Five Excuses

February 9 Day 40

Five Excuses

It is the song most frequently played at British funeral services. It is the most remade song in history. It was popularised by Frank Sinatra on his 1969 album, My Way. In the Philippines, ‘My Way’ is so popular in karaoke bars that it has been declared responsible for a number of deaths where arguments over performance degenerated into violence!

And did it my way!
Yes, it was my way!’

‘I did it my way’ is the way of the world. It is not the way of Jesus. Jesus said, ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39). He prays, ‘May your will be done’ (v.42). He made no excuses. Jesus did it God’s way. Moses, on the other hand, as we will see today, made five excuses before eventually agreeing to follow God’s way. 

‘Wisdom Way’

Proverbs 4:10-19

Spiritual growth is like a journey. You progress one step at a time. What matters is not so much how far you have got – but that you are heading in the right direction and that you keep going.

The book of Proverbs tells us that there are two ways: ‘The path of the wicked… the way of evildoers’ (v.14) and ‘The way of wisdom…’ (v.11); ‘The path of the righteous’ (v.18). We are not told to avoid wicked people (that would mean withdrawal from the world). Rather, we are told to avoid their ways – to avoid doing what they do. If you follow God’s guidance he promises to lead you on the ‘Wisdom Way’ (v.11, MSG).

God’s way may not be easy, but there is great joy and excitement in following his way: ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (v.18). ‘The longer they live, the brighter they shine’ (v.18, MSG).

Lord, thank you that you promise to lead me along straight paths. Help me to follow the way of wisdom today.

Your way

Matthew 26:31-46

The way of Jesus is to say to God, ‘not my way but your way’. Jesus not only taught us to pray ‘your will be done’, he also prayed it himself: ‘My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?’ (v.39, MSG). A second time he prayed, ‘My father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way’ (v.42, MSG).

These are not prayers of resignation, but prayers of great courage – being willing to follow God’s ways, no matter what.

In this passage we see Jesus’ humanity: ‘He began to show grief and distress and was deeply depressed’ (v.37, AMP). He has his three closest friends with him. The same three who saw Jesus in divine glory at the transfiguration now see Jesus in the depths of human sorrow. He prays for God the Father to show him if there is any alternative. Nevertheless, he is willing to do the Father’s will whatever the cost.

For Jesus, the cost was of a totally different order to anything we face. He took the sins of the whole world on his shoulders. Hence his soul was ‘overwhelmed with sorrow’ (v.38). Three times, Jesus prays for ‘this cup’ to be taken away from him (vv.39,42,44). The cup refers to his impending suffering and death.

Just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus spoke of the cup at the Passover meal representing his blood ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (v.28). More than that, as is often the case in the Old Testament, this cup includes reference to God’s wrath (for example Isaiah 51:22; Habakkuk 2:16). On the cross Jesus took the cup in your place.

When you are deeply depressed, overwhelmed with sorrow, troubled or in the middle of tough times, it is such an encouragement to know that Jesus has experienced all that you face, and far more. Jesus knows what you are going through and you can follow his example by submitting your ways to God.

There is an amazing contrast between what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the Garden of Eden. ‘Not your way, but mine’, was the essence of the response of Adam and Eve to God in the first garden. However, in the second garden, ‘Not my way, but yours’ was Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Doing it God’s way meant suffering and death. But, it brought the redemption of the whole world.

Lord, help me to follow your example and pray, ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will… May your will be done.’

God’s way

Exodus 4:1-6:12

I find great comfort and encouragement in this passage. I am quite shy and introverted. I am, by nature, a reluctant leader. I find it enormously encouraging that even the great leader Moses was a reluctant leader and that he tried to make excuses as to why he should not do what God was calling him to do.

In yesterday’s and today’s passage, we see his five excuses (all of which I can identify with):

  1. ‘You have got the wrong person’
    Moses says, ‘Who am I?’ (3:11). He felt inadequate. I feel, ‘I am not good enough.’ ‘I am not holy enough.’ Moses said to God, you’ve got the wrong person. Why me?

    God’s reply is, ‘I will be with you’ (v.12a). That is all that matters.
  2. ‘I am not ready yet’
    Moses says, ‘What shall I tell them?’ (v.13). He felt ill-informed. He did not think he would be able to answer all the questions. He thought he would have nothing to say.

    God said, ‘This is what you are to say’ (v.14). God will give you the message at the right time.
  3. ‘I might fail’
    Moses says, ‘What happens if it all goes wrong?’ ‘It might not work out.’ ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you”?’ (4:1).

    In answer, God showed Moses his power (vv.2–9).
  4. ‘I do not have the skills’
    ‘Moses says, ‘I do not have the right gifts’: ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue’ (v.10). It seems that Moses may have had a stutter or some other form of speech impediment. (‘I speak with faltering lips’, 6:12).

    God said, ‘I will help you speak and will teach you what to say’ (4:12). God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
  5. ‘Someone else will do it’
    Moses says, ‘Please send someone else to do it’ (v.13). It is easy to think, ‘someone else will do it better than me’.

    God was not best pleased with Moses but said he would send Aaron to be with him: ‘I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do’ (v.15b).

Eventually Moses agreed to go God’s way and followed God’s call. Then all the battles started and things got worse rather than better. Pharaoh’s ‘way’ (5:15) was certainly not God’s way. The people of God were required to make bricks without straw. Moses and Aaron faced criticism and opposition from their own people (v.21). Moses complained to God that he had not yet done what he promised to do (v.23).

God responded to Moses’ complaint by giving him a clearer vision of who he is. God said, ‘I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them’ (6:2–3).

In a few sentences, God reveals more of his character to Moses. His character has not changed; he is faithful and keeps his word (vv.4–5). He suffers with you and feels your pain (v.5). He guarantees deliverance and freedom (v.6). He brings you into an intimate relationship with himself (v.7). He leads you to your inheritance and takes you home (v.8).

But when Moses told the people all this, ‘They refused to listen to Moses because of their impatience and anguish of spirit and because of their cruel bondage’ (v.9, AMP). Moses complains to God that the very thing he fears has happened. He says, ‘My own people won’t listen to me anymore. How can I expect Pharaoh to listen? I’m such a clumsy speaker!’ (v.12, NLT).

This is so often the biblical pattern. First comes God’s call and vision; then follows all the challenges and difficulties before you see the promise fulfilled. God’s way is not always easy – it is extraordinarily challenging but, at the end of the day, wonderfully fulfilling.

Lord, thank you that you say, ‘I will be with you’ (3:12). Thank you for the immense privilege of hearing your call and walking in your ways. Even when sometimes things seem to be getting worse rather than better, help me to keep going your way.

Pippa Adds

Matthew 26:31–46

Peter says, ‘I will never disown you’ (v.35b). Like Peter we all have good intentions, but we are all flawed and we can’t follow through without the power of God. The disciples fell asleep when they were supposed to be praying. I have great sympathy with them. I’ve fallen asleep many times when I'm supposed to be praying. It’s the closing of the eyes I find dangerous!
 

 

Verse of the Day

‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ (Proverbs 4:18).

References

Frank Sinatra, ‘My Way’, lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations (marked NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.