Revisiting the reluctant prophets of the Bible

"Why me? Can't you get someone else?"

You would think the great prophets of the Bible were willing, ready and able when God called them to their mission. But almost all of them were really hoping God would pick someone else for the job.

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Jonah is probably the best example. God called him to preach to the people of Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria. Scripture says, "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish (Spain)."

Clearly he didn't want the job, probably because the Assyrians were notorious for their cruelty to their enemies and Jonah feared he would be tortured for daring to predict their doom. As most know, he was swallowed by a whale and ended up completing his assigned task.

Moses was called by God to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. But when God appeared to Moses and told him his mission, Moses said, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" God answered, "I will be with you."

So was that enough for Moses? No -- more complaints and excuses.

"O Lord, I have never been eloquent ... I am slow of speech and tongue ... Please send someone else to do it."

God was clearly annoyed, but appointed Aaron, Moses' brother, to be his spokesperson.

Gideon was also called to deliver the Israelites from bondage to their Midianite overlords. The Angel of the Lord paid him a visit and told Gideon he was chosen by God for the mission.

His response? "But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family." The Angel responded, just as with Moses, "I will be with you ..."

Jeremiah was another reluctant prophet. God said to him, "I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

Jeremiah's response was similar to all the other ones: "Ah, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." God answered, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you ..."

It's clear Jeremiah did not relish his assigned task and tried to avoid doing it because his audience was not happy with his message of doom.

He says, "Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, 'I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."

Jeremiah preached his message for 40 years and nobody listened. It's no wonder he was discouraged.

The Apostle Paul was the greatest contributor to the canon of the New Testament, authoring 13 (14 if Hebrews is included) books of scripture. Yet he felt most inadequate for the job, in part due to the immense shame he felt for his persecution of the early Christians.

After his initial conversion experience, Paul began preaching in Jerusalem, but the Jews threatened his life. For his own safety, the other apostles sent him home to Tarsus.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says he went to Arabia (then ruled by the Nabateans) after this incident and only returned after three years.

Scripture does not say why he went or what he was doing there. It is likely he practised his trade as a tent-maker and used his time for spiritual preparation.

Was he avoiding his spectacular calling given on the road to Damascus? Perhaps, especially given that God said, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

In light of that ominous warning, it seems likely Paul was following the pattern of other prophets called by God and was procrastinating in commencing his mission to the Gentiles.

But not all prophets were reluctant. Isaiah is probably the best example of one who willingly answered the call of God.

Isaiah had a vision, in which he heard the voice of God saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Isaiah responds simply, "Here am I. Send me!"

If there is one takeaway from this, it is that God equips those he calls. He not only equips them, but promises to be at their side when facing the difficult task assigned to them.

There is someone reading this who is feeling the call of God in their life. They may know, but are resisting it, thinking they are woefully inadequate for the job.

God doesn't need people who have it all together. He needs people who are willing to serve.

Be the one who says, "Here am I, Lord -- send me!"

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