In our study of Exodus chapter four, we will see how it is the heart that qualifies a man for service to God. In chapter three, we saw Moses ask the question: Why me? Here, we will see God's answer and His promises.
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Moshe replied, "But I'm certain they won't believe me, and they won't listen to what I say, because they'll say, 'ADONAI did not appear to you.'"
Can you imagine going to the leaders of your people and telling them that God appeared to you? Like Moshe, you would probably have some doubts and fears. Here, he asks God what to do when they look at him like he was a nut and don't believe him. The same type of thing happens today even in the church. Many do not understand that God will speak to us and, if we listen, He will guide our every step.
ADONAI answered him, "What is that in your hand?" and he said, "A staff." He said, "Throw it on the ground!" and he threw it on the ground. It turned into a snake, and Moshe recoiled from it.
The Hebrew tern that is used here for staff is "matteh" and it also relates to humility and trust. We may wonder why God asked Moshe what was in his hand as God must have known the answer. God was, in fact, trying to get him to see that he would not be alone in his calling and to make him see that God can use even the most humble of tools. God had him throw his staff on the ground and turned it into a snake. Moshe revealed the fear that was in his heart by running from the snake. It is quite possible that Moshe knew that he was being disobedient and that he was afraid that God was going to use the snake in judgement of him. In this, we see a continued lack of understanding that God was with him and in control. The staff was simply a tool and God was looking to put it into the hands of a man that had his heart set on the things of God. In chapter two, we saw that Moshe had a heart of compassion for his people as he saved a man from being beaten by the Egyptians. This was a man that God could use but the heart of fear had to be changed into a heart of faith in God.
Then ADONAI said to Moshe, "Put your hand out and take it by the tail." He reached out with his hand and took hold of it, and it became a staff in his hand. "This is so that they will believe that ADONAI, the God of their fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz'chak and the God of Ya'akov, has appeared to you!"
The Hebrew word "shalach" is translated as "put out your hand" but it actually means to "send forth" and it is being used to show how Pharaoh is being called to overcome his personal feelings and do what God says. We also see that God tells Moshe to grab the snake by the tail and that is the worst place that you can grab a snake as it can easily turn back and bite you. God had Moshe touch the snake (overcoming his fear) and it was changed back to a staff. This is being used to show that, even if what God tells you to do does not make sense to your mind, we are still to trust Him and obey. He explains that this sign will be used to demonstrate the power of God and the truth of what Moshe told the elders. It was only through faith that he was able to overcome his fear and grab the snake and we are reminded that faith in God drives out all fear. There are some Christians, today, that try to demonstrate their great faith by taking up snakes in worship. There is a big difference between them and Moshe. Moses took up the snake because God told him to while the people of today are doing it to put on a show of faith. Many times they are bitten and die while the snake did not even attempt to bite Moshe. This is a reminder that God will protect us when we are following His directions but, when we go it alone, He is not obligated to shield us from the consequences of our actions.
Furthermore ADONAI said to him, "Now put your hand inside your coat." He put his hand in his coat; and when he took it out his hand was leprous, as white as snow. Then God said, "Now put your hand back in your coat." He put his hand back in his coat; and when he took it out, it was as healthy as the rest of his body.
God gave Moshe another lesson and a sign to share with others and that involved his hand. Throughout the Torah, the hand is a symbol of divine authority and in this sign we see not only that God has the power to heal but also that delay in obedience to God is insulting and displeasing to God and that it is in fact speaking evil of God (lashon hara) as we saw in Genesis 27.
"If they won't believe you or heed the evidence of the first sign, they will be convinced by the second. But if they aren't persuaded even by both these signs and still won't listen to what you say, then take some water from the river, and pour it on the ground. The water you take from the river will turn into blood on the dry land."
Throughout the Bible, the number two is associated with witnesses as that was the number required to prove that something was true. God gave Moshe two signs and then went above and beyond the law by giving him a third. The third sign was turning water into blood and the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will.
Moshe said to ADONAI, "Oh, Adonai, I'm a terrible speaker. I always have been, and I'm no better now, even after you've spoken to your servant! My words come slowly, my tongue moves slowly." ADONAI answered him, "Who gives a person a mouth? Who makes a person dumb or deaf, keen-sighted or blind? Isn't it I, ADONAI? Now, therefore, go; and I will be with your mouth and will teach you what to say."
Now, Moshe doubts his own ability to communicate the words of God to the people. Once again, God meets that doubt with the assurance of His provision. God reminds him that He is the one that made people and that He is in control. God is the same today as in the days of Moshe. Do we, as Christians, take our doubts and insecurities about ourselves to the Lord? If we do, we can be comforted with the fact that He is in control and through Him we can do what He asks of us.
But he replied, "Please, Lord, send someone else - anyone you want!" At this, ADONAI's anger blazed up against Moshe; he said, "Don't you have a brother, Aharon the Levi? I know that he's a good speaker. In fact, here he is now, coming out to meet you; and he'll be happy to see you. You will speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and his, teaching you both what to do. Thus he will be your spokesman to the people, in effect; for you, he will be a mouth; and for him, you will be like God. Now take this staff in your hand, because you need it to perform the signs."
Even after God's assurance that He would provide a way for Moshe to speak, Moshe asks Him to send someone else. So, God has already prepared Aharon and he was on the way to meet Moshe. We see that Aharon was to be his mouthpiece and Moshe was to be like God to him. What we see here is a pattern that continues even today. God provides a way for men that only requires their acceptance of the fact that He will do something and yet man rejects that in favor of the works of men. We also see that God told Moshe that he was going to teach both Moshe and Aharon and the word that us used here is where the word Torah comes from. In effect, God was saying that He would give them the Torah.
Moshe left, returned to Yitro his father-in-law and said to him, "I beg you to let me go and return to my kinsmen in Egypt, to see if they are still alive." Yitro said to Moshe, "Go in peace." ADONAI said to Moshe in Midyan, "Go on back to Egypt, because all the men who wanted to kill you are dead." So Moshe took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and started out for Egypt. Moshe took God's staff in his hand.
Finally, Moshe gave up his objections and decided to return to Egypt as the Lord had instructed him. He asked permission from his father-in-law and it was granted and then God told him to go that all who wanted to kill him were dead. The Hebrew word that is used in this case is nephesh and it not only speaks of Moshe's physical life but also of the spiritual. God was telling him that all who were opposed to Moshe's spiritual mission were now dead. So, Moshe took his wife and was armed with the staff of God, and they set out. As Christians, we can walk with the power of God living in us through the Holy Spirit. Like Moshe, we can come up with excuses and objections to the call of God upon our lives but, if our heart is right with Him, we will follow His will for our lives.
ADONAI said to Moshe, "When you get back to Egypt, make sure that you do before Pharaoh every one of the wonders I have enabled you to do. Nevertheless, I am going to make him hardhearted, and he will refuse to let the people go. Then you are to tell Pharaoh: 'ADONAI says, "Isra'el is my firstborn son. I have told you to let my son go in order to worship me, but you have refused to let him go. Well, then, I will kill your firstborn son!"'"
God gave Moshe his final instructions which were basically a warning to complete all of the signs that were given to him. We see that they were to be performed for the Pharaoh and not as some kind of show. (Today, there are many who want to put the power of God on display like a kind of circus show but that is not God's desire.) We also see a prophecy that, even after seeing the signs, Pharaoh's heart will be strengthened and he will not send the Israelites away. Most translations say "let" the people go but, in the Hebrew the word is the same word that was used when God told Moshe to send forth his hand to touch the snake. In this, we see that God is not asking for Pharaoh's passive consent to release the people; God is requiring that Pharaoh order them to go. God then refers to Isra'el as His firstborn son and, as we saw in Genesis 27, that refers to carrying on the heritage of the father. So, we see that god gives Pharaoh a command and he has a choice of whether to obey or to lose his firstborn son but we see that, when God prophesied about Pharaoh's heart, God already knew the choice that Pharaoh would make.
At a lodging-place on the way, ADONAI met Moshe and would have killed him, had not Tzipporah taken a flintstone and cut off the foreskin of her son. She threw it at his feet, saying, "What a bloody bridegroom you are for me!" But then, God let Moshe be. She added, "A bloody bridegroom because of the circumcision!"
Along the way to Egypt, the wrath of God was about to break out against Moshe because he had not circumcised his son as required under the Abrahamic covenant. This was the mark of the people of God and he was responsible for his son being circumcised. His wife stepped in and recognized what had to be done. In so doing, she saved the life of Moshe. Today, many people try to minimize the role of a Godly woman/wife. As we see with Moshe, it is crucial for a man of God to have a Godly wife. If Zipporah had not known about the things of God, Moshe would have died.
ADONAI said to Aharon, "Go into the desert to meet Moshe." He went, met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. Moshe told him everything ADONAI had said in sending him, including all the signs he had ordered him to perform.
God called Aharon to meet Moshe and so begins a pattern that will occur over and over in the Bible. It is at this point that God begins to send His people in groups of two to accomplish His will. This was repeated when Jesus sent out the disciples two by two (see Luke 10). It will be repeated again in the last days with the appearance of two witnesses in Jerusalem (see Revelation 11).
Then Moshe and Aharon went and gathered together all the leaders of the people of Isra'el. Aharon said everything ADONAI had told Moshe, who then performed the signs for the people to see. The people believed; when they heard that ADONAI had remembered the people of Isra'el and seen how they were oppressed, they bowed their heads and worshipped.
They called a meeting of the Israelites and Aharon spoke the words of God and the elders submitted to God's plan. Then, we see that Moshe demonstrated the signs to all the Hebrew people. In that we see the biblical principle that leaders are required to have a greater measure of faith that others. By demonstrating the signs to the people, he showed the people the heart of God for His people. The people's hearts were touched and they reacted by bowing in worship. This is a picture of how we are to carry out the Great Commission. We are to tell people of God's love for them as demonstrated by sending His Son to die for them. As with Moshe and Aharon, He has also given us signs to demonstrate that love and power. They were called to lead the people out of their slavery in Egypt while we are called to lead the people out of their bondage to sin and death. That, my friends, is the heart of the matter!