Negotiating with God

Exodus 3:12 He said, "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" (NRS).

When God was negotiating with Moses about Moses bringing God's people out of slavery, Moses gives every trick in the book. It starts out with (and I paraphrase), "Um . . . and which god are you? Who do I say sent me?" God answers something. Moses says, "Cool, cool. Um . . . how in the world would I be able to do this? Do you have any idea how much I am unimportant in Egpyt right now?" God says two things: "(1) I will be with you, and (2) you will know I have been with you when you get back here and look back."

There are several stories in the Bible with which I can relate the most. This is one of them. Moses continues to tell God why he can't do it; God continues to negotiate. I'm struck by how God does not make Moses do anything. He does not threaten or bully Moses or his family. God doesn't act like the mafia. He negotiates; He invites; He asks.

And God's twofold promise is striking. He doesn't say, "Because you'll cause destruction with the plagues (which might be implicit in the "my presence will be with you" phrase)," or "because I said so." God takes the time to comfort Moses, but without telling him all the details.

Though, at times, I do envy Moses. At least he knew he'd be back to his mountain.

We serve a God who asks and negotiates with us, not forcing anyone to do anything. And to guarantee that we have the courage to listen to him, he gives us reasons to hope. "Don't worry Moses, I'll be with you. And you'll see--once you get back here, it'll all make sense."

My son gets scared sometimes to swim long distances or go certain places. It's funny how much I say these exact things. "I know son; it's ok to be scared. But, I'll be with you each step of the way. And I promise, I know how this will end. You will make it to the end."

I often wonder if God is asking me to do something else. I tend to wonder it the most when I haven't been praying faithfully. I get the feeling, in those times, like a conversation is waiting to happen.

So I listen . . . and negotiate . . . and trust.