Moses spoke to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I’ve never been a good speaker. And I haven’t gotten any better since you spoke to me. I don’t speak very well at all.”
The Lord said to him, “Who makes human beings able to talk? Who makes them unable to hear or speak? Who makes them able to see? Who makes them blind? It is I, the Lord.
Now go. I will help you speak. I will teach you what to say.”
But Moses said, “Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
Then the Lord became very angry with Moses. He said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you. He will be glad to see you.
Speak to him. Tell him what to say. I will help both of you speak. I will teach you what to do.
He will speak to the people for you. He will be like your mouth. And you will be like God to him.
But take this walking stick in your hand. You will be able to do signs with it.”
Teaching Guide and Explanation
DOUBT OF MOSES
TEXT: Exodus 4:10-17
MEMORY VERSE: My help comes from the Lord, who created the earth and heaven. [Psalm 121:2]
We come across one of the passages this week where we’re reminded that Moses is a lot like us. We see in Exodus 4:10-17 that he wants to make excuses… just like us. Has any other thing ever come out of your mouth like this? “I don’t know enough of the Bible.”
We saw Moses struggling to believe who God is and what he says he’s going to be doing. Moses poses objections and asks questions, and God addresses those questions patiently and satisfies those objections. God is not afraid of his people’s questions. Behind the curtain, God is not the magician pretending to be someone he’s not. In fact, answers to every question are available. God is withdrawing his servant’s excuses one by one.
Moses argued that his prestige was not sufficient for the role at hand. His resume lacks the credentials required. Who am I to go? Who am I? God responds that, Moses, it is not about who you are; it is about who I am. Moses was thinking, ‘who am I?’ ‘God responded,’ but I am going to be with you.’ So Moses asks,’ Who are you then? If who I am doesn’t matter, what are your qualifications then? Who can I say sent me? I AM THAT I AM the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the self-existent, uncreated maker of all that is the uncaused cause of all things,’ God replies.
Tell them what I promise to do. I pledge that I will get you out of this land of affliction. And Israel’s elders are going to listen. Yet Moses objects again, this time explicitly contradicting what was said by God. They’re not going to believe me or listen to me, So God patiently gives three frightening spiritual signs to Moses that will convince the people that God is still with him. The signs, along with his testimony, will inform the people of God of the one true God of history, but they will not persuade Pharaoh. Moses now poses two more objections in this passage to be the instrument used by God to save the Hebrew people from Egypt.
Here in this part, God tells Moses to go for the third time. He said, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh,” at 3:10. He says, “Gather the elders of Israel” at 3:16 after addressing his first two objections. In 4:12, God again says, “now, therefore, go after addressing two more objections. With his people, God is incredibly patient. God is not giving us up.
Moses has argued that he has no qualifications and is not going to be listened to. God assures him that people will listen. His next objection is that he’s not good at speaking. His critiques are becoming more trivial. He was first concerned about his identity and reputation, then asked who God was when God pointed Moses away from himself. Next is more of a disagreement or complaint; God told him that he would be listened to by the people; Moses says, ‘but they would not listen.’ God sends him three performing signs that will make the Israelites listen.
Now Moses fears that they won’t be impressed by what they hear if they listen. We don’t know exactly what the problem with Moses is. He asserts that his speech and tongue are sluggish. Some have speculated that Moses had an impediment to speech. He claims he literally has a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue. He may have lost his command of the Egyptian language after 40 years of speaking to the Midianite sheep in the desert. Perhaps he was also self-conscious that he was not his day’s best orator. Later in the story, whatever the case, we find that Moses does more than his part of public speaking, and he did just fine.
Moses seems to be scratching at straws to weasel his way out of the commission of God for him. He has switched from the material to the delivery style.
Note that the complaint made by Moses takes the form of an allegation against God. ‘You know, I was never eloquent in the past, and you were not even able to change that by turning up and talking to me. Moses determines to God the inventory of abilities required to execute the assignment at hand. The person who is to go to Pharaoh’s presence and demand the release of the slaves must definitely be a smooth speaker. God might probably miraculously offer eloquence to someone who is slow to speak, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Moses complains that while you called me for this assignment, you neglected to give me the right equipment to carry it out. Your fault is my disobedience, God, for not giving me the gifts and skills to do what you have asked me to do. I can’t, because your part hasn’t been finished by you. The wisdom of God is being challenged by Moses. He gives counsel to God. ‘Oh God, I don’t think your idea was thought out very well. If you’re going to send someone out of Egypt to save Israel, this is how you can do it. Someone who is famous, a natural leader, should be chosen. With terms, they should have a real course. Someone who, both with the Hebrew slaves and with the Egyptian Royalty, has relations and influence. In God’s answer to Moses here, I wonder if there was a bit of thunder:
Then the Lord said to him, Who hath made the mouth of man? Who is making him mute, or deaf, or blind, or seeing? Isn’t it I, the Lord?
This reminded me of the answer of God to Job when Job asked the Almighty to ask an audience. God goes on to interrogate Job from the whirlwind for four chapters.
God responds,’ Who made the mouth of man? ‘Moses, are you mocking my ability to create? Moses, exactly the way you are, I have made you. I have built you with an intent in mind. Do you think it’s a mistake I made? That I had no foresight to know what I would call you to do? Do you think I forgot to send you some equipment that is necessary? I find it fascinating to see what God says here. God claims to be the author of all that we perceive to be handicapped.
We would be inclined to attribute the inability to see or hear or talk to the fact that we live in a corrupt universe that is sinful and fallen. But God answers his question to clear up any misunderstanding or uncertainty we may have. ‘Isn’t it I, the Lord? ‘I produced the mouth of the man. I render men deaf and mute. I decide whether or not a man is going to see or be blind. In the end, I have power over these visible disabilities. I’m causing these things for a reason, and I’m causing them. In John 9, I remember the man Jesus healed, who was born blind. The disciples believed that his condition was a result of sin, so this man or his parents asked who sinned.
Intentionally, God chose a man who knew he was not adequate for the Job, someone who had not set the right credentials or resume or capacity so that everyone might see that it was God who set Israel free from Egypt, not some highly talented charming human. I made you the way you are, Moses, so that you wouldn’t wrongly believe it was you who did it so that you wouldn’t be under any illusion that you might do it; so that you would rely on me exclusively and entirely to do what is impossible for you. ‘I made your mouth the way I want it to be for my perfect purposes,’ God says.
Moses was saying,’ Who am I? ‘And God said, ‘But I’m going to be with you,’ the wonderful I am with you. Moses is asking here,’ but what about my slow speech? ‘And God answers, I am with thy mouth.’ I’ll be showing you what to say. If Moses were totally unable to speak, it would not matter. The dilemma is not about who Moses is or what Moses can do at all. The problem is that God is who he says he is and that he is going to do what he says he is going to do, and he is going to use whomever he wishes to use. That’s what makes the final protest against Moses so striking.
Moses says literally,’ send whoever you send’. That’s a nice way to say, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ This final protest by Moses is peculiar in that he offers no excuse. He actually refuses the invitation respectfully. Each of the other demonstrations is focused on a fear that could be discussed and answered directly. At this point, Moses says, ‘You have taken away all my excuses, but the truth is that I don’t want to do it.’ God said, ‘You, Moses, are the guy.’ Moses says, ‘No, I’m not your man. Choose someone else.’ Well, that’s not smart. Jonah was also another prophet God sent on a particular mission, and Jonah jumped a ship in the other direction. God chased him out with a storm and booked him a passage in the cargo area of the great fish that barked him on the shores of Nineveh, where God had ordered him to go in the first place.
God is rightly furious with Moses. Yet God’s patience shines through again. Even in his wrath, God’s goodness is shown to the weakness of his servant. God is not going back down and allowing Moses to walk away. God said that he would send Moses, and he would send Moses, but he promised to send Aaron if Moses felt better. There is warmth in the camaraderie, but this might not be a good thing. It would be Aaron who would make the Israelites worship a golden calf while Moses was on the mountain with God receiving orders that there should be no other gods before him and that no images should be made.
The next time you hear an argument coming out of your mouth, think about it when you let your feelings of inadequacy prevent you from serving God, and you take on the responsibility that God never expected you to have. Your capacity is not a matter of doubt. It is your willingness to trust, obey, serve, and follow God. God addresses Moses in a peculiar way that really shows more about who He is, who we are, and what the Gospel really is all about.