(Note: Most of this article is an excerpt from chapter 5 of my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession. I have added some additional material and support from Scripture. This article was also posted on the Coram Deo blog.)
What do you picture in your mind when you think about Moses? For most people, images of Moses holding the Ten Commandments or leading the Israelites out of Egypt would pop up.
What if I told you that there is something very different that goes through my mind? There is one aspect of Moses’ personal relationship with Yahweh that is very relevant to us today.
Moses illustrates God’s presence at work
Without looking too hard, I could not help but notice a repeated connection in Scripture between God’s presence and our work. I do not think it’s a coincidence. I believe work was designed to be that way. This concept of Immanuel labor is indeed a biblical one. God’s presence in the midst of our human labors is well-grounded in God’s Word in a vast number of places. (For more discussion on this foundational concept to my theology of work, I invite you to read two articles I wrote and posted on my blog: here and here.)
In addition to Adam, Jacob, Joseph, David, Gideon, Solomon, and Jeremiah, Moses illustrates well this connection that we often see in the Old Testament. There are two instances in the life of Moses where we see God’s presence enabling Moses to do the work that He had called him to do: at the burning bush and after the golden calf incident.
The Theology of Work Bible Commentary reminds us that God’s call to Moses came while Moses was at work.” Furthermore, it alerts us to the fact that this account is comprised of “six elements that form a pattern evident in the lives of other leaders and prophets in the Bible.”
At the burning bush, we see a very unconfident Moses, who doubts that he is up to the task that Yahweh has just given him, to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. He asked God, “Who am I that I should go?” (See Ex. 3:10–12.) But God did not answer his question! He said, “I will be with you.” He did not say, “Don’t worry. You’ll be able to do it. I believe in you.” That is what we would have said.
The implication is clear to me. God meant, “My presence is enough for you. You will be able to perform the great work I have called you to do only because I am with you to do it.” The application is equally clear. It does not matter who I am. What truly matters is that the great I AM is present with me.
I am reminded that Jesus told His disciples in John 15:5, “apart from me you can do nothing”. Conversely, Jesus implies that when we abide in Him, we will bear fruit as He enables us to do what He has called us to do. Paul emphasized the same truth in Phil. 4:13, where he stated, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Another man of faith learns about the presence of God
As mentioned earlier, the Theology of Work Bible Commentary indicates that the calling of Moses is similar to the callings of others, including Gideon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
I shared my thoughts about Gideon in an article I wrote two years ago. An angel of LORD told Gideon that he was going to be a mighty warrior to fight the Midianites (See Judges 6:12-14.) He questions God. He knows he does not have the strength to save Israel, as his clan is the weakest and he is the least one. How can he be a mighty warrior? The answer is simple. “The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you’” (Judges 6:16). That is all that matters.
Here’s a simple math equation that comes straight out of this passage: Zero plus God equals more than enough. Through God’s presence, the work would be done through Gideon in spite of his weakness.
Moses as God’s co-deliverer
This basic connection between God’s presence and our work is closely related to the concept of being a coworker with God from chapter 3 in my book. There, I laid a strong foundation that God is a worker. By His love, wisdom, and grace, He created us to be His coworkers to continue His work to expand and to care for His creation project. (See Gen. 1:26-28.)
In Ex. 32:7, after the golden calf incident, we read a thought-provoking verse that links these two concepts together. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.’” I find what God said somewhat humorous.
Clearly, they were not Moses’s people. They were God’s people whom He delivered from Egypt. And yet, because God said it, both perspectives were true.
The Israelites did belong to Yahweh. They also belonged to Moses. The Lord did in fact deliver them, but He chose to use Moses to do it. This indicates that God saw Moses as His coworker. God’s presence with Moses at the burning bush, on Mount Sinai, and through the desert as He led the people day and night enabled Moses to take responsibility for the mission and play a critical role in their deliverance.
The Psalms often remind God’s chosen people that Yahweh delivered them in the past in order to cause them to trust Him in the present. This concept of a joint divine-human cooperative effort and ownership of the mission to deliver God’s people out of bondage is confirmed in Ps. 77:20: “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” It was God who led His people out of Egypt. But He graciously did it using Moses and Aaron as His coworkers.
Having a good understanding of what it means to be a coworker with God as He works through us to meet the needs of our customers, fellow employees, subordinates, and supervisors makes all the difference in how we approach our own jobs every day, no matter what job we have.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.