Book of Exodus Chapter Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Call of Moses
A concerned Moses continued expressing objections to God—insisting that he was the wrong man for the assignment! Part of his problem is glimpsed in Psalm 90:10. He was the author of that Psalm and at the time of its writing he was convinced that a person might live seventy or eighty years, but that was it. Stephen, in Acts 7:23 & 30 revealed that Moses was eighty at this time. At forty (Acts 7:23) Moses was more than willing, but now he was eighty and didn't want the assignment. He continued to come up with excuses, but the reality was—he just didn't want to go. In Verse 1, "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.'"
The Lord has an infinite ability to overcome our objections and in Verse 2, "The Lord said to him, 'What is that in your hand?' And he said, 'A staff.'" It was undoubtedly the shepherd's staff he had used to herd sheep and other animals for the past forty years...and at the time he had no thought that God was using shepherding as a way to teach him to lead a nation. What is in YOUR hand—and are you willing to let God use it? The Lord told him in Verse 3, "'Throw it on the ground.' So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it." That's kind of funny, but it's also quite reasonable. If my computer keyboard suddenly turned into some kind of snake, I would do what he did—run! He truly had Moses' attention now, and "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—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" (Verses 4-5). Are you reluctant? What if God suddenly revealed His intention to send you into an experience that seems far beyond your ability to deal with it? I'm still wondering, after all these years, why God called me to a ministry through the computer. I would select a younger person who is more capable, but He didn't—He chose me. After a few objections, I said "yes" and I'm glad I did.
The Lord had more for him—In Verse 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." Leprosy is far less common in most of the world than it was, but our fear would be much like his. The sudden change of his hand would have been the shock of a lifetime. As he stared at it, any thoughts of a normal life were gone...his marriage seemed irrepararably over for no one would ever touch him again, which is the way lepers were treated. But God wasn't done, for in Verse 7 "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." If there is something in your life that seems like leprosy to you, consider these verses. God can change everything in an instant, and if He does not do it, there is a good reason.
The Lord continued in Verses 8-9: "If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. 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." The jaw of Moses undoubtedly fell and his mouth opened with amazement as the Lord's words continued. Water from the Nile...into blood? It was incredible, but the main problem still remained—Moses did not want to go. He actually began to whine as he "said to the Lord" in Verse 10, "'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.'" His real problem remained—too much had happened and he did not want this new responsibility. "Then the Lord said to him," in Verse 11, "'Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'"
Important truths are touched here. If Moses was presently "slow of speech," it was not always the case. As reported in Acts 7:22, he "was mighty in words." And if you or someone in your life becomes "mute or deaf...or blind," cancerous or leaves this life altogether, the Lord indeed could have prevented it. The Lord is utterly good, and when things seem wrong, He simply has a higher purpose than you or I understand. And so He continued in Verse 12, "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." Moses, however, had more—"Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will." Send somebody, anybody, but don't send me! Sometimes, quite often actually, the Lord does have a Plan B, someone else who will go if you won't—but Moses was the one. He had been carefully prepared from before his birth for this moment—he was the one God wanted.
Does God get angry? Verses 14-17 are clear that He does: "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.' 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. 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. You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs." His older brother, Aaron, became like a "Plan B" for the rescue of Israel. You can't talk effectively, Moses? Well, your brother Aaron can, for "I know that HE speaks fluently." And God, who knows all our objections even before we concoct them, already spoke with Aaron, who was on his way to meet Moses at that very moment. Aaron would speak the words God gave to Moses and all Moses had to do was "perform the signs" which were actually done by God. All true ministry is done by the Lord; not by us alone.
Every objection had been dealt with and as we see in Verse 18, "Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, 'Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.' And Jethro said to Moses, 'Go in peace.'" Moses respected the authority of his father-in-law, who let Moses go because he knew this was the hand of the Lord, who continued in Verse 19: "Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead." The Lord knows our fears just like He knew the heart of Moses, and in Verse 20, "Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand." Moses was somewhat getting over his resistance and was now on His way to Egypt. He actually had no choice.
Notice in Verses 21-23 that God utterly knows your future and mine. He knew what Pharaoh would say and He told Moses in advance the very words he was to reply: "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.' Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn.' 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.'" Carefully note that God would harden the heart of Pharaoh. Yes these are human lives and yes we have free will, but many of the events around us are carefully orchestrated and are significant in ways we don't understand: The Lord would "harden" Pharaoh's heart. Also note that God remembers what is done to His little ones. Egypt killed an unknown number of Israel's baby boys and now their own sons were in danger.
While on the journey to Egypt, Moses and his wife had a serious argument. As seen in Verse 26, Moses, who was to return to his Jewish countrymen, who would expect his own sons would be circumcised. His wife objected. Verses 24-26 are as follows: "Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 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.' So He let him alone. At that time she said, 'You are a bridegroom of blood'—because of the circumcision." The rite of circumcision was so important to the Lord that He would have killed Moses through disease or a lightning strike if it was not done. Circumcision is often encountered in Scripture, beginning in Genesis 17:10-11 & its context: Almighty God told Abraham, "Every male child among you shall be circumcised," It was the sign of a covenant, a contract between Abraham, his descendants and the Lord God. Ninety-nine year old Abraham and all other males in his community of any age, were circumcised immediately. Boys would be circumcised "at eight days old" (Genesis 17:12). Abraham's sons, Ishmael and Isaac were included, and the custom continued within his bloodline through the centuries, long before modern Judaism and Mohammed appeared on the scene. The act of circumcision was so important to God as a sign of His covenant with Israel, that Moses would have been disqualified from the Lord's call on his life if his sons were not circumcised. And amazingly he would have died (Verse 24), perhaps from disease. His wife stepped in and did what he should have done. We are to be alert to any call, all instruction from the Lord—our life may depend on it.
Moses was not the only one in the family who heard from the Lord. Verse 27 reports, "Now the Lord said to Aaron, 'Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.' So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him." His brother, Aaron, traveled some distance to the east and met with his younger brother, Moses, who had not been heard from in forty years. In Verse 28, "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." They returned to Goshen in Egypt together and in Verses 29-30, the two "went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people." I don't know about you, but the staff turning into a snake and Moses' hand becoming leprous would have been enough for me, as in Verse 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." We need to become willing to see and understand that the Lord knows our situation and cares about what is happening to us. Just like "the people believed," we are to believe also.
Dear God, You value our belief in Your character, that You are infinitely strong, capable, full of love and what You do is good for us. Nothing is by chance and You value us all, even when things seem to go wrong. I trust in You now. Forgive me for the times I have lacked faith. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.