Do you hear it?

The cry of the oppressed?

It would be easy to miss in our rush to get to the story of the call of Moses, but we must ensure that, first of all, we hear the cry of the suffering Hebrew people kept as slaves by the Egyptian Pharaoh (Exodus 2:23). The children, women and men in their terrible oppression are the reason for this story. It is their need which prompts a response from God. Who is crying out today? Who is enslaved? Whose circumstances have been forgotten? Who is being wrongly told (in the words of Bruce Hornsby), “That’s just the way it is?” And what are we to do about it?

From God’s response to this heartbreaking cry, we see something of who God is. God heard their groaning, saw their suffering, took note of their circumstances and remembered God’s promise. During a difficult time in my own life, I found great comfort and hope when I heard a preacher articulate that God sees, knows and understands what I am going through. The even-better news is that God also acts. God responds to the cry of the oppressed by calling Moses, the perfect man for the job. Born a Hebrew slave but brought up as an Egyptian prince, Moses could straddle the gap between the two peoples like no one else. From the story of the Exodus, we can surely surmise that while it may seem as if God had only just noticed their suffering, in fact, a plan had been in the making for at least the whole of Moses’ life. When it seems as if God is silent, inactive, just doesn’t care, we can be assured that God IS acting in our situation. It’s just that we can’t always see what God is doing.

God gets Moses’ attention through a burning bush which is not consumed by the flames. Moses, the great leader, balks at God’s call, repeatedly giving reasons why he shouldn’t do as he has been asked. Those of us called to ministry (or to another vocation) will likely have had a similar reaction: “Not me, God!” My minister when I was a child often described how he was called to ministry. His name was also Moses, and he strongly related to the Moses of the Scriptures, having argued with God that his calling was impossible because he had a debilitating speech impediment. One time, he heard God’s promise for himself: “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak” (Exodus 4:12). On accepting the call, his stutter vanished forever. I’m also reminded of King George VI, as portrayed in the film “The King’s Speech”, whose stutter made his role unbearable, but who was greatly helped (but not cured), by his speech therapist Lionel Logue. Similarly, in the book of Exodus, God brought someone alongside Moses: his brother Aaron would speak for him. Together they would be better able to confront the Pharaoh. Whatever our reason, (or excuse) for NOT doing what God asks, it seems that God has a solution individually tailored for us. It may be that someone will come alongside you. Or you may be given the right tools at the right time.

It takes a whole lot of courage to answer “yes” to God’s call but there is a promise to hold on to, for God says, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12; see also Matthew 28:19-20). Like Moses, you are uniquely created and positioned to fulfil your calling. No one else can do what God is asking you to do.

And the cry of the oppressed still rises to heaven.


Jean Kirkwood is a Presbyterian parish minister serving in the east of Scotland. Her blogs can be found at


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One thought on “Narrative Lectionary: Not Me, God! The Call of Moses (Exodus 2:23-3:15; 4:10-17)

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