Exodus 4 – Moses, Expert Weaseler

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Today’s PassageExodus 4

You ever go into a job interview, a meeting with a doctor, a Q&A session following a lecture, and then afterwards come up with all sorts of questions you wish you’d thought to ask? Moses certainly didn’t. God kinda jumped him with the burning-bush meeting here, but he’s got so many questions and issues that the conversation extends into a second chapter. Say what you will about Moses, but the man can raise a concern.

And here he raises three. We’ve already seen him ask what name he should give as the name of the God who sent him. Now he asks, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’” (1), and then he objects, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent…for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (10). And each time, God answers him.

If the people don’t believe Moses, God has a contingency plan. But it’s not really a contingency plan, because he fully intends to put it to use. He turns Moses’ staff into a snake and back, then makes his hand leprous before curing it again. And if that doesn’t get their attention, God says, “then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground” (9). He puts these miracles in Moses’ toolkit (21), but the power to do them has its source not in Moses, but in God himself. If Moses thinks he can’t give the Israelites a reason to trust him, God can provide an adequate solution outside of Moses.

And then Moses objects that he’s not a good speaker. God doesn’t care; he made mouths, their effectiveness is up to him, and he can teach Moses to say whatever he needs to say. And when Moses politely tries to excuse himself, God gets angry (13-14), but he responds with surprising restraint for an angry deity. “Fine,” he says, in so many words, “we’ll make your brother Aaron the spokesman.” If Moses is inadequate, God is more than capable to make up for Moses’ shortcomings with external resources, whether God provides his own power directly or through Moses’ brother.

At the end of the day, God intends to liberate his people from Egyptian rule and return them to the land he promised them. He’s going to use Moses to accomplish his ends, not because he needs him, but because that’s how he wants to do it. If Moses is to be believed, he and his lead tongue are ill-suited for the task; at the very least, at this point he lacks confidence and shows that his primary skills are hesitation and making excuses. But we know where this book ends up. At the conclusion of Exodus, the people are free and on their way back to Canaan.

By no means do I advocate for pursuing incompetence. If God’s will for us entails learning new skills and abilities, we should invest our time in acquiring what he’s got for us. But God’s ability to work through our lives isn’t dependent on us. He can turn staffs into snakes and water into blood, and he can reverse the process; he can cause and cure leprosy at will. He invented human beings, and guess what? You’re a human being.

And I’m not making any promises, but if you obey God, even if you drag your feet when he calls you, he still might just use you and your brother to liberate an entire nation from the hand of an oppressive Pharaoh.

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