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God's Patience in Our Doubts
a commentary on Exodus 4
Good morning and welcome to another Biblit! Last week we read about God calling Moses to the job of a lifetime. He is to be the intermediary between God and His people as the Lord frees Israel from bondage. This week is the beginning of the crazy struggle that takes place before Israel can be freed. Let’s jump into this commentary on Exodus 4!
If you recall, last week I told you Moses would reject God 4 times before finally committing to being the “chosen one.” We saw the first 2 last week, and right at the start of Exodus 4, we see his third attempt to get out of this calling.
Moses is worried that the Israelites will not believe him when he tells them that God called him to this position. I can’t blame Moses. I’d probably react the same way. Israel hasn’t heard from God in 400 years. Moses also just ran away for 40 years so who is to say this isn’t some ruse to try and get in their good graces again and return home as prince of Egypt.
Well, God hears the complaint and graciously obliges. He tells Moses to throw his staff down, which becomes a nahash, or serpent. This is the first sign. God commands Moses to pick up the staff, which turns back into itself. The second sign God uses is he turns Moses’s hand leprous, which was often a sign of disobedience and judgment. After healing his hand, God shows Moses a third sign he can use in case the first two fail. Moses watches as God miraculously turns some water from the Nile into blood.
Another cool connection between Moses and Jesus here. Jesus performed signs and miracles as a way to show He was fully God and fully man. Moses will perform these signs to show that God is truly working through Him. The symbolism of the staff is that God works through Moses so his staff becomes God’s staff. There is also a cool connection here in that God turns water to blood, just as Jesus turns water to wine. Jesus then later relates a glass of wine to His own blood being poured out for us.
Ok, Moses, are you satisfied now? Are all your worries gone?
Moses is still worried and feels inadequate. He brings up his fourth and final rejection which is that he has poor speech and could not possibly lead the Israelites.
God reassures Moses by saying that it is He who created the mouth, can He not also control it and give Him the power to lead?
Moses does not trust God at this moment which leads God to anger, but God is still gracious. Even when His own son basically spat in His face and said, Nah I still don’t trust you, God still loves him and helps him in his weakness.
God declares that Aaron is on his way and will be the voice for Moses. Just as a prophet is a voice for God, so Aaron will be a voice for Moses. It’s cool to see God’s full sovereignty here. He knew Moses would get to this point of distrust before they even had their conversation. He would have had to tell Aaron a while ago to enter the wilderness to meet Moses. It was a long walk. And then right on cue, there he is! The two brothers embrace and go off to tell Israel.
However, first, we take a strange detour.
As Moses and his family (wife and 2 sons) leave for Egypt, God reveals a few more things to him. He tells Moses that signs and miracles will be performed for Pharaoh, but that God will harden his heart and he won’t let Israel go. Then God says that His final warning to Pharaoh will be:
“And you will say to Pharaoh: This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. I told you: Let my son go so that he may worship me, but you refused to let him go. Look, I am about to kill your firstborn son!” (Exodus 4:22-23 CSB).
Directly after this, we have this weird divine interaction with God. The pronouns also get really strange and most scholars do not know if the main subject here is Moses or his firstborn son. Either way, the Lord comes to kill one of those two, and in response, Moses’s wife circumcises their son and wipes the blood on someone’s foot. She also iterates the phrase “bridegroom of blood” a couple of times for good measure and this seems to quell the Lord’s wrath.
There is a ton of confusion in that short passage. Many scholars believe there is a connection between the blood of circumcision and the blood of the Passover lamb since they both relate to the covenant of God and Abraham. People also have pointed to a possibility that since Moses fled Israel 40 years ago, he had given up the traditions and beliefs and lived a more selfish life, rather than devoted to God. This can be backed up by the fact that he did not circumcise his son, showing he didn’t really trust or care about the covenant God made with Abraham. For God to truly use Moses, he needed to follow all of the Lord’s commands and truly be in covenant with him.
Lastly, this seems to be a theme of God. He likes to have some odd divine experience with his leaders right before they begin. Think back to when God wrestles with Jacob; that was definitely strange. Or if we look forward, Joshua also has a strange encounter with God in Joshua 5 right before they go into Jericho. Perhaps this is just Moses’s divine inauguration as a leader for God.
Either way, whatever it means, they are now ready to lead the nation of Israel to salvation. Moses and Aaron show Israel the first two signs and that’s all they needed. They trust it was God who spoke to Moses and worship Him for it. They are super excited to be freed from slavery!
Alright. So what did I learn from this passage? I feel like the more I researched, the more questions I had, but I still noticed some cool things too.
God is patient. 4 times Moses refused his calling and 4 times God graciously obliged to Moses’s complaint or worry. Moses never fully trusted God until he was given Aaron as his helper. Only then did he trust God had truly called and equipped him. Could he have done it alone the first time? Sure! But God graciously obliged to this sinner’s struggles.
God equips His people. We have to be careful with this one. I never said, “God equips His people for worldly success” because sometimes we definitely fail. In fact, you could say Moses fails a few times before Pharaoh lets Israel go free. But it’s all in the Lord’s plan. He equips Moses to lead the people. He declares it is He who created the mouth and body and it is He who calls. Will Moses not trust Him to equip that same mouth to lead?
The mysteries of God are vast. The last thing I kind of thought about has to do with that strange passage towards the end with his son’s circumcision. I don’t know why that’s there or what it means. I’m sure more advanced and knowledgeable scholars can tell you a better answer than I can, but I am just confused by it. And here’s what I realized today. That’s ok. I don’t need to understand every single mystery of God to follow and trust in His goodness. I don’t need to fully understand Him to follow His calling. I seek to fully understand him, but I know I never will in this lifetime. As Paul says when he’s comparing life now to life eternal:
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 CSB).
As always, I want to take the things I learned or notice and apply them to my own life. Always striving to imitate God as a dearly loved child (to quote Paul). So here is what I took away for myself this week:
God is patient with me too. I can definitely relate to Moses’s fear. The fear of the unknown; the fear of feeling inadequate, unprepared, and unworthy. It is oh so reassuring that God was patient with Moses and He will be with me too. Not that it’s an excuse to abuse God’s patience, but more so that God is so excited for me to be a part of His plan, that He is willing to wait and put up with my fears. I ultimately pray that I won’t fear, that I can trust God fully in whatever and wherever He calls me into. However, I rest assured knowing God will prepare and help me through my fears. When we fear, He doesn’t just abandon us and move on. He helps us through our fear.
In a similar vein, God equips me for what He calls Taylor and I to. This is something I want to hold onto as well. That line God iterates to Moses, I want to iterate to myself over and over.
“The Lord said to him, “Who placed a mouth on humans? Who makes a person mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12 CSB).
God made me exactly as He meant to and He can use me in any way He chooses. In fact, if we look at scripture, I feel like God has a pattern to choose the people the world would deem unsuitable. He chose David, a lowly shepherd boy, over any of his brothers. He chose David over Saul, the most kingly-looking dude in all the land! He chose to come into the world as Jesus, the son of a nobody carpenter from nowhere Bethlehem. Jesus chose a bunch of nobody random, uneducated guys to become his disciples and plant the first churches. God shows over and over in scripture that He will equip those He calls. All I have to do is trust Him.
I want to be ok with not knowing. There are so many mysteries I wish to know about. The mystery in that passage, the mystery of the doctrine of election (how do you mix free will with a fully sovereign God?), the mysteries of Revelation, and so many more. I want to know it all. I want and desire to know God fully. I don’t think it’s wrong to desire these things; that’s what a relationship is all about. However, I also don’t want to depend on knowledge. I want to live my life in faith of God. I don’t need to know His plan to follow Him. I don’t need to understand it all, I never will. That is ok. My prayer is that my heart feels the same and trusts God even when I don’t fully understand Him.