Over the years that I have been associated with God’s church, I have observed members compliment ministers on their messages, articles and books. Although there is certainly nothing wrong with giving someone a compliment, I have often wondered do we really understand and appreciate the source of those messages. I wonder if we sometimes look at the instrument in God’s hands instead of looking at God.
It also appears to me that there is a widespread inclination on the part of humans to take credit for any successful outcome with which they have been involved or associated. There is an old proverb which states that “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” Some would characterize this phenomenon as pride, others would call it ego. Whatever we decide to call it, we can all agree that it seems to be a common affliction of humankind.
During the most recent election cycle for President of the United States, a great hullabaloo was made of the fact that one of the candidates implied that there were other factors which contributed to the successes of individual businesses besides the enterprise and industriousness of their founders. “How dare he suggest that I didn’t build my own business!” responded many. “I built my business with my own two hands!” others declared.
In the midst of this mayhem, I was thinking about a scripture that my family reads every year at Thanksgiving. Moses wrote: “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God…Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord thy God…And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:7-18)
Who gets the credit? The right answer is God! James wrote that God is the source of EVERYTHING that is good and perfect in our lives. (James 1:17) We can take credit for the mistakes and imperfections, but God is responsible for the good stuff!
Some years back, there was a young Jewish couple suffering through a period of intense persecution in the country where they were living. At the time the state of Israel did not exist. There was no refuge or place to flee the suffering.
Even so, in the midst of this hardship, they had a baby. Their joy at the birth of their son, however, was cut short by circumstances there. The country where they were living at the time had just embarked on a policy of genocide against their people – a policy of systematic destruction and murder. Moreover, the outside world appeared to be either completely indifferent to the fate of their people or powerless to intervene on their behalf.
Hence, in order to ensure the child’s survival, the couple decided to give him to a young woman who belonged to the ruling party. Over the years that followed, the boy witnessed some of the abuse, mistreatment and murder of his people in the wretched labor camps that the ruling party had instituted. Nevertheless, the boy personally survived the horrors.
As an adult, he left the country and began wandering around the world in search of a new life for himself. Even so, the memory of what he had witnessed in the camps continued to haunt him. The images of what had gone on there were seared into his memory. “How could God abandon His people to such a fate?” he asked himself. It gnawed at him. There was no relief in having escaped their fate. He simply could not forget what had happened to his people.
Nevertheless, before too long, he met and married a nice young woman and settled down in her country to raise a family of his own. He worked for his father-in-law, and the couple was soon blessed with a son of their own.
Although the man was overjoyed by the birth of his child, the old memories of the labor camps continued to haunt him. They would not let him go.
Then something wonderful happened. God began to draw the man to Himself. God began to call the man into His church. With that calling, came an awareness that God had a mission for him. God made it clear to this man that He had a service that he wanted him to perform on behalf of His people.
Some of my readers are probably thinking that I'm discussing people and events from the 1930's. However, a few of my readers will by now have guessed that we have been talking about Moses. Likewise, many of you are probably wondering why I pulled a “Paul Harvey” and did not clearly identify my subject at the start.
The reason that we approached this person’s story from the vantage point of anonymity is an integral part of the point which this post is attempting to make. Most of us place Moses on a pedestal, almost on a Divine plane. The truth is that he was just a man with profound gifts and faults, just like the rest of us. He was an instrument in God’s hands. Unfortunately, just like the Israelites before us, we have a tendency to look at the man before us instead of the God above us.
Moreover, Moses himself was not immune to this phenomenon. When God called him into His service, Moses was reluctant to undertake the mission because his eyes were not on God. He was looking at himself, and he did not care for what he saw. In short, he did not have any confidence in his ability to carry out God’s mission. It simply did not occur to this man that we hold in such high esteem to look at God’s ability to carry out His mission through him. (Exodus 4:1-17)
Once again, in fairness to Moses, this seems to be a common affliction of humans. We all tend to look at ourselves or each other instead of God. “I’m the one who is actually going to have to do this!” we tell ourselves.
Although it is written that Moses was the most humble person on the face of the earth at the time (Numbers 12:3), it may surprise some of us to learn that Moses struggled with this phenomenon throughout his ministry. This fact is made plain by an incident at the Waters of Meribah.