Exodus 4-6

nascent church Add comments

For Exodus 4-6 we have a lot to work with.

First off we continue from yesterday the conversation God has with Moses. God keeps telling Moses more and more. In the beginning of 4, Moses has yet another question.

“Well, um, okay,” he stammers. “What if, well, what if they just don’t believe me? What if they say, ‘Yeah right. God appeared to you. Go away.’ What do I tell them if they go and say something like that?”

Moses in Exodus chapter four is not the Moses we were taught about in Sunday school. This guy is, well, Moses is not the guy a pastor would choose to lead a new ministry. He’s nice and all. But really, no initiative anymore. The guy just doesn’t have a passion for it.

Where’s that old Moses? He wouldn’t be questioning God. He’d already be back in Egypt chatting with Pharaoh.

God doesn’t give up though. “What’s in your hand,” he asks.

“Well golly, God, it’s a staff.”

“Throw it down.”

“Yaaack! Snake.”

“Pick it up Moses. By the tail.”

The staff became a snake, the snake became a staff, a normal hand is diseased, a diseased hand is made whole. Water is turned to blood.

Who is God? I AM. I AM is in control of all the elements. I AM is the master of everything. There is no pantheon needed. He is in charge of the water. He is in charge of healing and disease. He is in charge of matter and animals. God is lord of it all. Through signs and wonders he shows his mighty power to this mighty man of God who will go forth and lead the people from the bondage of slavery.

“Um, well,” is how Moses replies. “That’s fine. But, um, I’m not so good at speaking. Not at all good with words or phrases or… well, those sorts of things. I’m a little slow, so…”

“Who makes a mouth?” God asks. Again with the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine.

“Oh, alright,” Moses answers. “I get that. Well, um, then. You know, you should send someone else.”

Remember, Moses here is talking to a burning bush, having just seen a staff become a snake and his hand diseased and healed.

Clearly, though, it’s God that doesn’t know what he’s doing. Moses knows full well who Moses is these days. He’s just not leader material. Maybe back in the day, well then he was full of fire and brimstone. Not anymore. No, those days are past. Thanks God, but you don’t know who I am, so I decline the honor and thank you for asking.

“Well, if you put it that way,” God doesn’t say. “I guess you’re right. You really are a goofball. Don’t know what I was thinking with this. ”

No. He doesn’t say that. God gets mad. Who is Moses to tell God anything. Who in God’s name is Moses to say should be chosen. God’s name chooses Moses.

Moses here is a broken man. He’s crushed in spirit. He really does seem out of place. But that’s not at all the point. Who cares? The point of Moses isn’t that he was a great and natural leader, full of obvious gifts and wondrous ways with words. No, the point was that God chose him.

Why do we talk of Moses. Because God chose Moses. That’s it.

Moses was broken enough that he was barely able to listen. He was broken enough that he wasn’t going to go and give Pharaoh any of his own words. He was so broken that he was resigned to doing whatever God wanted.

Moses was broken. God chose Moses. And that’s that.

Fortunately, God understands and also sent his brother along to help out, you know, right at first.

In 4:18 Moses doesn’t quite lie to his father in law, but he certainly fudges the whole truth a good bit. He gets permission to go back to Egypt. God gives Moses the first few instructions. Then we get to 4:24.

Do you have any idea what is going on in 4:24? I don’t. Sure we can make guesses, but the fact is this is just a plain odd few sentences and if anyone tells you otherwise they are more confident than they have a right to be. Your guess is as good as mine, and pretty much as good as any scholar out there.

It really should be cut out. But, I guess no one saw fit to do that, so I won’t.

At the end of chapter four Moses speaks to the elders who are so overcome by joy that God has finally heard them they fall down and worship.

In chapter five things get a lot worse for the Hebrews.

Moses talks to Pharaoh. This is one of those cases where overtranslation takes away some of the effect. In our Bible we read, “The LORD.” That’s not what the Hebrew says. There’s a word for Lord, but that’s not what is in this verse. No, Moses is using God’s given name here, the name God told Moses to use. Pharaoh isn’t saying, “I don’t know God.” No, he is much more bold than that. I don’t know anyone by that name, he says. Who’s that. Never heard of that god. Egyptians have all sorts of gods with different names. Who is Moses to come in and make demands from a god no one has heard of. That’s silliness.

So he sends him away, and because Pharaoh really has no regard for whats-his-name, but quite a bit of confidence in the gods he can name, he makes the Hebrews work harder, and drives them deeper into despair.

That’s just not right. Things shouldn’t happen that way. But over and over again they do. On the very eve of salvation things get worse. The burdens are heavier. The weight is crushing. Problems increase, difficulties rise.

“You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh,” the Hebrews say to Moses. And the fact is they’re absolutely right.

Which makes it odd when we see troubles as being a sign that God isn’t listening. Could be God really is.

Why? Because God likes a good show. He likes to really, really save his people, and crush the wills of those who oppose him. He does this even if we would sometimes accept a little less glory and get to work a little before the straw is also taken away from our brick making tasks.

Things do get a lot worse. What must Moses be thinking? I bet he didn’t blame God. Aaron might have. Moses, I bet, blamed himself.

“See,” he may have said. “I told you I wasn’t any good at speaking. Now I’ve gone and made things worse. I told you God. You picked the wrong guy. Now see what happened. Just let me go home now. Please.”

We know he does cry out to the Lord and asks, “Is this why you sent me?”

The answer in chapter six of Exodus are some of the most important words in the entire Bible. You do not know God if you do not understand what he is saying in these verses. In Exodus 6:2-8 God reveals himself in a completely new and powerful way, the exact way we can depend on him today.

He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But to them he was a name. He was the source of a call. “But I did not make myself known to them,” God tells Moses.

In chapter six, God makes himself known. He is the God who is. But, more so, he is the God who acts. From this point on God’s self-definition changes. From now on God defines himself by what he does.

We do not read here a systematic treatise on the nature of God, including all the omnis and various proofs that of Prime Mover, Uncaused Cause, or the rest. God does not give a lesson in apologetics, or sit Moses down for a good lecture on impassibility.

God reveals himself here, and it is this revelation that we have what we know about God.

“I will free you. I will redeem you. I will take you as my own. I will be your God. You will know this is true because I will bring you out from under the yoke of Egypt. I will bring you to the land I promised. I will give it to you. I am I AM.”

Moses passed this on. The Hebrews didn’t believe him. God, you see, hadn’t done any of that yet, so they had no reason to believe. God defined himself in terms of his promise and his actions.

So doubt remained.

“Sheesh, God,” Moses says at the end of the chapter. “The folks won’t listen to me. Why would Pharaoh listen?”

In chapter six we have God defining himself. From now on we have God working out this definition not in philosophic or rhetorical terms. No. God is very, very literal. He is the God who does bring his people out of Egypt, and so they shall be brought out of Egypt indeed. God chose Moses to speak, and so Moses will in fact speak. God is the God who is, but he insists we relate to him as the God who acts and the God who does. It’s his word, you see. Powerful and effective, not just convincing and inspiring.

Comments are closed.