Introduction: We began Exodus 4 with Moses questioning his status as the Divinely-picked deliverer to lead Israel out of Egypt. He can’t help but ask in Ex. 4:1 what would happen if Israel refused to believe that God had sent him. He even pleads with God in Ex. 4:13 to send someone else! Yet, God’s ways are not Moses’ ways. His ways surpass all human wisdom! For His own inscrutable purposes, He insists on choosing Moses – probably the most unwelcome (as well as unwilling) Hebrew ever to return to the land of Egypt! May we this week learn much from the way God’s higher purposes trumped the fears of even His servant Moses!
Monday: read Exodus 4:1 and Acts 7:22-25. The first proof that God’s ways were not Moses’ is that God’s timetable for Moses to become Israel’s leader was completely opposite to Moses’ own expectation. When Moses was young, he confidently believed it was time for him to rescue the Hebrews (Acts 7:25). But God said no. When he was old, Moses was sure it was no longer the right time for him to be of any use in God’s plan of redemption. But God said the time had come – even though it had been forty years since Moses’ last attempt to redeem God’s people!
Meditate and Pray: Let us begin this week by acknowledging with Moses that God alone is God, and that His will, timetable and purpose for our lives is, in Elizabeth Elliot’s words, “necessarily, infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond our largest notions of what God is up to.” Our times, truly, are in God’s capable hands, as hymn # 684 in our hymnal says:
My times are in Thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul I leave
Entirely to Thy care.
My times are in Thy hand;
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.
My times are in Thy hand;
Why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.
My times are in Thy hand,
Jesus, the crucified!
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.
Tuesday: read Exodus 4:1, 8-9, 17. In response to Moses’ doubts, God shows Moses three supernatural “signs” in Ex. 4:2-9 and gives Moses’ miraculous power to perform them with his rod (Ex. 4:17). It would do us good here to remember the purpose of miracles in the Bible. In essence, Biblical miracles indicate the desperate state of God’s people in sin – so desperate that only miraculous intervention by God will be sufficient for their salvation. This is a unique fact about Biblical Christianity which sets it apart from other world religions. As C.S. Lewis points out in his book Miracles: other world religions, while scattering random miracles here and there, have no place for the intentional, supernatural intervention of God in human existence. To be saved, Christianity requires those of faith to step out of what Richard Philips calls “… the bounds of nature. Christianity differs… in that it posits a world that in its natural state is lost, that requires an inbreaking of divine power and action for salvation.” Such an “inbreaking” of God into our fallen world explains the importance of miracles in the Bible.
Meditate and Pray: How we should rejoice that our God is willing to “roll up His sleeves” and come right down into Egypt, to do whatever it takes, physically and supernaturally, to rescue His people from bondage! No wonder this great miracle-packed work of redemption, for which God prepares Moses in Ex. 4, is described as God “stretching forth His mighty arm” (Ex. 6:6)! Let us celebrate God’s mighty, miracle-working arm with the words of Ex. 15:13-14 & 16, which Moses and the people of Israel sang after the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea:
In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble… terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as stone – until your people pass by, O Lord, until the people you bought pass by.
Wednesday: read Exodus 4:1-5. God gives three signs to prove that His presence will go with Moses on a successful rescue mission out of Egypt. First, in Ex. 4:2-5, God challenges Moses to pick up his rod once it has been transformed into a serpent – and then specifically declares in verse 5 that this miracle is so that Israel 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. God knows the terrorized frame of mind of His people, in bondage to a world power where snakes were worshipped and exalted as a symbol of Egyptian power. Behold Him stooping to their level of weakness by showing His control over this most feared symbol of curse, enabling Moses’ hand to be mightier than the feared serpents of Egypt! What a sign to help Israel believe! Has God not done the same thing for us by giving us the sign of the Cross of His Son as a reminder of His victorious power over the curse of our sin? Every time the Gospel is preached, Christ crucified is portrayed visibly to the eye of faith, lifted up victorious over the original serpent Satan!
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God that He helps our weak faith by “signs” that our human experience can readily grasp, in addition to the word of Divine command or promise. Think of the Lord’s Supper, loaded down with symbols of Christ’s conquest over sin, Satan and death! Let us thank God that, all over the world today, Christ’s prediction about the sign of His Cross is coming true, as people put their faith in the good news of “Christ Crucified.” As John 12:31-32 puts it: “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
Thursday: read Exodus 4:1-5; 4:17; 4:30-31 and 7:10-12, 19-20. It was no accident that God chose Moses’ rod as a sign of His power to overcome not only Moses’ sinful doubts, but the evil power of Egypt. Just as God had used Moses’ rod to preserve him in the desert for forty years, enabling him to use it to protect sheep, so now God would use it even more mightily: not only to kindle faith and hope when Israel saw the signs it performed (Ex. 4:30-31); not only as a “serpent” which would swallow the rods of the Egyptian magicians (Ex. 7:12), but even as a rod by which the judgment of God would strike the source of life in Egypt, the Nile river (Ex. 7:19)! How much do we, like Moses and Aaron, need to learn of God’s power! May He in our day smite all the ungodly powers in our lives which hold us in such fear! May we believe that, on every hand, our Lord Jesus stands ready to rebuke “with His rod” everything which would set itself up against God and His people!
Meditate and Pray: Thank the Lord Jesus that He also, like Moses, carries a “rod” by which to exercise His power against all evil in our day. John the Apostle saw that rod and called it “Christ’s iron scepter, with which He would rule the nations” (Rev. 2:26-27). On the other hand, how glorious for us, His saints, that He can also gently rule us with that rod, just as Moses the shepherd took care of Jethro’s sheep. What a wonderful Savior we have, with lion-like courage and yet lamb-like gentleness!
Friday: read Exodus 4:1-5; Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:13-15. It was no accident that God chose the symbol of a serpent to teach Moses His authority over the most-feared evils which the serpent symbolized. Some of the ancient Doctors of Scripture used to say that Moses was permitted to grasp the serpent by the tail (Ex. 4:4), but not the head, since “crushing the serpent’s head” (Gen. 3:15) would only be accomplished by Christ Himself. But what comes to mind first are the fiery serpents which God sent as a curse on all Israel in Num. 21:4-9 to chastise them for their grumbling and rebellion. Those fiery serpents were symbolic of God’s curse against the sins of His own people! But God also used the serpent as a symbol of the curse extinguished. He directed Moses to make a bronze serpent to be lifted up in view of the whole Israelite camp (Num. 21:8-9), so that “when anyone bitten by a snake looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Jesus views Himself as fulfilling that Old Testament picture. Anyone who looks in faith to Christ crucified has eternal life. Death as the curse of sin is extinguished because Christ Himself became the curse for us!
Meditate and Pray: “Lord, you know the various trials and fears which hinder and prevent your church from going bravely forward to become all that you have purposed her to be. We confess that, like Moses, our weak doubts and strong foes can easily beset us. Please remind us that our Shepherd-Savior Jesus bears the rod not merely as a gentle shepherd, but also as a conquering King. Open our eyes to see how Jesus indeed goes before us “to prepare a table for us, even in the presence of our enemies.” Give us courage, then, like you did Moses, to go forth in your name to smite with the rod of your power all which would oppose our spiritual progress. In Christ’s name, Amen.”
Sing about our determined Shepherd-Leader and the power of His rod, which even we can use by faith, with the words of hymn # 574 in our Trinity Hymnals:
Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground,
How the powers of darkness rage thy steps around?
Christian, up and smite them, counting gain but loss,
In the strength that cometh by the holy cross.
Christian, dost thou feel them, how they work within,
Striving, tempting, luring, goading into sin?
Christian, never tremble; never be downcast;
Gird thee for the battle, watch and pray and fast.