And Moses thought this was going to be easy. Fresh from his mountaintop encounter with God, Moses returns to Egypt, is accepted by the Hebrew elders, demonstrates God’s power to Pharaoh, and summarily falls flat on his face. Pharaoh retaliates against Moses’ demands by making the Hebrews gather their own straw for bricks. The Hebrews get mad at Moses for bringing the wrath of Pharaoh down on them. Moses gets mad at God. “Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23, NASB).
It is like Moses is saying – “Hey God! I did what you told me to do but that didn’t work out so well! I thought I was your man and you let me down. Not only that but things have gotten worse; now everyone hates me.” Come on, admit it, we’ve all been there. I know that I have. God pointed us in the right direction, gave us our marching orders, maybe even revealed Himself in some mighty way, we obediently and passionately obeyed His orders. Somewhere along the way, however, we fantasized, or analyzed, or assumed how it was all going to flow and turn out. Like Moses, we took the burden of accomplishment, success, and completion on ourselves. We believed that God gave this burden for us to carry so it’s our job to make sure it works.
But burdens are tricky things: the carrier has to have the capacity to handle them and they need to be properly secured so the don’t fall out. I mean, you can’t fit a 100-ton load in a 2-ton truck but that is what following Christ seems like at times. God doesn’t just give us what we think we can handle. Nope, God thinks big. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12, NASB95) In a way, we have the same call, the same burden, as Moses. God’s call for Moses was to lead a nation out of slavery and into the promised land. Our call, our burden, as Christ followers is to lead an entire world out of slavery to sin and self and into God’s kingdom. Not just the 200 or so folks that we may know, but all of the 7,000,000,00 (that’s 7 billion!) people that currently call earth home. My tires blow out just thinking about it.
God, however, mercifully distributes that burden among His children. Even so, it still seems like He’s trying to place a 4-ton load in a 2-ton truck. But, you see, that’s because we are making the same mistake that Moses made by taking on the burden of success. In the verses that follow Moses’ prayer of frustration God provides His answer:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.” God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them. “I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. “Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.’ ”” (Exodus 5:22–6:8, NASB95)
Notice that God declares His name, what He has done in the past, and what he will do in the near future. Eight times God declares, “I will”. Not once is there an if, and, or but. Not once does He state a reliance on anyone else, including Moses, to accomplish His desires. This does not remove Moses from the picture. The rest of Exodus shows God’s mighty hand in accomplishing these “I will”s and Moses obedient leadership (except for that one thing with the rock that got him in trouble). Similarly, while Jesus calls us to reach the world, to do greater thing than He did, He also calls us to rest in Him. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, NASB95)
Perhaps a modern picture would be that of a semi-truck. We are the trailer, a burden has been loaded and sealed inside. We cannot move it on our own strength. All we can do is hold it and protect it. Jesus hitches His bazillion horsepower tractor to our trailer and pulls it to the place He desires by His power. Paul observes, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB95) Do you feel overwhelmed by the burden God has given you to carry? You should, God will always load us to the capacity He knows we can handle; far surpassing the measure of our comfort. Have you tried but failed to carry God’s burden? You’re not alone, the Bible and history are full of folks that tried to accomplish a God-given burden with their own strength. Here’s my encouragement: Embrace the burden even if it seems beyond your capacity and stretches into the realm of the impossible. Care and protect the burden with faith-filled prayer. Obediently rest in Christ by doing those things He commands. When God says move, move. When He says to speak to the rock, don’t strike it. Leave the burden of promise, accomplishment, and completion to Christ. Lastly, stay connected to Jesus, the trailer won’t move if it is not hitched to the tractor.
2016 Addendum: At first blush, this article may seem to be only aimed at those serving in ministry. But consider this, our family, our lives in this world, our daily interactions at work, at play, and in the marketplace are our ministry, all followers of Jesus are ministers of His peace and reconciliation.