Will I ever learn to shut up and obey God?

This week, as I’ve continued work on the book I’m writing about trees in the Bible, I’ve turned to the book of Exodus to look at Moses. When you think of him, what pops in your mind first? The ten commandments? Moses proclaiming to Pharaoh, “Let my people go”? Or maybe it’s a Moses that looks remarkably like Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea? Those are all images of a strong, confident Moses, but he wasn’t always that way.

One day, he was leading his flocks near Mount Horeb (known as the Mountain of God), when he saw something peculiar:

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush;
and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not
consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight,
why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look,
God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he
said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals
from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said
also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
– Exodus 3:2-6

Moses’ curiosity stopped him in his tracks, and his encounter with God that day would change him forever. Notice that God didn’t call out to him until Moses had turned aside from his flock. God was waiting until Moses was quiet and fully paying attention. 

You see, God had a plan for Moses that He knew would be difficult for him. He wanted Moses to leave his life of hiding and return to Egypt to speak for the Israelites and lead them out of Egypt. But Moses had a lot of reservations.

During their conversation, Moses whined and asked God to choose another messenger to free the Israelites. Take a look at Exodus 3 and 4 to read about this encounter, and you’ll see Moses offer excuse after excuse about not being able to fulfill God’s call. Here’s my take on Moses’ side of their conversation:

  • I’m nobody. Shouldn’t You send someone more capable and important? (Exodus 3:11)
  • Who are You? Are You really *that* God? (3:13)
  • Um, I don’t really think the Israelites are going to believe me. (4:1)
  • Besides, You know I’m terrible at public speaking. (4:10)
  • Okay, God, it’s a good message to send to Egypt, and so I ask You to send it (just maybe could You pretty please pick someone other than me?). (4:13)

Up until that last comment from Moses, God had been patient, but the last comment finally pushed God over the edge: “Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses” (4:14).

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to face an angry God. And yet, I can definitely relate to Moses’ reluctance to obey God. Did any of his comments sound familiar to you because you’ve said them yourself?

I’ve been putting off writing this book, starting and stopping and getting sidetracked with life and other writing projects for the last seven years. I’m ashamed and embarrassed that it has taken me so long to be obedient to God’s call for me to write a book. Even now, I struggle to keep the book on the front burner as other project ideas inspire me. But this is the season for me to write this book, and so I keep putting other projects out of my mind to stay focused on accomplishing this one task.

Moses’ encounter at the burning bush provides us with two key lessons about our relationship with God, two disciplines we must learn: being quiet and still before God, and obeying His call.

My problem is that I’m crummy at both of those disciplines. I mean really, really crummy. However, because I don’t ever want to read, “Then the anger of the Lord burned against Hope,” I’m working on developing both. Each morning, I take time to be quiet and still before God. Not easy, but I’m trying. I’m also refusing to take on other projects while I finish writing the book.

It’s a daily struggle, though. So – my friends and readers – do you have insights or successes or stories of your own struggles in these two areas that could help all of us learn these disciplines? If so, please share them by writing a comment below.

You don’t even have to sign in or include your name – simply choose to share your story as “anonymous,” if that’s more comfortable for you. (After you click on the word “Comments” below this post, you’ll find a screen with a box where you can type your comment and then a drop-down menu to choose “Comment as.” Anonymous is the last choice in the drop-down menu). I’d love to hear how you’re meeting the challenges of quiet and obedience.

15 thoughts on “Will I ever learn to shut up and obey God?

  1. Thanks for sharing more. Praising God and praying for His will (instead of our own) must be very sweet and pleasing to Him. What a blessing to know that God is in charge of your prayers.

  2. I am learning to pray God's will into earth rather than my will; there is a greater sensitivty and awareness of the Word and how to use it in praying. "Father God, what is on Your Heart today?" Sometimes I sense that Jesus is giving me direction in my prayers. It is so exciting when the prayers are answered, and God receives all the glory, honor and praise. Praise activates God in ways we do not understand. He hates it when we grumble, murrmur or complain because He cannot use that to change anything! When we praise Him, it shows our love and our faith in Him, and since faith is the currency of heaven, I have learned that praise coupled with faith is a dynamite combination. As you run, praise Him!Another benefit from being in the throne room is that I seek God's face and not His hand. His love is shed abroad in my heart; as a result, my whole approach to situations and people has been slowly maturing by leaps and bounds! I hope this answers your question.

  3. I saved the following on my PC months ago and ran across it last night after our book discussion. It came to mind after reading your post.Steps Habakkuk took to hear God's vision for his life:1. Desire: I must want to do God's will.2. Withdraw: I must get alone with God.3. Wait: I must calm my thoughts & emotions.4. Watch: let God give me a mental picture.5. Write it down: record the ideas I receive.6. Worship: thank God for speaking to me.I struggle with obedience too. Your post and all the comments above reassure and inspire.

  4. One day while I was in deep prayer, Jesus said to me, "You are praying from earth to heaven for something happening back down on earth. Come up and stand next to me and pray, then the prayer only has to go one direction." Now my prayers are from the throne room. It is a very busy place.

  5. Shannon — you've hit right on something that keeps us from listening in the first place or obeying in the second: fear. Even Moses turned away in fear when God identified Himself. It's definitely a practice and a discipline. Any strategies that have helped you develop the skill of being alone with God?

  6. Aw shucks. 🙂 Thanks for your wonderful words of encouragement. They fed my heart today. I think that's the pressure I've been feeling: God wants the messages of this book in someone's hands other than just mine. And I need to be obedient to that urging. The publishing side of it is overwhelming to me, and so I'm striving to totally ignore that part for now and just get the book written. Readers: Check out Allison's great blog: http://thewhisperofgod.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-wait/, especially her most recent post about a little tree blooming in her yard, and what it shows us about waiting for God — a subject near and dear to my heart!

  7. Ah, Tracey — that's a hard question to answer. I have had to put some exciting projects on the back burner, because every time I try to work on them instead of the tree book, God sends me increasingly firm reminders to get back to the trees. He does this through my daily devotional and Bible reading, through friends who ask about the book, and through plenty of encounters with nature out on my daily walks and runs. Not sure if any of that will help you discern your own call and what God is asking you to sacrifice, but please keep me updated about how He speaks to your heart and what He asks you to do. Blessings!

  8. I agree with you — learning to be quiet (for me at least) seems like the more achievable discipline. I love the verse you shared. Paul knew that we would need the reminder to actively learn God's will for our lives. Please keep me posted on your striving toward obedience — in both big and small ways.

  9. Part of my struggle with listening has been a fear of being alone with God. Instead of looking for a "majic method", I've come to realize that this is a skill to be practiced and learned.The reward is hearing Him speak. That experience can't really be duplicated or described.

  10. If your book is anything like your blog – it will be AMAZING. One thing that helped me was keeping in mind that when God placed a message on my heart – the longer I waited to write it and get it published the longer I was withholding the Word He has placed in my heart from those who He intended to hear it. Who needed to hear it. That keep me moving . . kept me going. . . kept me on task. Praying that same thing for you.

  11. How did you know God was calling you to write this book now? My struggle is that I'm not really sure my book project is exactly what I should be doing, so for that reason I'm not sure I should sacrifice everything else for it.

  12. Both of these areas are a struggle for me, too. But, of the two, the discipline to be quiet and still seems more achievable. Ephesians 5:17 says "So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Foolish I must be, because I struggle with knowing what God is calling me to do. Or maybe, the issue is that I need to be obedient in the big things (justice, mercy, humility, etc.) before getting a specific call. Either way, obeying God's call has been a tougher struggle.

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