Chapter 3:16-4:17 (ESV) - Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “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.” Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my LORD, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my LORD, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
Question to consider: Why do you think Moses was hesitant to bring God’s word to the Israelites?
Whenever a Bible translation puts LORD in all capital letters, it is a reference to the covenantal name that God gave to Moses. The angel of the LORD spoke the word of God to Moses from the bush that burned without being consumed. This word was a promise to deliver Israel from their Egyptian oppressors, and Moses was to be the instrument of deliverance. He was to speak to the elders of Israel and go with him to Pharaoh to ask if they could come back to Mount Horeb to worship. Their coming to the holy mountain and seeing the burning bush would be to them a sign that they would be delivered by God’s hand.
Rather than trust in the word of God that the elders would listen to him, Moses argued that he was nobody they should listen to, and he pointed out that he did not have a convincing tongue to accomplish the task. Of course, God did not choose Moses for his ability to carry out the task. In fact, when Moses had tried to liberate Israel in his own strength, he failed and now had spent half of his life tending sheep as a result. He had no reason to be confident in his own abilities, but as the LORD once told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Moses didn’t need to provide signs and wonders. He just needed to obey God and go to the elders who would then accompany him to speak with Pharaoh.
God demonstrated patience and mercy with Moses in giving him signs he could use to convince the elders and his brother, Aaron, to be his spokesperson. These signs would not impress Pharaoh who had sorcerers at his disposal, but they would be enough for the elders. On the one hand, it seems kind of silly (or brazen?) that Moses would tell the one who created him that His work was inadequate to complete this task. On the other hand, I cannot imagine how terrifying the prospect would be to lead a nation of millions of Israelites out of captivity when he was in his eighties. I’m not sure I could have gotten past the statement, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.”
Dear heavenly father, thank You for working in and through us instead of making us carry out Your work in our own strength. Help us to use the gifts and abilities You have given us for Your glory regardless of whether we think they are adequate for the task. Amen.