Sunday December 3rd
A man had been sitting out in the cold all day, fishing through a hole in the ice with no luck, not even a nibble. He was frustrated, cold and tired, and he was about to leave, when another guy walked up, cut a hole in the ice beside him, and started catching fish as fast as he could drop his line in the water.
The first guy couldn’t believe it, so he yelled over, “What’s your secret?"
"woogatkakeptewrwm" the second man answered back.
"What did you say?"
“I can’t understand you. You’re mumbling”, said the first man. “Can you speak more clearly?”
The second man spit out a large ball of worms onto the ice and said, "You have to keep your worms warm".
Moses apparently had a mumbling problem too. At least we know that he tried to use that as an excuse to God!
Here in chapter 4 we pick right up in the middle of where Moses is arguing with God about why he can’t possibly go and lead the people of Israel to freedom:
Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”3 Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5 “that they 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.”
As you may already know, that miracle of the staff turning into a snake is going to be used by Moses to demonstrate to Pharaoh that Moses has been sent by God.
Then God adds a couple more additional signs:
6 The Lord furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then He said, “Put your hand into your bosom again.” So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. 9 But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
Those were some pretty powerful demonstrations, wouldn’t you agree? Now Moses is starting to run out of excuses why he can’t possibly be the man for the job. So he tries a new tactic:
10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”11 The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” 13 But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”
Moses says, “I’m just not a very good speaker.”
God says, “I made your mouth didn’t I? If I need you to speak I’ll give you the right words.”
Moses says, “Yeah, that’s true, but you know what, just send somebody else anyway.”
God says, “Now you’re getting on my nerves!”
14 Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. 16 Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him. 17 You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
So God essentially says, “Your brother Aaron is going to go with you, and I can assure you that he is very good with words. But you’re not going to worm your way out of this assignment! You are going back to Egypt!”
At this point Moses realizes that he needs to stop arguing and just do what God is telling him to do:
18 Then Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 Now the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand.
Moses gets a blessing from his father-in-law, and a reassurance from God that the pharaoh who had wanted to kill him has now died. So Moses will have to deal with the new Pharaoh. God then gives him these instructions:
21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’”
This is a bit of a complicated passage, so let’s break it down into four parts:
Why would God have Moses perform the signs and then harden Pharaoh’s heart?
One commentary explains it this way:
“The Lord’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is a sovereign divine judgment on Pharaoh. God purpose is to display His power over the stubborn hostility of the king so that His people might know that He, the Lord, is their deliverer.”
We see this point emphasized in Romans 9:17
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”
Keep in mind that Pharaoh is also said to have hardened his own heart in Exodus 8:15
“But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.”
So who is ultimately responsible for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? Was it Pharaoh or was it God?
I think we can gain some insight into this puzzle from Romans chapter 1 verses 18-26
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions
So who is responsible for the darkened hearts of these unbelievers? Clearly they are. They made choices. They chose not to recognize God as their creator. They chose to exchange the truth for a lie. They chose to worship creatures rather than the creator.
So what was God’s part in their downfall?
We see it clearly in verses 24 and 26:
God “gave them over” to their lusts.
God “gave them over” to their passions.
God said “Is that how you want to live? Then go for it. I gave you a free will. Is that how you want to use it? Then by all means, be my guest. Don’t let me stop you from fulfilling your fleshly pursuits.”
And I believe that’s what happened with Pharaoh too. God knew that Pharaoh would have a hard heart towards the people of Israel. After all, they were his slaves, his property. And Pharaoh didn’t want to hear about their God, because as far as Pharaoh was concerned, HE was God!
So God allowed Pharaoh to follow his hard heart. In fact God said, “I’ll help you have a hard heart if that’s what you choose, because then we can really find out who the true God is here, you or me!”
And I think we all need to be aware that if we set our hearts on a sinful path, God just might go ahead and let us take that path, just to find out where it leads!
Does he want us to come back to him? Of course he does!
But just like the father of the prodigal son, God will allow us to choose a path that leads away from him so that we can learn that being with our Father is so much better than eating the pig slop that the world has to offer.
And if you think that passage was a bit confusing…
Wait until you see this next one!
24 Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 So He let him alone. At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood”—because of the circumcision.
Huh? What? God was going to KILL Moses? Apparently so. But why? That’s the key question.
First of all, biblical scholars say that the Hebrew wording in verse 24 is unclear. These words follow verse 23 which says “Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn” and so they may actually be referring to killing Moses’ firstborn son Gershom, not Moses.
But why would God want to kill Gershom, or Moses?
Possibly because Moses had forgotten his Hebrew heritage and failed to circumcise his son.
Is this a logical interpretation? Probably so, because the next thing that happens is Zipporah jumps up and circumcises her son with a sharp piece of stone (Ouch!). And that seems to solve the problem.
Plus, the fact that she throws the circumcised skin at Moses’ feet and calls him a “bridegroom of blood” is a pretty clear indication that she is ticked at Moses for neglecting to fulfill this important ritual.
It’s like she is saying to Moses, “Duh! You’re supposed to be the leader of the Israelites and you didn’t even obey God’s command about circumcision with your own son!”
Let’s put it all in perspective with these two thoughts:
So now Moses, Zipporah, and their two sons can continue their journey back to Egypt, and just as God had told Moses, Aaron is going to come meet them along the way:
27 Now the Lord said to Aaron, “Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which He had sent him, and all the signs that He had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; 30 and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.
Here is the final thing that we should take away from this chapter today:
Moses wasted a whole lot of time trying to convince God that this wasn’t a very good idea, and that he certainly wasn’t the right guy to do the job, and that the people probably wouldn’t even believe that God had sent him.
But none of that was true.
This WAS a good idea, and Moses WAS the right man for the job, and the people DID believe that God had sent him.
So why do we even bother trying to tell God why His plans for our lives won’t work, and we aren’t really capable of fulfilling His call on our lives, and nobody is really going to listen to us anyway?
Maybe we would be better off just trusting God, believing that He knows better than we do how to accomplish His purposes in us and through us.
It’s really true what God said in Isaiah 55:9
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Let’s try to allow the higher thoughts and the higher ways of God to direct our path in life, rather than relying on our own limited knowledge and resources.
I think if we do that, we can walk in greater peace, and waste less time worrying about things that will probably never happen the way we were so scared that they would.