Here's Your Sign
Please read Exodus 4:1-17 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare this blog.
Obedience avoids excuses.
1. Moses’ objection: “They won’t listen to me.” (1-9)
Moses showed a lack of confidence in his people. This was an objection first raised in 3:13. God’s answer at that time was to tell Moses His name: “I AM WHO I SAY I AM” and identify Himself as THE GOD OF YOUR ANCESTORS and as YAHWEH or “LORD.” That was well and good as far as Moses was concerned, but he wasn’t confident that the Hebrew slaves would have faith enough to accept that answer.
Moses raised this objection a second time in 4:1, phrased more negatively than it had been the first time. He seemed to have no doubt it was the LORD speaking to him but he doubted the people would take his word for it. He anticipated they would be skeptical, even contrary.
God’s answer to Moses here in chapter four was effectively, “I’ll give you some miracles to perform; that will convince them.” This was the assurance God gave Moses in v. 5: “PERFORM THIS SIGN, THEN THEY WILL BELIEVE YOU.” There would be three miracles or “signs” that would authenticate Moses’ encounter with God.
The first of these was the miracle of the staff. The message of this miracle is found in the animal the staff became - a snake. One of the animals that adorned the crown of pharaoh was a cobra.
Here is an important detail: Moses was to pick up the snake by the TAIL. Normally it is wiser to pick up a venomous snake by the head to avoid it turning and biting you. Moses need not have any such fear; he could go ahead and take it by the tail. When Moses grasped the SNAKE by the tail, it symbolized God’s victory over pharaoh: that God, not the Egyptian idols, controlled Egypt.
The miracle involved Moses’ hand. This would be more evidence that God was “on hand” with Moses. The Hebrew word often translated as “leprosy” was used to reference a great variety of skin diseases. It may or may not have been the illness we call “Hansen’s Disease.”
Whatever illness suddenly appeared on Moses’ previously healthy hand, it was SEVERE, making it more startling. The disappearance of the illness was just as sudden.
The message of this miracle is a warning to pharaoh: “God is able to take away a person’s health and restore it again. You may suffer similarly if you do not heed his words.” The plague of boils in 9:8-12 may have involved a similar skin condition. This miracle was a warning that something like this would happen.
The third miracle was that of blood. Either of the first two miracles should have been enough to convince even the most stubborn skeptic. God went further, authorizing a “Plan C;” this third miracle.
This miracle was a smaller scale version of the plague of blood in 7:14-25. Instead of involving the entire Nile River, this demonstration would employ only a puddle of Nile water. The third miracle is the only one of the three miracles that was not demonstrated on this occasion, for the obvious reason that there was no Nile water available.
This Nile turning to blood should have had a powerful effect on the Egyptians. The Nile was a god in the pantheon of Egyptian deities. It was an essential source of life-giving water and transportation. The Nile united the upper and lower kingdoms of Egypt.
Turning it to blood would be turning their most important symbol of life into a symbol of death. It would be seen as a direct threat against the existence of Egypt and all her people.
2. Moses’ final objection: “I’m not a smooth talker.” (10-17)
Here Moses expressed a lack of confidence in himself.
The experience itself was undeniable; Moses saw the bush burn but was not consumed. He heard God’s voice.
Therefore, Moses did not express doubt about God speaking to him: it is either an excuse or a valid doubt about himself. We know from person experience people can pretty easily make excuses and/or mistakenly devalue themselves. In both cases, they can be led to be disobedient to God. It was foolish for Moses to tell the “I AM” that “I AM NOT.”
God’s answer to this objection: “It’s not about you.” (It never is.) His response to Moses’ pleading was two-fold.
First, commumication is God’s gift, not Moses’ problem. God gives people the power to communicate or He takes it away. The emphasis is clearly on God, not Moses. The gift of the Holy Spirit is much more important than the “gift of gab.” God promised to be with Moses and to INSTRUCT him in what he was to say.
Second, when Moses PLEADED with God again, God offered Aaron as Moses’ “mouthpiece.” God took Moses’ speech excuse off the table. Aaron could repeat what God told Moses. At this point, God is ANGRY with Moses. He makes this one final accommodation but will tolerate no further excuses or delays. This situation lasted until chapter eight, when Moses started speaking directly to Pharaoh.
Obedience avoids excuses.
Nowhere in Exodus does it say that Moses agreed with God. Later in the chapter he simply started doing what God told him to do. His actions spoke louder than his words when Moses obeyed God.
We can learn from Moses’ example. God is calling us to obey Him. We don’t have to resolve our hesitation or understand everything in advance. Obedience comes first.