“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain'” (Exodus 3:11-12).
The Lord calls Moses—a man who is in every physical and pragmatic sense unqualified for the task. Moses knows this, so he says, “Who am I that I should go?” These are words that every pastor, if he is humbly honest with himself, utters at least once in his pastoral formation. Thus, this devotion is for pastors. (If you’re not a pastor, you are still free to read this for your own edification.)
The modern proverb is true of Moses as it is true of all pastors, “God calls the qualified; He does not qualify the called.” In other words, God determines who is qualified and who is not, and those whom He has called are those whom He has deemed qualified; He need not prove why this man is qualified with further proofs of practical development. A little later, Moses will list excuse after excuse why he’s not qualified. “They won’t believe me or listen to my voice,” he says (4:1). “I am not eloquent… but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (4:10).
When you’re called to speak for God, the ability to speak well—and in these days, write well—is a significantly important skill to have. But this didn’t concern God; He knew Moses was terrible at speaking. If He wanted to call Aaron, He would’ve called him! But He specifically called Moses. Yet the Lord gives Moses his brother, Aaron, to help him speak to help him with his weakness and basically to quench his excuses. Why did God call Moses despite his weaknesses? God only knows.
The confirmation of God’s call for the pastor is when he receives those call documents from the congregation through the working of the Holy Spirit. This is in accordance with our Lutheran Confessions, “Concerning church order they teach that no one should teach publicly in the church or administer the sacraments unless properly called” (AC XIV). When you receive that first call—or any call—you may not be the best sermoniser in speaking and writing, or the best at pastoral counseling, or the best chanter, whatever it is, but (1) these do not make you a pastor; God does, which He does through the Holy Spirit via an outward call and the laying on of hands.
(2) All these and more can be developed through time. No doubt, Moses became a better speaker as he gained more experience, with Aaron’s help, as he relayed God’s covenant to the people of Israel. Still, it was not Moses’ ability or holiness—for he was certainly not faultless—that made him God’s prophet, but rather God’s outward call. Similarly, it is not your ability that makes you a pastor (though these skills are certainly helpful and aid the pastoral office), but rather God’s outward call through the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands.
And (3) God’s answer to Moses is no different for today’s pastors, “But I will be with you.” It is not entirely on you; it is entirely on Christ, the cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 2:19-20). Remember, as pastor, you are not the cornerstone; you are still only one of the bricks that make up Christ’s church.
Thus, as every honest pastor says with Moses, “Who am I that I should go?” In truth, nobody. Still, God has chosen you for His good purposes despite your failings and weaknesses. It is not about you, after all; it is all about Christ. If anything, let us use our weaknesses and failures to point the flock in our care to their only Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, for His glory. Therefore, with Paul we say to our congregations, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Let us preach and minister nothing but Christ and Him crucified and risen for the people under our care. Amen.