because of my fears and insecurities I am about to miss. When have I been in danger of missing my calling because of fear of the unknown, lack of trust in my abilities, or forgetting that the same God who brought Pharaoh to his knees, the same God who with a mighty hand and powerful arm led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land, is the same God who has promised to be with me and do great things.
So often I worry because I was not born great, and I can not achieve greatness on my own, but we serve a God who is calling us to greatness. This God has already done great things, with a mighty hand called a man to lead a people from slavery to freedom. And this same God is still active today, calling us to greatness, thrusting us towards greatness, and giving us the ability to succeed. Will we answer the call?