Throughout the 80's the United States, was engulfed in promoting and understanding self-esteem. I rode that wave along with everyone else. I read books, learned to love myself and used self-love techniques in my lay-counselling ministry. Much of what I learned was good and I still use some of the information today, yet I now believe that overall, I had the wrong focus.
If you look deeply and use your imagination, you can see that Moses was a man plagued with self-esteem issues. Most everyone knows that Moses was put in a basket on the water to save his life from the Egyptian edict that all male babies were to be killed by the mid-wives. An Egyptian princess found Moses and returned him to his mother to be nursed just until he was weaned. Then he was abruptly taken away from the mother who loved and nursed him to the court of Pharaoh where he was most likely loved by his adopted mother but also likely to have been raised by servants. Can you imagine the confusion that must have gone through his little heart? The bewilderment? I imagine that later in life, Moses may have been taunted by cousins or half brothers and sisters when it was learned that he wasn't really Egyptian but a despised Jew. He also may have harbored guilt feelings that he led a life of privilege while his natural family were slaves. What torment there may have been in his young heart?
Then, when he came of age, he was desperate to go visit his natural family and was shocked at the harshness of the Egyptians towards his own people. Possibly as a way to show the Jews he was one of them, he killed an Egyptian slave-driver. His heart may have been trying to say, “I'm one of you! I feel for your pain!” Yet, the tides turned on him. Now Pharaoh hated him and the Jews hated him. Rather than taking kindly to that act the Jews said, “Are you going to kill us like you killed that Egyptian?” He had no choice but to flee away from the nightmare that was his life. Moses also apparently had a stuttering or talking problem (Exodus 4:10) which is often associated with trauma or low self-esteem. He must have had huge identity issues, “Am I the son of a King or the son of peasant shepherds?”
He found temporary relief in the wilderness. A sweet father-in-law, a wife to love and even a job to do – tending sheep. Then after a time, Moses met God in the burning bush and when he saw God he “covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:6b).
Then the Lord answered the disappointment that I believe had been burning in Moses's heart. “What kind of God would allow His first-born to become slaves? Doesn't He care about the harsh treatment they are living under?"
The Lord said to Moses, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt,” and “Yes, I am aware of their suffering.” Exodus 3:7
Isn't that a question we all ask? “Are you aware of me God? Don't you notice my suffering? Don't you care?”
With one look at God and with one word from God, Moses saw His love, concern and eternal goodness. Moses walked closer to God than almost any other man in the bible. He saw God.
When God told him, “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt,” Moses protested and said, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses had already felt defeated by life. He had no more identity in Egypt because he was hated by the Jews and Pharaoh alike. He was a man who had no idea who he was. And how does the Lord respond to that question?
“I WILL BE WITH YOU. And you will worship Me with the Israelites on this mountain.” Period. That is all the response that God gave to Moses' insecurity.
God did not take time to build up Moses's self-esteem. He did not say, “You are an amazing man! You know I had you raised in the court of Pharaoh so you could learn things that your Hebrew family doesn't even know. You are handsome and of value!” No. God said in essence, “Look at Me. I'm all you need. I am your security, I am your identity because I AM WITH YOU.”
I was really struck by that. It is also something that John Piper has spent a life-time teaching.
He had this to say about self-esteem: “I’m not on a mission to help you feel good about yourselves. I am on a mission to help you feel so good about the greatness of God that you forget about yourselves and live a life of love, making others glad in God. I’m going to say that again because in our twenty-first-century mold and time on the back-end of the crest of the wave of self-esteem, it needs to still be said. I am not here to make you feel good about yourself. That’s a low salvation. That’s a low-level, American gospel message. I am here to make you so happy in God — to help you feel so good about the glory, majesty, beauty, justice, love, truth, and power of God — so that in all that, you forget about yourself. Some of you have heard me say, “Nobody goes to the Grand Canyon to increase his self-esteem.” Because on the edge of the Grand Canyon, as you feel your soul being drawn out into this vast opening, that’s not what happens. What happens is wonder and awe, which is what you were made for. Heaven will not be a hall of mirrors in which you like what you see. In fact, I just have this suspicion there won’t be any mirrors in heaven because anything good and beautiful about you will be radiated back to you from the other people that you’re loving so much it just bounces back to you. But mainly it’s going to be about Jesus everywhere satisfying your soul.” John Piper
I was touched and lifted by the Lord's response to Moses question of, "Who am I?" I want to spend more of my time gazing at the great I AM. I know I spend way too much time looking at myself. Jonathan David Helser has a great song that I believe can minister to everyone, I've Seen I Am. "I've seen I AM, now I know that I am loved. I've seen I Am, now I know who I am." Brilliant! That says it all.