Out of Bondage chapter four

As J. Orr said, “The message he [Moses] had to bring was a very wonderful one. He had to ask the people to believe that, after centuries of silence, [Yahweh], the God of the patriarchs, had again appeared to him, and had spoken with him. This in itself was not incredible, but it would assume an incredible aspect to those whose faith in a living God had become shadowy and uninfluential—who had learned to look on such appearances as connected, not with the present, but with a distant and already faded past.”[1]

There were a lot of gods that people worshiped but they all had some sort of image that people could see. Moses’ first concern was to tell the Israelites what God spoke to him. Yahweh told him who he was so he could tell the people who sent him, but then Moses realized that his past didn’t recommend him as someone the Israelites would listen to. When he had tried to intervene when the two slaves were fighting they had shunned him. Why should he believe that they would listen to him now?

When he voiced his doubts to Yahweh, his God asked him what was in his hand. I can imagine Moses looking at the stick with a scowl on his face when he said, “A staff.”

Yahweh told him to throw it on the ground, so he did – and it became a snake. The kings of Egypt wore head dresses of carved heads of cobras to designate them as king over the land. Turning Moses’ staff into a cobra changed Moses from a shepherd into a king. And then Yahweh told him to reach out and grab the snake’s tail. That was not the way to grab a snake to keep it from harming the person grabbing it, but Moses showed his growing trust in Yahweh by obeying and grabbing its tail instead of by the neck. When he did, the snake became a staff again.

“That’s so they will trust that God appeared to you, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”[2]

Next Yahweh told him to put his hand in his shirt and when he pulled it out it was leprous. Studylight Commentaries[3] says, “The first sign is followed by a second, equally simple and easy of performance, and perhaps, in the eyes of the Israelites, even more marvelous. Leprosy in a developed form was regarded as absolutely incurable. … Its instantaneous production and removal were contrary to all experience and in themselves thoroughly astonishing. Further, while the first miracle was simply a sign of supernatural power—a credential, the second was a warning and a lesson. What might not he do to smite or to save on whom God had bestowed such power over the human organism? Each man would naturally fear to resist or disobey one so dangerously gifted.” When he told Moses to put it back in his shirt and pull it back out again, it was healthy again.

Yahweh told Moses if the people still didn’t believe him that he should take some water from the Nile and it would turn to blood when it hit the ground. The Egyptians considered the River Nile a god that brought life to the land and; therefore, to the people of Egypt every year when it flooded. It also was abundant in fish and other life giving animals. Power over the Nile demonstrated that Yahweh was far superior to the most powerful god of Egypt.

All that was great but Moses was still concerned that he wasn’t the man to do all those marvelous things since he couldn’t speak well. He had always stuttered and stammered. He voiced his fears to Yahweh, addressing him as ‘Adonai’, which means ‘my Lord’. He spoke as a servant would speak to his master.

Yahweh reminded Moses who it was that made the human mouth. He said, “And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, [Yahweh]? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”

Moses’ family may have never lost touch with him because his brother, Aaron, was on his way to see him Yahweh gave Moses another reason to believe that his God was powerful and omniscient when he said, “Don’t you have a brother, Aaron the Levite? He’s good with words, I know he is. He speaks very well. In fact, at this very moment he’s on his way to meet you. When he sees you he’s going to be glad. You’ll speak to him and tell him what to say. I’ll be right there with you as you speak and with him as he speaks, teaching you step by step. He will speak to the people for you. He’ll act as your mouth, but you’ll decide what comes out of it. Now take this staff in your hand; you’ll use it to do the signs.”[4]

Moses returned to his father-in-law’s home and told him that he needed to return to his relatives in Egypt and see if they were still alive. His father-in-law sent him off with his blessing.

Yahweh told him it was safe to go back because the men who wanted to kill him were dead; so Moses put his wife and sons on a donkey and started for Egypt with his staff in his hand.

Yahweh prepared Moses for the rejection ahead. He told him that when he got back to Egypt he would do all the wonders through him – Moses – before Pharaoh but he would make him stubborn so he wouldn’t let the people go easily. Yahweh had a lot to show Pharaoh about himself. He knew Pharaoh’s heart and knew that he wouldn’t want to let go of his slaves easily; but Yahweh also wanted him to see who he was – the great I AM, and that his people were important to him. He said, “Then you are to tell Pharaoh, ‘God’s Message: Israel is my son, my firstborn! I told you, “Free my son so that he can serve me.” But you refused to free him. So now I’m going to kill your son, your firstborn.’”[5] The Easy English Bible commentary says, “God is the Judge of everything on the earth. He is always fair (Genesis 18:25). God let Pharaoh be unwilling to listen to Moses and Aaron. But that was only one side of what happened. God’s power and human responsibility are both true. Someone may refuse to do what he should do. He may continue to refuse. Then it becomes more and more difficult for him to change his attitude. The Hebrew texts say that he makes his own ‘heart hard’. That means that he became unable to change.[6]

Moses would have known that circumcision was the sign of Yahweh’s covenant between himself and the people of the Promise. Eugene Peterson says they were on the journey back and as they camped for the night Yahweh met Moses and would have killed him. The Reformed Reader[7] says this is another case of resistance to God’s call. Both Moses and Zipporah knew that Moses’ problem was caused by his failure to circumcise their son so Zipporah cut off her son’s foreskin. She showed an aversion to the whole idea when she called him a bridegroom of blood.

With the matter of circumcision taken care of we are told that Yahweh sent Aaron to meet Moses at the mountain. When he got there the two greeted each other and Moses told Aaron everything that Yahweh had told him. Aaron believed Yahweh both when he told him to go meet Moses at the mountain and when Moses told him what Yahweh had commanded him. The people of Yahweh going in to possess the Promised Land would have realized that Aaron was aware of everything that had happened in Moses’ life since his birth. The fact that Moses’ life had been spared, not only when he was a baby, but 40 years earlier when Pharaoh and his minions were out to kill him again was a miracle. However, each of us must decide for ourselves whether or not we will believe that the miracles we come across in life are from Yahweh or “just coincidence.” Aaron believed Yahweh and Yahweh used him. He became the first Levitical Priest.

The Israelites were ready for Yahweh to get them out of Egypt. When Moses and Aaron told them everything Yahweh had told Moses along with Moses’ demonstration of the wonders Yahweh preformed with the staff they trusted and believed that Yahweh cared. They bowed low and worshiped.

Summary of chapter 4

Moses required evidence that Yahweh was sending him to talk to Pharaoh on behalf of the Israelites. His God drew attention to the staff in his hand that Moses had been using in his job of caring for the sheep. Yahweh showed Moses that he would use that very tool to demonstrate his power and authority through Moses. The marvels were first used to convince Moses that Yahweh was going to work through him, and then they were used to convince the Israelites that Yahweh was speaking to him and working through him.

Yahweh’s anger toward Moses was immediately transformed into his provision of Moses’ brother, Aaron, as his spokesperson.

Moses obtained his father-in-law’s blessing to return to his family in Egypt. He set an example for us and the people going into the Promised Land to be thoughtful of others, and always be up front and honest without having to announce everything about what we are doing. It is important for us to realize that honesty doesn’t require us to share the intimate details of our lives with everyone.

Moses took his family and put them on donkeys for the trip to Egypt; and he kept the staff that Yahweh would use firm in his hand. He wouldn’t need it to herd sheep but Yahweh told him to keep it close and he obeyed.

Moses was stopped on his journey by his need to get his son circumcised.

Moses met his brother, Aaron, at mount Horeb where they embraced and kissed. Moses told Aaron all the Yahweh had showed him and the two proceeded to Egypt where they met with the elders of Israel. Jamison, Fausset, and Brown say[8],”-Aaron was spokesman, and Moses performed the appointed miracles–through which “the people” (that is, the elders) believed (1 Kings 17:24, Joshua 3:2) and received the joyful tidings of the errand on which Moses had come with devout thanksgiving. Formerly they had slighted the message and rejected the messenger. Formerly Moses had gone in his own strength; now he goes leaning on God, and strong only through faith in Him who had sent him. Israel also had been taught a useful lesson, and it was good for both that they had been afflicted.

Prayer: Lord, there are many lessons for me to learn in this simple narrative. When I consider the sign of the rod that Moses had been using for many years to keep the sheep safe becoming a sign of power at your direction; I remember the times in my own life when something I considered average became a powerful message at your direction. It is so easy to get bogged down in the commonplaces of life and forget that you are the power holding all the familiar things of life together and you may change them to extraordinary anytime. Help me to keep my spiritual eyes open and anticipate the extraordinary from you; but always be grateful for the predictable.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. After all those years of not hearing from the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob do you think it was unreasonable of Moses to expect the Israelites to doubt that Yahweh had spoken to him?
  2. Do you think that our God, Yahweh doesn’t speak to people anymore except through the pages of the Bible?
  3. Is anything too hard for Yahweh?
  4. What do those signs that Yahweh showed Moses to convince him and the Israelite slaves in Egypt that he was God mean to you?
  5. What are the tools you use in your daily life that Yahweh can transform into symbols of power and authority?
  6. What did Yahweh mean when he said that Israel was his firstborn son?
  7. Why was it important for Moses’ son to be circumcised?

 

 

[1] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/exodus-4.html

[2] Verse 5

[3] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/exodus-4.html

[4] Verse 17

[5] Verse 23, Hosea 11:1

[6] http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/exodus-1-18-lbw.htm

[7] https://reformedreader.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/exodus-424-26-the-bloody-bridegroom/

[8] http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/exodus/exodus-4.html

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