Introduction: This week in our studies of Exodus 4, we see Moses persist in objecting to God’s commission for him to go to Egypt. His faith, like ours, is often slow-growing and prone to discouragement, requiring many promises, commands and even threats before we move forward. May we be reminded in this week’s notes that God is more determined than we are stubborn to move us to walk in the path of His will for our lives. We have a God whose will is patient and persistent. At the same time, His will is not to coerce us, but to make us willing, by grace, to stir up our own faith into action. May we indeed be energized in this way, even as Moses, in the end, was given sufficient courage to act on his faith and return to Egypt!
Monday: read Exodus 4:6-9; 7:10-13 and 7:20-23. Some people conceive of faith as something that acts automatically or almost magically. Martin Lloyd-Jones compares such a mistaken view to the way people rely on thermostats to control their home temperature. You don’t have to do anything once the temperature on the furnace is set. It will bring the room temperature to exactly the right place, with no effort on your part. In the same way, people can wrongly assume that, when trials come, faith will simply “kick-in” and all will be well. But look at Ex. 7:10-13, where Moses and his brother Aaron perform the miraculous signs given to them in Ex. 4:1-9. No doubt they assumed that the signs would have an impressive effect on the king of Egypt. Imagine their disappointment, therefore, to see him return to his palace completely hard-hearted and unmoved. Why, Ex. 7:23 says that Pharaoh did not even take the miracles “to heart”! No – it would take many more mighty deeds wrought by Moses before Pharaoh would give way to God’s plan. Well may we say to Moses: “Patience! The miracles will not do the work in place of your faith! Wait on the Lord, in persevering faith: yes, wait on Him!”
Meditate and Pray: May the Lord never let us underestimate the importance of patience when it comes to the exercise of our faith. As Tom Swanston put it:
This lesson of patience is one of the hardest to learn, not only personally, but in respect of the progress and development of the Christian church. It seems to me that the whole ethos of the Christian faith and life, like the life of Israel before it, is intended to lead to such steadfastness of lifestyle that it sees its seemingly ordinary life of faith as its very essence. Nor can that ever be dull to those who really walk with anyone as engaging as the Lord of glory.
Tuesday: read Exodus 4:10, 4:13 and Romans 9:20. We cannot be sure of all the reasons why Moses was so afraid of obeying God’s commission to go to Egypt. But Moses was raised in the palace of Pharaoh and was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. However, now he was called to go back to Egypt – not as a former prince of that land, but as a lowly shepherd. And remember: According to Genesis 43:32 and 46:34, Egyptians would not even eat with Hebrews, since their vocation as shepherds was thought to be detestable. No wonder Moses tries every ruse to try and persuade God to send someone else! All of us would have recoiled from such a daunting and humiliating mission, were it not for God’s enabling grace!
Meditate and Pray: Moses will eventually learn that God deliberately chooses to direct our lives in ways which appear to have no hope of success. Why does God do that? It is so that, when we succeed and triumph and survive, He alone gets all the credit, and we all the shame of not taking Him at His word! How does God bring this point home to us Zechariah 4:6? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Please Lord, save us from the complaining spirit of Romans 9:20. For, we really have no right, as mere “clay,” to object to your plan as the Divine potter, saying, “Why did you make me like this?”
Wednesday: read Exodus 4:10, 4:13 and 1 Kings 18:21. There are many deceptive arguments, “plausible” excuses and even outright refusals that we can resort to when we balk at progressing further in God’s plan for our lives. Do any of these excuses sound familiar? – “I can’t; I have done everything I could; I’ve tried but that didn’t work; I did my best; I’m at the end of my rope; It’s impossible; I could never do that; Everyone is against me!”
In all these kind of ways, we persuade ourselves that God’s demands are unreasonable, and that we have a much better idea than He does as to how His plan for us should be accomplished. Whom should God send to do His will? “Anyone but me,” as Moses says in Ex. 4:13.
Meditate and Pray: Let us confess how, even as those who call ourselves committed servants of the one true God, we can often change our mind on a dime, “wavering between two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21): To serve God or to drag our feet against Him. Use the words of hymn # 493, by Thomas Pollock, in our Trinity hymnal, to aid you in this confession of our innate unreliability:
|We have not known Thee as we ought,
Nor learned Thy wisdom, grace and power;
The things of earth have filled our thought,
And trifles of the passing hour.
Lord, give us light Thy truth to see,
And make us wise in knowing Thee.
We have not feared Thee as we ought,
|We have not loved Thee as we ought,
Nor cared that we are loved by Thee;
Thy presence we have coldly sought,
And feebly longed Thy face to see.
Lord, give a pure and loving heart
To feel and know the love Thou art.
We have not served Thee as we ought,
Thursday: read Exodus 4:10 and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. In alluding to his “slowness of speech and tongue,” Moses brings up his “piece de resistance” which disqualifies him from going to Egypt, and which serves as his trump card for finally refusing God’s service. His language is quite forceful in verse 10: O my Lord, not from the very first, nor since you have spoken to me, have I been eloquent. But I am heavy or slow in mouth and tongue, and have difficulty speaking. Notice the accusatory tone in what Moses says. Beyond pleading that he naturally lacks the ability to speak, he charges God with failure to equip him for the mission to Egypt, saying as it were, “Ever since you commissioned me, while my hand has been changed into a leper’s hand; while my rod has transformed into a serpent; while water has changed into blood before my very eyes … you have failed, God, in that one area which would really make me effective before Pharaoh – I still cannot speak clearly, authoritatively or triumphantly before men!”
Meditate and Pray: Behold our humble God: Having condescended to Moses, and committed Himself to removing all the obstacles to a victorious Exodus out of Egypt; having promised Moses that Pharaoh would indeed, in the end, let His people go; having provided miracles, covenant reminders, reassurances, and most of all His mighty presence in the burning bush – All meant to show Moses that he would never be alone in his mission – Moses nevertheless insists that it is actually God’s fault that the mission to Egypt will go unperformed! My, how sinful our lips can be! May our prayer everyday be that God would not only spare us from what our sins deserve, but also from what our words deserve!
Friday: read Exodus 4:10-14. We will have more to say next time about God’s awesome response to Moses’ stubbornness, which finally succeeds in sending Moses back down the road to Egypt in Ex. 4:17ff. For this week, we end with God’s sovereign claim over mankind’s gift of communication in Exodus 4:11-12. God claims that it is His power to both give speech and take it away. God makes men able to speak and hear, or unable to form speech and understand its meaning. “It is God who made man’s mouth, and He it is who makes dumb or deaf, seeing or blind.” The comforting message for Moses is clear: God would provide for Moses’ defect, and by His unlimited power would not only teach Moses what to say, but would literally (verse 12) “Be with Moses’ mouth.” Marvelous, that God can even enter into and control each syllable we speak! In order to protect His good news, His Name and His reputation, He ensures that His true servants will speak His word!
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to control your speech, and the speech of our whole church family. It is God who has made all of our mouths. May He be pleased to help us speak only what is “good for edification”! Pray for such a gracious, Divine influence on all your words with hymn # 335:
|Gracious Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would gracious be;
And with words that help and heal
Would Thy life in mine reveal;
And with actions bold and meek
Would for Christ my Savior speak.
Truthful Spirit, dwell with me!
|Mighty Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would mighty be;
Mighty so as to prevail,
Where unaided man must fail;
Ever, by a mighty hope,
Pressing on and bearing up.
Holy Spirit, dwell with me!