Exodus 4:10-17 ~ 20100718 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
7/18 Exodus 4:10-17 The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God
The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God
We've seen Moses struggling to believe who God is and what he says he will do. Moses is raising objections and asking questions, and God is patiently answering those questions and meeting those objections. God is not afraid of the questions of his people. God is not the wizard behind the curtain pretending to be something he's not. In the truth there are answers to every question. God is removing one by one the excuses of his servant. Moses has objected that his reputation is not adequate to the task at hand. His resume is lacking the necessary qualifications. "Who am I that I should go?" God answers that it is not about who you are, Moses; it is about who I am. Moses asked 'who am I?' God answered 'but I will be with you'. So Moses asks 'then who are you? If it doesn't matter who I am, then what are your credentials? Who do I say sent me?' God answers 'I AM THAT I AM, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the self existent uncreated creator of all that is, the uncaused cause of all things.' Tell them that, and tell them what I promise to do. I promise to bring you up out of the land of affliction. And the elders of Israel will listen. But Moses again objects, this time directly contradicting what God has said. 'They will not believe me or listen to me.' So God patiently grants to Moses three terrifying supernatural signs that will demonstrate to the people that God is indeed with him. The signs together with his testimony about the one true God of history will convince the people of God, but they will not persuade the Pharaoh. Now in this passage Moses raises two more objections to being the instrument God uses to deliver the Hebrew people from Egypt.
Here in this section we have the third time God tells Moses to go. He said in 3:10 "come, I will send you to Pharaoh". In 3:16 after answering his first two objections, he says "go and gather the elders of Israel". Now in 4:12, after answering two more objections, God again says "now therefore go". God is amazingly patient with his people. God does not give up on us.
Let's look at Moses' 4th objection.
Moses has objected that he doesn't have the credentials and won't be listened to. God promises that the people will listen. His next objection is that he doesn't speak well. His objections are getting more trivial. First he was concerned about his identity and his reputation; then, when God pointed Moses away from himself, he asked who God is. Next is more of a dispute or complaint; God told him the people would listen to him; Moses argues 'but they won't listen'. God gives him three signs to perform that will cause the Israelites to listen. Now Moses' concern is that if they do listen, they won't be impressed with what they hear. We don't know exactly what Moses' concern is. He claims to be slow of speech and tongue. Some have speculated that Moses had a speech impediment. Literally he says he has a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue. Maybe after 40 years of talking to Midianite sheep in the desert he has lost his command of the Egyptian language. Maybe he was just self-conscious that he was not the best orator of his day. Whatever the case, we find later in the book that Moses does more than his share of public speaking and he seems to do just fine. It appears that Moses is grasping at straws to weasel his way out of God's commission for him. He has moved from the content to the style of delivery.
Notice that Moses' complaint takes the form of an accusation against God. 'You know I've never been eloquent in the past, and not even you showing up and talking to me has been able to change that. Moses is dictating to God the skills inventory necessary to carry out the task at hand. Certainly the person who is to go into the presence of Pharaoh and demand the release of the slaves must be a smooth talker. Certainly God could miraculously bestow eloquence on someone slow of speech – but it hasn't happened yet. Moses is complaining that although you've called me to this task, you've failed to give me the proper equipment for carrying it out. My disobedience is your fault, God, for not giving me the gifts and abilities to do what you've asked me to do. I can't, and you haven't done your part. Moses is questioning the wisdom of God. He is giving God advice. 'God, I don't think your plan was very well thought through. If you're going to send someone to save Israel from Egypt, this is how you should do it. You should choose someone who is popular, a natural leader. They should have a real way with words. Someone who has connections and influence, both with the Hebrew slaves and with the Egyptian royalty. I wonder if there was a bit of thunder in God's response to Moses here:
This reminds me of God's response to Job when Job challenged demanded an audience with the Almighty. God goes on for four chapters questioning Job out of the whirlwind.
God answers 'Who has made man's mouth?' Moses, are you insulting my creative ability? Moses, I made you exactly the way you are. I made you with a purpose in mind. Do you think I made a mistake? That I didn't have the foresight to know what I was going to call you to do? Do you think I forgot to give you some necessary equipment? It is interesting to me to see what God claims here. God claims to be the author of things we would consider disabilities. We might be inclined to attribute the inability to see or hear or speak to the fact that we are living in a sinful fallen corrupt world. But to clear up any misunderstanding or confusion we might have, God answers his own question. 'Is it not I, the Lord?' I made man's mouth. I make men mute and deaf. I determine whether a man will see or will be blind. I am ultimately in control over these apparent disabilities. I cause these things and I cause them for a purpose. I am reminded of the man Jesus healed in John 9 who was born blind. The disciples assumed his condition was a consequence of sin, so they asked who sinned, this man or his parents. Jesus' answer is in line with what God told Moses here. Jesus said:
This is consistent with the rest of scriptures on this matter. Look what else God claims responsibility for:
How can this be? How can things we consider bad - calamity or blindness or slowness of speech – how can they display the works of God? In the man who was born blind, Jesus character and nature was put on display to the blind man, to his parents, to the Jesus-rejecting religious leaders, and to all the people who attended church with him. And this man had the eyes of his heart opened to see Jesus for who he is and to believe in him, to become a bold witness for him, and to worship him as God.
Paul is another example. People who heard him said:
But Paul says:
In fact, there is an eloquence that can nullify the power of God.
For Moses, the same is true. God intentionally chose a man who knew he was not sufficient to the task, someone who did not have the right credentials or resume or skill set specifically so that everyone would know that it was God who delivered Israel from Egypt, not some highly gifted charming individual. Moses, I made you just the way you are so that you would not mistakenly think that it was you who did it; so that you would be under no delusion that you could do it; so that you would depend only and completely on me to do what is impossible for you. God says 'I made your mouth just the way I want it to be for my perfect purposes.
Even after all this, God is still magnificently patient. For the third time he tells him to go, and he promises again to be with him.
Moses asked 'Who am I?' and God responded 'but I will be with you,' the great I AM is with you. Here Moses asks 'but what about my slow speech?' and God answers 'I AM with your mouth'. I will teach you what to say. It would not matter if Moses were completely unable to speak. The issue is not at all about who Moses is or what Moses can do. The issue is that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do and he will use whomever he chooses to use. That's what makes Moses final protest so striking.
Literally, Moses says 'send whom you will send'. This is a polite way of saying 'I don't want to do it'. This final protest of Moses is unique, because he doesn't give a reason. He simply politely declines the invitation. Each of the other protests were based on a fear that could be specifically addressed and answered. At this point Moses says 'you've taken away all my excuses, but the fact is that I just don't want to do it.' God has said 'you, Moses, are the man.' Moses says 'no, I'm not your man. Choose someone else.' This is not wise. Jonah was another prophet God sent on a specific mission and Jonah jumped a ship going the other direction. God chased him down with a storm and booked him passage in the cargo area of a great fish who barfed him up on the shores of Nineveh, where God had told him to go in the first place.
Jeremiah was called by God to speak. He said:
Paul, who was abruptly called by Jesus to preach the gospel said:
God will conquer the rebellious hearts of all he calls into his service. When Moses says 'I'm not worthy, please send someone else', this is not an expression of humility, but of pride. C.H Mackintosh put it this way:
It is in response to this pervasive pride that God responds in anger:
God is rightfully angry with Moses. But again the patience of God shines through. Even in his anger the kindness of God is displayed toward the weakness of his servant. God doesn't back down and allow Moses to walk away. God said he would send Moses, and Moses he will send, but he agrees to send Aaron along with if it will make Moses feel better. There is comfort in the camaraderie, but this may not be an entirely good thing. It would be Aaron who would fashion the gold calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on the mountain with God receiving the commands to have no other gods before him and to make no images.
Here we have a picture of what God's prophet does.
Aaron was to speak for Moses to the people. He was to speak only the words that Moses put into his mouth. Again we see the superabundant grace of God at work. Even in the midst of blatant disobedience – 'please send someone else' – God brings a helper and promises his own presence. God promises his presence with both Moses and Aaron. “I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.” We tend to trust in a friend we can see rather than the faithful one who is always there. Our hearts are inclined to put more confidence in an eloquent tongue than in the one who created it. For us, if God is with us that should be enough.
This is what brings true contentment, true fulfillment, true joy.