Monday, September 18, 2006

Exodus 4

Exodus 4: Moses gives more excuses, relents, and returns to Egypt

Synopsis

You may recall, from the last chapter, that the LORD has appeared to Moses, to command him to return to Egypt, and bring the Israelites to the promised land. Moses, however, isn’t so sure that it’s a good idea, and gives some reasons/excuses why the LORD should not send him.

In this chapter, he continues to push back, a bit, hoping that the LORD will change His mind, and not send Moses to Egypt.

So he asks God: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (verse 1) In response, the LORD shows Moses some miracles that he can perform, which will prove the LORD sent him:
  • If he throws his staff on the ground, it will turn into a snake. (Verse 3 proves that it was a real snake, because when Moses tried this miracle, he got scared and ran away from it!) When he grabbed the snake by the tail, it turned back into a staff in his hands.
  • When Moses put his hand into his cloak, and then brought it back out, it was “leprous, like snow” (verse 6). (Any time the word “leprous” or “leprosy” is used in the Old Testament—at least in the New International Version—there is a footnote indicating that the Hebrew word was actually used for various skin-related diseases, so it doesn’t mean that he necessarily had leprosy. But he had something skin-related.) He then put his hand back into his cloak, and removed it again, and it was healed.
  • God tells Moses that “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second.” But if they still don’t believe, He tells Moses that he can take some water from the Nile, and pour it on the ground, and it will become blood.
So this should be enough to answer Moses’ concern: if people don’t believe him, and don’t believe that the LORD really appeared to him, then these miracles should prove it.

But Moses has another concern: he’s not a very good speaker. The answer to this one is easy:

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (verses 11–12)

Now, any student of the Bible—or anyone who’s been attending church for any length of time—will be aware that the LORD is patient, and long-suffering, and slow to anger. But it seems to me, reading that passage, that God is demonstrating to Moses that He is about finished hearing Moses’ excuses, and it’s time for Moses to get going. But, finally, Moses gets to what he really wanted to say all along:

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (verse 13)

This makes God angry—verse 14 says that the LORD’s anger “burned against Moses”—but He is still patient with him. He agrees to send Aaron—Moses’ brother—along with Moses; Moses will tell Aaron what to say, and Aaron will relay the messages. Moses, however, is still to perform the miracles.

God sends Aaron, and he comes to meet Moses, at the mountain of God, and he and Moses and Moses’ wife and son return to Egypt. (God warns Moses, before he leaves, that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that the Pharaoh will not let God’s people go.)

Along the way, before they get to Egypt, the LORD meets… someone, and is about to kill him, when Zipporah saves the day by circumcizing Moses’ son, and touching Moses’ feet with the foreskin.

Finally, Moses and Aaron reach Egypt, and explain the situation to the Israelite elders. They also show them the miracles. So the elders believe the story, and they bow down and worship God, because He is concerned about their misery.

Thoughts

Moses’ main problem, in the last chapter and this one, is that he doesn’t have the right perspective. He forgets that it is God who will be responsible for doing what needs to be done, and Moses is just the messenger—the prophet. You will notice that any time Moses raises an objection or a concern, God’s answer is always “Focus on Me”:
  • Q: Why me? I’m a nobody. A: Yes, but I will be with you.
  • Q: What if they want to know Your name? A: I am who I am. I am the God who has always been, and will always be.
  • Q: What if they don’t believe me? A: Show them the miracles—things that you couldn’t possibly be doing on your own, which proves that it’s Me doing it.
  • Q: But I’m not a good speaker. A: Who do you think gave you the power of speech in the first place?!? Just go, and I’ll tell you what to say.
Later on, Moses became a great leader of the Israelites, but he did so because he learned, and never forgot, who was really in control. (Answer: God.) Moses had more direct contact with God than any other human who ever lived—except for Jesus, of course—and what was the result? Numbers 12:3 says that he was “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”. When Moses realized that it wasn’t his job to do all of these things, but God’s, he became a very effective leader.

Earlier, I said that the LORD met “someone” and was about to kill them. I used the word “someone” because it’s not clear, from the text, if it’s Moses He is about to kill, or Moses’ son. In either event, it seems that the reason He is going to do this is because the boy is not circumcized; either the boy will be killed, because he’s not circumcized, or Moses will, for not having the boy circumcized. I find it interesting that it’s Zipporah—who is not a Hebrew—who saves the day and circumcizes the boy, not Moses.
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