Overcoming Self-Rejection: A Lesson from the Life of Moses

Moses was one of the greatest leaders in history. Like all leaders, he experienced his share of rejection. In studying his life, I counted fourteen cases of rejection. Thirteen of those came from the people of Israel. But one rejection, the second one, was different.

The first rejection of Moses happened when he was forty years old. The second rejection happened when he was eighty. By that time, Moses had spent forty years feeling the effects of his past failure.

The second rejection of Moses is different from the others in that Moses did it to himself. It was the one case of self-rejection that we can see in his career. It was an extreme case, as we will see, but it also appears that Moses overcame this problem going forward.

At the Burning Bush

Moses’s encounter with God at the burning bush is in Exodus 3-4. I will summarize the meeting with a few verses from those chapters.

God spoke to Moses from the bush, saying, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

Moses’s initial reply was to question God’s choice, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

Moses continued his protest: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

So far, Moses’s objections may sound like humility, but it was a false humility. His final protest, and God’s reaction to it, make that clear: “But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses…” (Exodus 4:13-14)

From this point on, every time the Israelites rejected Moses, they were really rejecting God. In this case, however, Moses himself was rejecting God. He was doing it politely (“Oh, my Lord, please…”), but it was still a rejection.

Forty years earlier, Moses’s problem had been self-reliance. Now it was self-rejection. But his self-rejection was really presumption. Who was he to question God’s choice?

Awe Trumps Presumption

Centuries after Moses, at another time in Israel’s history, a prophet named Samuel would anoint a young shepherd named David to be king. David could easily have questioned the choice. Perhaps his brothers were thinking, “Who is David that he should be king?”

We don’t know if David thought “Who am I that I should be king.” However, we do have another thought of his from Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

This is not presumption, this is awe. Psalm 8 begins and ends with, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” David’s reasoning was rooted in awestruck wonder. This delivered him from self-rejection.

It’s amazing that God takes such interest in mankind. But, since he clearly does, why not chose David to be king? Why not chose Moses to be the deliverer of Israel? Why not chose any of us to do anything he wants?

If God’s strength is made perfect in weakness, then his majesty can be manifested through unmajestic servants (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Moses Learned His Lesson

Moses was wrong to question God by rejecting himself. He was still thinking according to the flesh. Maybe he was still trying to compensate for the presumption of his youth.

It didn’t happen again after this, however. Moses made mistakes, but he always learned from them. Here he learned that self-rejection is not the solution to self-reliance. The solution is God-reliance.

The secret of Moses’s success was his dependence on God. After his encounter with God at the burning bush, he was never the same again. He persevered through many trials, including twleve more rejections, and he always overcame and moved forward.

He had come through the twin snares of self-reliance and self-rejection. He continued on the path of greatness with true humility, brokenness, and utter dependence on God.


  • Self-rejection may look like humility, but it is really a form of pride
  • Always rely on God and stay focused on his greatness and glory, and you will steer clear of self-rejection


14 rejections of moses

This excerpt is from The 14 Rejections of Moses: Guideposts on the Path to the Crucified Life

Available at Amazon