Discerning God with Hindsight

Bible text: Exodus 3:7-12

I love reading the story of how God calls Moses to go to Egypt, confront Pharaoh, and lead the Israelites out into freedom. It is told in Exodus, chapters 3 and 4.

I love the story because Moses is such a reluctant leader. He raises one objection after another as to why God has chosen the wrong man. This series of objections climaxes with his blatant and direct statement to God in Exodus 4:13: “O my Lord, please send someone else.” Talk about hutzpah with God.

When we talk about God being in the transformation business, there is no better example than Moses before and after.

I was reading this call story recently when one thing God says jumped out at me as it had never done before. In Exodus 3:7-10, God reveals for the first time why he has confronted Moses out of the burning bush. He is calling Moses to the daunting task of leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.

This evokes Moses’ first objection, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Moses does not see himself at being up to the task—at all. This is more than a big hairy goal. It’s an impossible goal.

God responds: “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

God promises to be with Moses. God also assures Moses that he will be with Moses with a sign: when Moses’ task is complete, he and the Israelites will worship God on this mountain of Sinai.

Now most of us when we seek a sign from God seek some kind of divine guarantee that God is truly with us. We want proof that the promise will be delivered. And we want that proof here and now.

But God gives a proof that lies in the future, not in the here and now. Moses will know that God was with him when in the future he arrives back at Mount Sinai. In the meantime Moses must live by trusting in a promise that has no guarantee in the present. He must, like all the faithful through the ages, walk by faith, not by certainty. He must trust in God’s promises, period.

The life of faith is challenging. And sometimes I worry that I have been deluded into adopting a way of life that is nothing but foggy illusion, illusion that will vanish when the burning heat of reality settles in. I long for certainty, but certainty is not given. We walk by trust, not clarity.

The clarity comes, paradoxically, by hindsight. I have found that when I am living out the life of faith, I have no certainty that God is with me and directing my life. Living can feel very confusing and sometimes disorienting. But as I look back on my life journey, I begin to see how God was at work in all that confusion, leading me forward into the man I have now become.

When that happens, I feel a sense of awe. The promise to Moses and to each one of us has proved true. God was with us. With hindsight, we see providence at work in a way we can never perceive as we look into the future.

I can never prove to you that God is at work in your life. All I can do is tell my own story and share the story of those whom we read in the Bible, people like Moses. The proof of what I say and the Bible says will be your own experience, as you step out fearfully into a life of trust.

So the life of faith always involves risk, but maybe that is also what makes it an adventure.