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I like this picture! The cross is empty! The tomb vacated! He has Risen! He has Risen indeed! It is such Good News. Especially when you know the risen Lord. And know the power of His word to heal the broken hearted and set captives free from the power of sin and of death itself! If only the good news would reach beyond the faithful on Sunday mornings it would so impact the society we live in and make it even a better place to live.
But being Christ’s hands and feet and especially giving voice to the Gospel message seems like a daunting task even as Harold’s video put it. It’s hard enough to do it in our own neighborhood and to the people we love and care for but to reach beyond to the places where people have never heard the good news takes special determination and even the occasional miracle.
Yet the message of the resurrection and the hope it brings is needed throughout our world more today than when the good news first went forth. In so many ways this message has been lost in the myriad of competing voices we are constantly bombarded with. That’s why God still calls and send out His messengers to reach beyond the noise and deception.
Have you ever noticed that God has always used a partnership model with humanity when it comes to sharing the Good News? Seriously, He invites us to come and join with Him in spreading the good news that there is freedom in Christ. And God enables those who answer the call to step out in faith and to do things they never thought possible.
For 2016 we have been doing a survey of the Bible that shows how Christ is found from Genesis to Revelations. Each week we look at one story found either in the New Testament or the Old and it’s been quite a journey. Today’s Bible Lesson from HIStory comes from a time when a messenger was reluctant to deliver the message and shows us how far God’s grace reaches out to enable Moses to fulfill his destiny.
If you have a Bible along turn with me to Exodus 4:10-17.
“Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” Exodus 4:10-17 (NIV)
It’s sooooo frustrating at times. I can empathize fully the words of Paul as he writes, “For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (2 Cor. 10:10).
No one ever said that about Jesus! He spoke with such amazing authority and words that would cut to the heart of the matter and yet were so full of grace. He is a natural communicator! But I know what Paul’s talking about here. Rented lips!
That’s not to say I don’t try hard to speak in a way that rightly conveys the gospel message, I just often suffer from rented lips. These things get in my way!
I know good preaching when I hear it and aspire to be a good communicator but after preaching close to a thousand times…when compared to those silver tongued preachers we all have heard on radio and TV, I still suck at it!
As Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:6, “But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge…” And like Timothy I do my best to, “Be diligent to present myself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). And so should we all for that matter for the stakes are higher than we may think.
So if Moses was nervous about being called out to bring God’s message I think I could understand his hesitation on those grounds alone.
“Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (10). Can you hear the reluctance? And yet doesn’t he express it so eloquently? I’m not sure where that apprehension is coming from or who it was that he compared himself to but knowing his past something had to have set it off. Did it stem from being heckled or mocked? I’ve experienced that enough to know it has effect on future performance. But I don’t see anywhere in the Scriptures before Exodus 4 that tells of a time when Moses was public speaking and it embarrassed him or got him into trouble.
Some scholars say he may have had a speech impediment or some sort of a disability that caused him some grief when speaking. But again there is no proof of that in the Bible. In fact just the opposite!
From Acts 7:22 we learn that, “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.“ Mighty in words! In fact he was a diplomat in Pharaoh’s court so he would have dealt with citizens and foreigners and likely in more than one language. Sure that was more than forty years prior to our passage today but true all the same. And even in the forty years outside of Egypt Moses would have had to learn and speak the language of the Midianites in this his new homeland. He was one smart cookie — very knowledgeable!
Perhaps his reluctance to speak stems from being not so fluent in his mother tongue? I read one Rabbi who said it was because Moses was not fluent in Egyptian language. Though I find that a little hard to comprehend since that would have been his mother tongue as an adopted Egyptian. But either way having to speak and lead a people in a language that no longer flowed from your lips would certainly cause some anxiety.
Remember he was taken as a baby into Pharaoh’s court and though he was still nursed and looked after by a Hebrew slave the time eventually came for him to be schooled. And that schooling would have all been in the written and spoken languages of the Egyptians. In fact for the first almost forty years of his life pretty well all he knew was Egyptian culture, customs and language.
So Moses might have felt like the current Syrian refugees feel here in Canada. Many of them know a bit of English and may even read it but almost everything has to be filtered through their mother tongue and many dialects. It’s like a big fence to break through. And that truly causes one to be slow of speech for quite some time. Don’t expect them to be here a year and be fully conversant nor even understanding of our ways. It just not likely to happen.
Just ask my father-in-law! Peter does very well now but when he first moved to Canada he would have agreed with Moses about being slow of speech and tongue. German still comes easier for him even after 50 plus years in Canada! But English took real determination and lots of frustration before he felt comfortable speaking in public. I suspect Moses and my father-in-law had much in common that way.
But did God buy Moses excuse or his reluctance to obey? Sure doesn’t seem like God’s about to let Moses of the hook does it? Just look at verses 11-12. “The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV)
Nope Moses had to make a choice not an excuse. Just like we’ll need to reach beyond those language barriers to show Christian hospitality to refugees in our land if the Gospel is going to continue to impact them.
God was reminding Moses that for Him language is never an issue. Moses would simply have to obey and trust that the God who made him knows what it will take to accomplish His purpose. And God made him a marvelous promise: “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (12).
Moses wouldn’t have to rely on his own rather amazing intellect to see him through, as God would be with him.
Jesus promised pretty much the same for you and I, “…do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).
Remember the same power that was able to raise Christ from the dead is the one that can teach you to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can ever imagine or hope. But it still takes guts! You actually have to step out of your comfort zone and start in the direction He gives you.
God said, “go!”
“But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Ex. 4:13 (NIV). Moses said, “NO!” Now that took guts! Did he forget to Whom he had been speaking? Was he nuts?!
I’ve seen what God can do. A little smack down from God comes with thunder and shakes the whole earth!
And yet Moses says, “…please send someone else” (13). A little gutzy, don’t you agree? Moses came up with:
Truth be known I’ve been there too. Overwhelmed and lacking in confidence I’ve declined God’s direction on more than one occasion. And even when I think I can do the job, I’ve been known to plead with him to send someone else. Haven’t you?
And you know what? It doesn’t even take Him by surprise but according to what comes next in this story it may just rise His anger a bit!
I know it’s Easter and we should be talking about the loving God who when told He would have to lay down his life, said, “not my will but thy!” And then Jesus actually went and laid down his life! But Moses is only a type of deliverer, a foreshadowing of Jesus.
Jesus loves you so much that he’s willing to take your sins and toss them in the deepest ocean and not let you go fish for them. His grace is so great that there is only one sin that stops Him from saving you from your stupidity and stubbornness. But I think that sometimes even Jesus gets angry! He still loves us but shows that love through disciplining us when we need it.
I know this because God is the same yesterday today and forever. And verse 14 says, “Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you” (Exodus 4:14 (NIV).
Moses knew God’s anger. Which, by the way, is why I believe that Moses didn’t have a disability or impairment of speech. I don’t think that God would get angry at someone for having a speech impediment and being worried about stumbling over his words as a result of the impediment. But God was clearly angry at Moses.
Remember this part of HIStory was written by Moses himself. So when he says, “the Lord’s anger burned against Moses”, you know he’s really saying he felt the Lord’s anger that day.
But Moses also learned something else about God in that moment. Though God’s anger burned against Moses, this did not become a lightning bolt education for him. In fact there is much grace to be found in this passage.
GRACE & MERCY!
God had already arranged that Moses brother, whom we presume he has not seen in forty years, was on his way for a family reunion. And God having given every man his speech, knew that Moses would pull the slow to speech card and say “send someone else”. So Aaron…his brother, who also was clearly hearing from God, set out to be with Moses. Is that not grace and mercy? Is that not cool!
Aaron unlike Moses had grown up with the Hebrew slaves and was likely still one at the time, so he would have been fluent in the Hebrew culture and language of the day.
So why not simply send Aaron and leave old reluctant Moses on the top of the mountain talking to bushes? After all God already knew Aaron could speak well. And clearly Aaron was not only ready to follow God but was already going where directed. Why not just take His burning anger out on Moses and make him a little pile of ashes on the mountaintop?
Because God is slow to anger, compassionate and merciful, abounding in love he does not treat us as our sin deserves, He does not want us to perish in our sins (cf. Exodus 34:6, 2 Peter 3:9).
The Bible says, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:3-5 (NIV).
But does that mean we can tell God where to go without feeling His anger? I don’t think that would be wise to try that! Our passage shows us that God in His great mercy taught Moses about thinking he knew better than God.
God said to Moses, “You shall speak to him (Aaron) and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him” Exodus 4:15-16 (NIV).
I’ve got two older brothers and I can assure you it would take a miracle to have them speak for me and I can also assure you they wouldn’t treat me as if I was God to them. Maybe the other way around… they certainly have at times Lorded over me.
The moral of that part of the story is be careful what you ask God for….in fact its likely better to listen and just go where he sends you!
Moses got what he asked for. God would send someone else to speak for him. But God certainly wasn’t letting him off the hook. God tells him, “… take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” (Exodus 4:17 (NIV)).
The EBC says, “There is a risk in declining the call of God; it may be a forfeiture of divine blessing even though there is grace and mercy for the obstinate (so Bush, Exodus 1:60)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).
Aaron’s family would receive the Priesthood. And Moses would back Aaron’s words with God’s provision through that staff. It was the power he needed to reach beyond his comfort zone and do far beyond what he thought he would be capable of. And it was also a promise that God, can and, would do miracles to set His people free.
Fortunately for us Christ rose from the dead and is seated with the Almighty in heavenly realms. Where He constantly intercedes on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:18-20 says, “God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…” (Hebrews 6:18-20 (MSG).
And Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to go and tell people that there is deliverance and freedom to be found in His name. And instead of a stick He has sent us the Holy Spirit to do miracles through us.
And Jesus even knows that our natural inclination may be to ask Him to send someone else to go in our place. So Christ has brought brothers and sisters like the Goerzens and sent them to go and be His voice and hands and enable us to Reach Beyond our fears and help those who need to be set free.
In this next video we get a glimpse of how the risen Lord continues to perform miracles and transform lives when some modern day Disciples of Christ set out to inspire a new generation through music and lyrics. After the video Harold & Linda will come and share more stories of how Christ continues to use their organization called Reach Beyond to touches lives around the World.
Read: Exodus 4:10-17 in several versions.
- When was the last time you shared your faith with someone?
- Do you tend to make excuses or do you boldly share your faith?
- Where was Moses when this dialog took place? (Ex. 3:1-4)
- Who was Moses talking to? (Exodus 4:10; Exodus 3:4)
- What was asked of Moses? (Exodus 3:10; 4:12)
- What reason did Moses give for not wanting to go? (Ex. 3:11; Exodus 4:10; see also 1 Cor. 2:1-4; 2 Cor. 10:10; 2 Cor. 11:6)
- Was it a genuine reason or simply an excuse? Why do you say that? What Bible verses can you point to to defend your answer? (See also Acts 7:22)
- What was God’s response to Moses reluctance? (Exodus 4:11; Gen. 18:14; Psalm 51:15; Psalm 146:8; Isa 6:7; Isa 42:7; Jer. 1:9; Eze. 3:27; Eze 33:22)
- How does God show much Grace and mercy to Moses? (Exodus 4:12; Psalm 25:4-5; Psalm 32:9; Psalm 143:10; Isa 50:4; )
- How does Christ help believers share the good news? (Matt 10:19-20; Luke 11:1; Luke 21:14-15; Jn. 14:26; Eph. 6:19)
- Who is God prompting you to share your faith with this week?