Lessons from the Old Testament: Called of God

“Lessons from the Old Testament: Called of God,” Ensign, Jan. 2006, 46–49

Old Testament

Lessons from the Old Testament:

Called of God

Bishop Richard C. Edgley

The early prophets took great measures to record important history, revelation, prophecy, and spiritual events. Five thousand, two thousand, or even two hundred years ago, recording events was no small task. Computers, word processing, and typewriters were not even dreamed of at the time.

Consider the laborious work of pounding out gold plates that could be inscribed upon, bound, and then preserved for future generations. Consider the time-consuming work of meticulously engraving upon the plates. Consider the creation of the papyri and then their careful preservation so that they could be passed down from generation to generation, codified, and bound as holy scripture—the word of God. All this was done that we may know God, that we may understand who we are and what our relationship with Him is, and that we may know the commandments and sacred ordinances that bring us joy and happiness in this life and the life hereafter.

From the Book of Mormon we learn that we are to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Ne. 19:23). This counsel applies to our study of the Old Testament, which we will be focusing on in our Gospel Doctrine classes this year. The Savior Himself frequently used passages now found in the Old Testament to witness of Himself, confound His enemies, and establish His doctrine.

To illustrate how we may liken the Old Testament to ourselves, let us consider an important concept that is taught in this book of scripture. It concerns how we are to accept callings.

“Thou Art My Son”

We will set the stage by first going to chapter 1 in the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Before Moses received the assignment to lead the children of Israel out of captivity, the Lord prepared him. We read that Moses was “caught up into an exceedingly high mountain, And he saw God face to face” (Moses 1:1–2). Through this experience Moses learned of his relationship to God and heard the words “Behold, thou art my son” (Moses 1:4). Imagine the shock and amazement that Moses, this man raised in the pagan environment of Pharaoh’s court, must have experienced when he learned from God Himself that he was a son of God.

God then explained that Moses was “in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth” (Moses 1:6). And then the Lord showed Moses the majesty of His works. Armed with this knowledge and understanding, Moses was prepared for his assignment. He was also prepared for temptation. When Satan approached him, Moses was able to reject him, saying: “I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten. … Get thee hence, Satan” (Moses 1:13, 16).

Moses knew who he was, he knew who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were, and he knew the source of his strength.

“Who Am I, That I Should Go unto Pharaoh?”

Now let’s read about Moses’s call as recorded in Exodus of the Old Testament. Although Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court, apparently his mother tutored him and taught him about his Hebrew lineage. He knew the ill-treated Hebrew slaves were his brothers. After Moses slew an Egyptian for “smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren” (Ex. 2:11), he fled to the land of Midian.

Some time thereafter, the Lord appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Ex. 3:2; see also footnote a). The Lord said, “Moses, Moses … draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Ex. 3:4–5). At this point the Lord identified himself, saying, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). The Lord then issued a call to Moses with these words: “I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:10).

Moses responded, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11).

One cannot fault Moses for this reaction to this call. After all, the Hebrews did not see him as their brother but rather as an oppressor aligned with Pharaoh, and Pharaoh saw Moses as a traitor whose life he sought. To give Moses assurance about what seemed an almost insurmountable task, the Lord told Moses to cast his staff upon the ground. The staff immediately turned into a serpent. The Lord then gave other signs to demonstrate His power and assure Moses that with the Lord’s help he was equal to the task (see Ex. 4:2–9).

Moses made another attempt to express his feelings of inadequacy. He explained that he was “slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” In response, the Lord said, “Who hath made man’s mouth?” He explained that He would “be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” When Moses still expressed his uncertainty, the Lord assigned Aaron, Moses’s brother, to be Moses’s mouthpiece (see Ex. 4:10–16).

Undoubtedly Moses was comforted. He understood that the Lord was on his side and that he would be able to perform the task.

We Can Receive Divine Help

Now, what is the application for us today? Most of us have been or will be called to positions in the Church. Some of us will be called to positions that seem far above our abilities. Like Moses, we may see a flood of personal inadequacies or obstacles that could prevent our accomplishing what we have been asked to do. Like Moses, we will probably ask ourselves, “Who am I that I should do this?” Some of us may even feel “slow of speech.” We may think there are others more qualified, more worthy, or even more available. But the difference between us and others who may be more qualified is that we are the ones who were called. And so to the question of “Who am I that I should do this?” the answer is simply, “You are the one who was called.”

In Doctrine and Covenants 121 the Lord explains:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

“Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men” (D&C 121:34–35).

I believe the Lord is saying here that He calls, but we decide if we are chosen.

Every member of the Church has been baptized, and thus, in a very real sense, we have all been called. As explained in the sacramental prayer on the bread, we have been called to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments (see Moro. 4:3). We have been called to stand for righteousness and decency in a wicked and degenerate world. We have been called to make and keep covenants. We have been called to be children of righteousness. But we ourselves determine if we will be one of the chosen. We choose.

Whether receiving a formal call to serve in the Church or whether receiving the above-mentioned calls at baptism, we should know that we can receive divine help to accomplish our tasks, just as Moses did. When we ask ourselves, “Who am I that I should do this?” we can answer with assurance: “I am a child of God, created in the similitude of the Only Begotten. Like Moses, I can do this with the Lord’s help.” President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, has a favorite saying, which he has attributed to President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973): “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”1 The Apostle Paul gave further assurance, declaring, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

This is just one example of how we can liken the events in the Old Testament to ourselves in our day. As we study the Old Testament this year—and as we serve in our callings—let us remember the great love the Lord has for us. If we will turn to Him, He will help us in our callings, and He will also enlighten our minds that we may know how to liken the principles of the Old Testament to ourselves in our day.

Helps for Home Evening

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.

  1. Ask family members to share an experience when they were asked to do something and felt overwhelmed. Teach family members about Moses’s call, his feelings of inadequacy, and how he overcame them with the Lord’s reassurance. Use the teachings from the article to discuss how we will be made equal to our tasks as we faithfully serve.

  2. Use the article to recount the events associated with the call of Moses. Invite family members to each choose one of these events and draw a picture of it. Have them explain their pictures and share what they learned from the experience Moses had. Bear testimony that we will receive divine help as we answer the call to serve.

Moses Seeing Jehovah, by Joseph Brickey, may not be copied

Photograph by John Luke

Moses Overcomes Satan, by Joseph Brickey, may not be copied

Moses Calls Aaron to the Ministry, by Harry Anderson