The Calling of Nobody
By Christopher Eyte
"But Moses said to God, 'I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?' God answered, 'I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.' But Moses replied, 'When I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ So what can I tell them?' God said, 'I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you.’"
Hot dust bites the man’s tired, dark eyes. He staggers at the sudden whirlwind from the sand dunes and squints ahead, facing an indifferent horizon of hostile desert. The heat from a ferocious Sun in the harsh sky above burns through his head covering, searing his scalp. The stranger is alone in this silent wilderness, walking mile upon mile. He is unwanted and unnoticed: a former royal prince turned killer. ‘Lonely’ hardly begins to describe such an ordeal.
This is Moses, the nobody. He is unaware of the prophetic destiny ahead of him, of the fact he would follow some miles of this same route years later as the leader of thousands of people. Right now, this prophet doesn’t understand his true identity. He sees himself as (what I would call) a ‘nothing man’ - devoid of self-actualization. A fugitive running for his life and ignorant of the irony that he is running to his life. God has a plan for this loner as he heads away from Egypt and eventually approaches Midian. Moses assumes a new identity with a hitherto unknown family in this foreign land and seemingly melts into the background, working as a shepherd. Any vision for his life looks to be vanquished until the day comes when he walks alone up a mountain in the company of a flock of sheep and sees a burning bush. And God’s powerful “I Am” proclamation sweeps away the protesting plea, “...but I am nobody.”’
That is how I imagine it. The Bible doesn’t say a lot about the solo journey Moses took to Midian, but it’s remarkable to think that this powerful figure journeyed alone for so many days to a foreign country. What was he thinking? What was he feeling? Did he have any hope left in his life? When he met God in that burning bush and discovered love defined, he seemed to be void of self-pride - willing to embrace his calling but unsure how to do it. It was the lovingkindness of the Lord that brought Moses to his true identity as a child of God. He developed a close bond with his creator, to the point whereby ‘The LORD would speak to Moses face to face just as a man speaks with his friend’ (Exodus 3:11a). God took hold of this outlaw, who had emptied himself of personal significance, and made him one of the most significant men in history.
There are many ‘nobodies’ in the world today who live on the fringes of society. I remember a time when I was unemployed with post-traumatic stress, under the care of a psychologist, and I visited a local library every day. I went there to feel useful and soon noticed other vulnerable folks, just like me, searching for significance. Our community of seemingly insignificant nobodies gathered each morning to hide from the indifference of the world. We read books and newspapers, ‘studied’... something, asked the librarians important questions that weren’t really important, checked email inboxes for emails that never arrived, and tried all sorts of busy activities to stave off the loneliness. I remember one of the men fluttering his arms and making jet engine noises, pretending to be an airplane.
Why did we go to this library every day? To hide from the issues that affected us: mental health problems, unemployment, physical health challenges, difficulties in personal day-to-day living, domestic issues... flotsam and jetsam in life, which made us feel unwell and alone. We found meaning in pretending to do something meaningful, to mask our vulnerabilities. I knew God was on my side (and his love pulled me through), but the reality of this monotonous existence was still very difficult, even with the support of family and friends.
God calls so-called nobodies to obey him and transform, through Christ, into his children. The Bible is full of further examples, other than Moses, of such redemption tales: David, the boy shepherd, youngest of his brothers; Joseph, the dreamer, sold by his siblings into slavery; Gideon, called the least of his clan - and think of the first disciples, a motley band of men and women insignificant in the world’s eyes but precious to the Lord. Jesus himself was a boy refugee who later sat with sinners like you and me! We’re so used to seeing strong people in church culture today - leaders with confident public careers (written 20 best-selling books, evangelized in 30 countries, that sort of thing). That understanding God calls nobodies, not somebodies, can be a bit of a shock. Yet it’s there: recorded in the Bible. Remember what Jesus once told his followers:
“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones, God can raise up children for Abraham’. (Matthew 3:9). Humility is a key marker of leadership.
Moses was mistaken in trying to find his significance in Midian. I was mistaken in trying to find my significance in the local library! Yet the wonderful news is that our Father is patient and kind. It’s only in the close, ongoing relationship with Jesus that we find our worth if we’re willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). The world may see nobodies but God, knowing that we are just dust formed with his breath, sees His image in us. What image? The image of His Son, Jesus Christ, bringing redemption for those who open their hearts to Him. The ‘I Am’ changed the destiny of the ‘I am nobody’ in Moses. And He is changing people today as well: ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.’ (2 Cor 4:7)
Intersecting Faith and Life:
Do you see yourself as a nobody, a ‘nothing man’ - or as a child of Christ? What obstacles prevent you from feeling free? Do you need to pray about your self-perception with a trusted prayer partner? How can you help others to understand their true identity in God?
Photo credit: Unsplash/Prottoy Hassan
Christopher Eyte lives with his wife Céline and three children in Swansea, Wales, UK. He has worked as a journalist for many years and writes his own blog (hislovefrees.life) encouraging others in their walk with Jesus. He became a Christian in February 2002, after a friend explained God's amazing grace!