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Life of Moses

The Call

Exodus 4

Lesson audio

One of the most encouraging things about Moses is that he started his service for God by raising objections and pleading a lack of capability. We shall take this passage somewhat out of order, as this better serves the purpose of example.

Israel

Exo 4:21-23 NASB The LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (22) "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. (23) "So I said to you, 'Let My son go that he may serve Me'; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn."'"

The Firstborn of God

It is a consistent pattern throughout the Old Testament, back to the days of Abraham. The firstborn – whether human or animal – belongs to God. Here God proclaims that the nation of Israel is His firstborn – and therefore reserved to Him. It is troubling to note the extreme to which God will go to enforce this claim. As we will see later in the Law, the firstborn must be redeemed.

This seems to be of scholarly interest only. But look up “firstborn” in your Bible and you will see that Christ is the firstborn of creation. He belongs to God, and by His sacrifice we are redeemed.[1] We are called the church of the firstborn. Evidently God has lessons to be shown in the firstborn!

Heard their pleas

Exo 4:28-31 NASB Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which He had sent him, and all the signs that He had commanded him to do. (29) Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; (30) and Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. (31) So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.

This passage seems to be rather glib, as if it was no problem for Moses and Aaron. But please note that the last time God spoke to Israel was over 400 years previously. So if they were skeptical, we can see why. Most of us have that same attitude when God does not immediately answer our prayers.

  • We forget that God has a different view of time (since He created it.) He calls all times “soon.”[2]
  • We also have the habit of assuming that since the time of trial has not yet arrived, it isn’t coming.
  • Most of all, we complain that God just isn’t listening.

It seems we are impatient.

Death proclaimed

The spooky part of this passage is in the death of the firstborn of Egypt. How do you know Pharaoh will be hard-hearted – especially in the face of all those miracles?

  • It is a consistent principle throughout history: God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse them.[3]
  • Sometimes God takes his time about delivering the curse (as in this example) so that they might repent.
  • But why the death? At least one reason is this: You know that God is serious about this.

Excuses

Miracles

Exo 4:1-9 NASB Then Moses said, "What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.'" (2) The LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff." (3) Then He said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. (4) But the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail"--so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-- (5) "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you." (6) The LORD furthermore said to him, "Now put your hand into your bosom." So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. (7) Then He said, "Put your hand into your bosom again." So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. (8) "If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. (9) "But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, 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."

We should note that the signs and wonders (miracles) God gives are for His purposes. Sometimes His people take a little convincing:

  • Please note that these miracles are given to Moses before he starts objecting. His response, however, is unfortunately the most common one.
  • Miracles are given for God’s purposes, not man’s. In this instance, as in others, they are used to credential God’s representative.
  • In this instance, we may make one other point. Moses is about to give his objections after these three miracles while he’s standing in front of the burning bush.
Humility

Exo 4:10-12 NASB Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." (11) The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (12) "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say."

Moses, it appears, feels himself inadequate for the task, and he raises good objections to the plan. It seems reasonable. But consider: who among mortal men is good enough to do such things? The problem is that Moses is looking within – while the Lord is working within him.

Disobedience

Exo 4:13-17 NASB But he said, "Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will." (14) Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, "Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. (15) "You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. (16) "Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him. (17) "You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs."

“Pick someone else.” It sounds humble, but let us consider the implications:

  • It means that “God made a mistake in selecting me.” Really?
  • It means that “God is not capable of empowering me to do this.” Really?

It is in fact disobedience, and God reacts to it with anger. He does not explain any of this; He simply tells him to go and get on with it. He simply isn’t going to discuss His commands.

The Call

Moses finally goes. As he does, we can see that this will not be easy.

Adversity

If God calls you to something , expect adversity on all sides.

  • Expect it from your family and friends. If you hear the call, it’s useful to assume that they didn’t.
  • Expect it from the circumstances around you.
  • Expect it from Satan (and feel honored when you get it).
Purity

Exo 4:24-26 NASB Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. (25) Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at Moses' feet, and she said, "You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me." (26) So He let him alone. At that time she said, "You are a bridegroom of blood"--because of the circumcision.

In this strange incident we see that God will insist on the purity of His messengers. The patriarchs had the command to circumcise, but evidently one of Moses’ sons had not been.

Why would God insist on such purity?

  • The pure heart is the only instrument capable of seeing God.[4]
  • To the pure, all things are pure. Therefore the things of God blend in with the things of the world.
  • Such a heart produces the queen of virtues, love.[5]

Such purity is required of those who serve the Lord – even in matters which are symbolic.

What He says, He will do

For those who have the call of Christ upon them, remember that God is not just using you – He’s shaping you to His own ends.

  • If necessary, He will bring punishment upon you. Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines.
  • He will not accept “I can’t do that” – but will transform you until you can.
  • Much to our delight, if He promises blessing or reward, He will be faithful to provide it.

[1] Colossians 1:5

[2] Indebted to C. S. Lewis’ Aslan for this thought.

[3] Which should be noted at the State Department.

[4] Matthew 5:8

[5] 1st Peter 1:22

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