Exodus 3–4. Moses Goes to Work.

Key Notes: Mt. Horeb, Sinai. Patience with a reluctant leader. Disabilities. Refusal was not permitted.

3:1–6 At the end of the forty years (Acts 7:30) that Moses was herding sheep, he came near Mt. Sinai, the mountain of God. Mt. Sinai is at the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula,  a rugged, barren high desert with volcanic activity and peaks over 7000 ft.. Several peaks have been suggested as the actual mountain where Moses had his encounter with God and later received the Law, but Jebel Musa (7500 ft. ) is considered the likely site. The district is also called “Horeb” or Mt. Horeb. It is today a rugged, forbidding place. It must have been a different environment thirty-five hundred years ago. Perhaps a year later,  Moses would be back here with two million people to care for. That was a task he never wanted and a burden he could not have imagined carrying.

Tending sheep, Moses was attracted to a bush that was afire, but not consumed. When he approached, he heard the voice of God call his name and order him into a posture of worship. The voice came from “the angel of the LORD”,” the LORD”,  or “God”. God identified Himself as the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. These are all names of the same Being. Moses was afraid to look at God.

Since “no one has ever seen God; the Only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known” (Jn.1:18), we understand the Moses was appearing before  Christ in His pre-incarnate form. In the coming years, they will develop a close working relationship.

3:7–22 What follows is a long interview between Christ and Moses. He began by stating His concern for the Hebrews and Moses’ place in His plan.
            I have seen, I have heard, I know their sufferings.
            I have come down to deliver them and bring them to a good new place.
            I have seen the oppressions of the Egyptians.
            I will send you to Pharaoh.

Moses spoke up: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?”  God answered, “ I will be with you.”

Moses asked “Who shall I say sent me? “ God answered, “Say 'I AM' (JHWH , ‘The One Who really Is’) sent you”.
This name of God (JHWH, pronounced Yahweh, or less likely, Jehovah)  had been used much earlier (Gen.6:3, 7:1, 12:1) but it was not evidently understood. Similarly, we may say the names “Jesus” or “Christ” for years without understanding what they mean. From now on, JHWH (LORD in English translations) would be the covenant name throughout Istael's generations. Moses was given God’s speech to say to the people and the elders of Israel.

I AM, The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.
I promise that I will bring you out to the land of Canaan, flowing with milk and honey.
Pharaoh will be commanded to release all of the people. He will refuse.
I will strike Egypt with wonders and then he will let you go.
You will not leave empty-handed, but ask for gold, silver, jewelry and clothing to take with you.

4:1–9 Moses murmured, “They will not believe me. “ God asked “What is that in your hand?” It was his shepherd’s crook. Thrown down, it became a viper (e.g. a cobra) and he ran from it. Seized again,  it became his staff. His hand in his shirt came out leprous; thrust back in, it was healed. Water from the Nile became blood on the ground.

4:10–17 Then Moses protested that he could not speak well. God answered that he made mouths and eyes—good and bad—and that he would be with Moses’ mouth and teach him what to say.

Moses tried one more time. “Send someone else” or, "Whatever", better,  “Send whoever You want.”   God was angry, but he compromised with Moses. Aaron, his brother, was coming and together they would communicate effectively.

4:18—20 So Moses went back and told his father-in-law that it was time to check on his relatives—saying nothing about his encounter with God or the great task ahead. He took his wife and (now) two sons, put them on a donkey, took his staff in hand and headed for Egypt.

In order to interpret Moses’ response to God, we consider his personality. Was he depressed or sick? Was he just old and warn-out? He could easily have been depressed. But his personality was exhibited on many later occasions. He is (self-described?) “meek.” He did run from Egypt in fear of his life (Ex.2:14) and ran from the cobra. (Ex.4:3). But meek is not weak.

His self-effacing temperament is illustrated in the later conflict with his sister and brother ((Num.12:3-) and in the rebellions that followed (Num.13–14,16). He refused to defend himself, but left that to God. He stood in the gap as Israel’s intercessor before God. (Ex. 32–34). Only once did he did he disobey God in anger and impatience, and paid dearly for it. (Num.20:10–13).
God knows His servant very well, and His patience with him illustrates a loving relationship. He was to become one of the greatest men of the Old Testament:
“Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people. (Ex.11:3)

Essententially, Moses was one who “viewed his own role in relation to God as that of a servant and who then quietly and gently subjected himself to God’s will. “ (Moses. Int. Stand.Bibl.Encyclo. Eerdmans;’86, Vol.III, p. 307).

God had five exchanges with Moses before he consented to do His will.
*Moses asked “who am I?”,  in effect,  “I am alone.” He was just an 80 year-old weather-beaten shepherd in the back country of Midian. He was once a prince in Egypt, but now he was nobody. He had no future. God said He would be there by his side. God with one man is a majority.

*He asked God: "Whom shall I say You are?" Who sends me? I have no authority. He was given a revelation—a new name for God. JHWH is the God who is there, the real God, not one of the stone idols of Egypt,  He is given a speech to say to Pharaoh on God’s authority.

*Moses then turned to his beleaguered people: "they won’t believe me" I have no power.God gave him three miracles to demonstrate power—before them and before Pharaoh. He was given control over the cobra. The cobra figures large in the icons of Egypt, as a god or a decoration of a pharaoh. Egypt had a lot of sickness, of which leprosy was one of the more serious and intractable. Moses had implied control of this sickness. The Nile was the life of the nation, and making it unusable was a  threat. Moses was given control of the life of Egypt.

*Moses protested his lack of eloquence I have no ability to perform. He was articulate during his 40 years in the palace (“mighty in his words and deeds” Acts 7:22), but in the last 40 years, he had no one to talk to except sheep most of the time. "Baa, Baa". God said He made mouths and would take care of that.

*Moses then simply resigned:. “Send somebody else". .” ”.I have no motivation We would say"Whatever….” The Lord was angry. He was having a “man- to-man” lengthy negotiation and His servant has just balked. Let the fire fall on him and find  someone better! No, God was patient and offered his brother Aaron as a mouth-piece and moral support. Aaron was still in Egyptian society and would not have lost his language skills. Moses simply was not permitted to back out.

Moses tried five different excuses to avoid doing what God ordered. God answered every objection. Only then did Moses relent and agree to obey God. The patience of God is shown here in intimate detail. He is working with His chosen servant and  the conversation is “close to the ear”. We feel as if we were there. Moses was not the only servant of God who was unhappy doing God’s will. Jeremiah (Jer.1:6–8),  Jonah. (Jon.1:1–3) and Ezekiel (Ezek.4:9–17) also resisted entering God’s service.

We are reluctant to accept the word that God makes humans “dumb, or deaf, or seeing or blind”. (Ex.4:11). We have a few clues to process this concept. John 9 says the man born blind was made so “that the works of God might be made manifest in him. “ A thorn was given to Paul to keep him from “being too elated.” (IICor.12;7). Lazarus died “…so that you may believe…” (Jn.11:15). God may have deprived Moses of his eloquence so that he would have to rely on Him and his brother Aaron.

Many of us are reluctant to communicate God’s will and word to people. We think of every excuse possible. Will God coerce us to do His will? I hope so, but perhaps  not. There are good examples in which He did--Jeremiah, Jonah, Gideon,  and Peter (with Cornelius), but many other times God let people do what they wanted.

May God keep us in the center of His will, whether we want to do it or not.