When You’re Not Greater Than John the Baptist

I’m so sorry I’m not better at being brief. The following is SO IMPORTANT, but it’s written the only way I know how to say it, which I’m sure is too long. You have to be able to get this, however, or the devil will beat the snot out of you with your own evil conscience.


I’m not going to apologize for laying a heavy load on myself and you yesterday because that load is based on simply believing. We can believe like that. The things I wrote are true!

However, if we’re going to walk in real belief and real power, then we’re also going to have to be honest and real about the following, which I got from Jeff Milam’s Transient Glory blog.

There are two things that are constant in the lives of the Hebrew people from the time they leave Egypt until they are on the brink of crossing the Jordan. First, God is always with them; guiding, instructing, providing, delivering, protecting, and performing miracles for them. The other constant is the complaining that reveals their unbelief. … As I’ve been reading through the story of the Hebrews, I’m left with the notion that these people somehow either persistently failed to remember what God had accomplished for them or simply and stubbornly refused to embrace belief in Him. … But do I have any room to talk?

The Right Goal and Looking at the Right Place

I wasn’t completely comfortable with yesterday’s post. It seemed too likely to make people feel like failures rather than lifting them up to the wonderful standard I was talking about.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m as bad at being a good Christian as most people I know, yet I not only have real hope of living in those incredible promises; I’ve experienced it, and not all that rarely.

Jeff’s blog painted a perfect picture. (Thanks, Jeff!)

God is the powerful one, and he was powerful for terrible people like the Israelites Jeff mentions. He was powerful even for someone so unbelieving as …


Think about it. Have you ever paid attention to the discussion Moses had with God while a bush was burning without being burned right in front of his eyes? This was going on the whole time they were talking. Oh, yeah, and he was TALKING TO GOD!!!

So God says he’s going to send Moses (Ex. 3:7-10).

Moses says, "Who? Me?" Then he says he doesn’t think he can do it (v. 11).

So God says he’ll be with Moses and give him a sign (v. 12).

Moses asks who he’s supposed to say is sending him. He asks for God’s name (v. 13).

So God gives him 2 different versions of his name (vv. 14-15).

Then God explains the whole scenario to Moses. He explains that the elders of Israel will listen to him, but Pharaoh will not, but God will do miracles to bring the Israelites out. He even tells him that the Israelites will leave wealthy (vv. 16-22).

Moses disagrees with God and says the elders won’t believe him (4:1).

God gives him THREE miracles to show the elders, two of which he works right on the spot so Moses can see them (vv. 2-9).

Moses says he’s not eloquent (v. 10).

Now God, understandably, gets irritated. Picture a parent with a child. The conversation changes from the parent helping the child to understand, to, "Listen, just go do what I tell you" (vv. 11-12).

MOSES SAYS NO!!! (v. 13)

Can you imagine this? Moses is so scared that he won’t look at God. He believes the superstition common among the Jews that if you look at God, you’ll die, and he acts in accordance with that. But while the God he won’t look at is telling him what to do, he’s refusing!

Superstitions are ridiculous. Yes, God himself says that if you look at his face, you’ll die, but Moses wasn’t looking at his face … or his body … or any other part of God. He was looking at a miraculous fire on a bush.

All sorts of Old Testament figures saw "angels"—representative, created-on-the-spot, spiritual bodies—of God, and they lived.

But disobeying God, now that can lead to death, but Moses wasn’t afraid of that!

Now God’s not irritated. He’s angry. The Scripture says, "The anger of Yahweh was kindled against Moses" (v. 14).

So God tells Moses that Aaron is on his way and will be his spokesman. Then he tells Moses that he will take his rod and go do signs (vv. 15-17).

You know the rest of the story. After this ridiculous episode, Moses is pretty awesome. In fact, he’s so awesome that at the end of his life he gets a little haughty and isn’t allowed to enter Canaan.

As an aside, I think about that, and I think Moses was probably pretty frustrated with those people. Their unbelief resulted in his wandering around in the desert for 40 years for a second time.

But that’s just the point. The first time was his own fault, and when God came to end that first 40 years in the desert, God was very patient with Moses’ phenomenal obstinance. So he wasn’t very patient when Moses couldn’t handle the Israelites’ unbelief.

What About Us?

I talked about a high standard of belief yesterday. Thank God for wonderful people like Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael who set terribly convicting examples of how to live in faith like that.

I think I’ve given up on ever being Hudson Taylor or Amy Carmichael. Those were good Christians.

But Moses? I could be Moses!

That’s not a joke. It is meant to be ironic or even to make you chuckle, but it’s not a joke. You can be Moses.

The great men I’ve known personally seem to be oblivious to how unworthy they are to do the things they do. Unlike me, they don’t spend time wringing their hands, wondering why anyone ought to listen to them when they’re such wretched creatures, always finding ways to irritate God.

Do you know why?

It’s because they’ve got their eyes off themselves and on the throne of God, where Jesus—the rightful and righteous King—is sitting.

I’ve had a lot of experience with God: 28 years. After 28 years, it has become clear that God has never gotten up on even one morning fretting over what I did yesterday. Only I do.

Our King always has a right to ask—or demand—that his will be done. He always has a right to speak, and he always has a right to speak through whomever he wants. When he asks you to stand up for him, that’s not the time for you to let all your previous failures be an excuse to fail again!

God’s too busy to fret about what you did last time.

Maybe here’s another illustration.

When I was in high school, I made the baseball team for our Air Force base. I wasn’t a starter, though, and I wanted to be. One day, before a game, while the coach was hitting us grounders, I let a ball scoot under the end of my glove. I wanted the coach to know that wasn’t normal for me, so I did a little "I can’t believe that happened" dance of frustration.

The coach was frustrated, too, but not with my error, but with my ridiculous show. "Just pick the *@&* ball up and throw it back to me," he said. "Do you want to play today or not?"

I still like to do a mental dance of mourning when it’s time to rise to the occasion for God. "Look God! Now’s a time I could really be useful, and I’m worthy to be useful, I’m sure! Look how I’m repenting! Look at my mourning over the fact that I’ve been distracted by my own interests for the last 3 hours! Use me now!"

God usually says, "I’m trying to, but you won’t shut up. I don’t have time for all this. I’m going to go find some other fallible, imperfect human that goes out of his way to please me when he can and who will SHUT UP AND LISTEN when I try to get him to do something."

Pretty human, pretty earthy, somewhat gross, but the route to real power with God is along that route. God uses and chooses not only Moses but even Sampson. You might as well line up with Isaiah and say, "Here am I, use me."

You won’t believe the people that are getting called to work out of that line. You could even be one of them.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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2 Responses to When You’re Not Greater Than John the Baptist

  1. Kitty says:

    Yes, such an encouraging post.

  2. jeremiahbriggs says:

    When you talk on this subject it is the most encouraging thing I ever hear Your post yesterday and then this one today make me feel like I can do anything. I can be like Elijah. I can be like Caleb. I can do the things God asks of me. Even after 25 years of tripping over my own two feet. Moses argued with God, and so did Elijah, so do I. But his mercy and love keep me going forward. He never asked me to not make any mistakes He asks me to learn. He asks me to learn to be like all the other fallible men who serve Him. He asks me to learn to imitate Him. And to do this in faith.

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