About Jesus      Steve Sweetman

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ch. 4:1-17   ch. 4:18-31

Signs For Moses (ch. 4:1 - 17)

 

The conversation between God and Moses continues in chapter 4, verse 1.  Moses is reluctant to do as God says.  He now asks God, "what if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'the Lord did not appear to you?'"  Once again, this is a legitimate response.  Why would Israel listen to a man who has been away from them for so long?  It is only common sense.  Many scholars really feel that Moses really doesn't want to do what God tells him to do and so he is trying to get out of it.  That may be so, but, the objections that he raises are worth considering, and God does just that.

 

God's response to Moses objection is found in verses 2 through 5.  God asks Moses what is in his hand.  Moses says that he is holding a staff.  God tells him to throw the staff on the ground, which Moses does.  The staff becomes a snake, that frightens Moses, so he steps back.  God then tells Moses to pick the snake up by the tale, which he does.  The snake turns back into a staff.  God tells Moses that when Israel sees this miracle, they will believe that you have been sent by the God of their forefathers. 

 

This was a test for Moses in the sense that when you pick up a snake, you don't pick it up by the tales, but this is what God told Moses.

 

The miracles of Jesus in New Testament times were meant to do the same.  They were to be a sign that God had sent Jesus to Israel , yet even with these miraculous signs, Israel as a whole did not believe that God had sent Jesus. 

 

In verses 6 and 7 God provides Moses with yet another miracle.  He told Moses to put his hand inside his coat, and as he did, his hand became filled with leprosy.  When he put his hand back into his coat, his hand became normal again.

 

In verses 8 through 10 we see that there might be the possibility that Israel would not believe or listen to Moses even with the above two miracles.  God even admitted that possibility.  So God provided another miracle.  He told Moses that as this happens, he should take water from the Nile River , pour it on the ground, and it would turn to blood.  I would think the sight of blood might persuade Israel that God had sent Moses to them. 

 

In verse 10 we see yet another objection by Moses.  This is why many scholars feel that Moses is trying to get out of what God wants him to do.  Moses himself has just seen a couple of miracles.  You'd think that this would convince him that God would help him carry out this request, but apparently it doesn't.  You might think that if the miracles that Moses has just seen, and he had just performed doesn't motivate him to do God's will, how would they motivate Israel to accept him. 

 

So Moses tells God that he is not an eloquent speaker.  I'm sure God knew that, and that did not stop Him from choosing Moses to do His will.  Moses says that he is slow of speech and tongue.  Some suggest that Moses might have had a stuttering problem, or some kind of speech impediment.  We don't know this for sure.   All we know for sure is that Moses thought that he had difficulties speaking, whether that was really the case or not, is hard to know.  Sometimes, and often times, God uses those with problems in their lives in order for His glory to be seen in fallen humanity.  

 

Verse 11 is both interesting and important.  God says, "who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or dumb?  Who gives him sight or makes him blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?"  This statement is important for a number of reasons.  One reason is that it comes directly from the mouth of God.  It does not come through the inspired speech of a person. 

 

Another reason why this statement is important because it tells us that God makes some men and women deaf, dub, and blind.  Some people may struggle with this, especially those of the hyper-faith persuasion.  It is interesting to me because I am legally blind.  There are a number of ways that people would think concerning my blindness.  One might be that it is a birth defect, just a happenstance.  Other's might think that the devil made me have bad eyesight.  Yet this passage says that God has made my eyes not see well.  If I accept this, then that puts things into a much different light than if I think the devil made me blind, or it was simply the luck of the draw from birth.  If God made me this way, then I need to accept it, unless He decides to change things. 

 

Moses ends the objections in verse 13.  He simply asks God to send somebody else.  It is as if he just gives up trying rationalize things with God.  He just comes out with it.  "Please send someone else", he says. I think Moses is a timid man.  He is simply too shy.  Besides, the murder of the man still might be in the memory of some, even though it has been decades since he killed the man who was attacking a fellow Jew.

 

At this point, in verse 14, we see "that the Lord's anger burned against Moses."  God got angry with Moses.  And, since the phrase reads, ". anger burned ...", this tells me that God was very angry at Moses. 

 

Also in verse 14 God tells Moses that his brother Aaron the Levite was on the way to meet him and he was excited to be reunited with Moses.  These two men had not seen each other for years, or so we think.  It is interesting that as God was trying to convince Moses to do His will Aaron was on his way to see Moses.  Clearly, God had sent Aaron to Moses, knowing Moses would put up this fight. God works all things out for His own purpose.  A number of things come together at any given time to make sure His will is done, as is seen here.

 

God, in verse 15, tells Moses, (God did not ask Moses), that Moses will tell Aaron what to speak to the people, and He will help them both in the process.  The whole point here is that God never asked Moses to be a good speaker.  He never made Moses to be a good speaker.  Being a good speaker didn't matter to God.  It does however matter to us more than it should.  We put too much emphases of a man's speaking ability in church circles these days.  What mattered to God was that Moses would do as he was told.  God wanted Moses to represent Him to Israel.  That is what God wants of us today.  Our talents are secondary to what God would have us to do.  Besides, we are not to do God's will in our own strength anyway.  We are to solely depend on Him. 

 

 If you read second  Corinthian chapter 4, you'll see a good example of how this should play out in the life of Christians.  Paul tells us that we have God's treasure in earthen vessels.  The vessel is not the important thing.  It is the treasure in the vessel that is important.  Too often than not, we are concerned about our vessel and not the treasure we hold within.  That shouldn't be. 

 

In verse 17 God specifically says that Aaron would speak for Moses and that it would be like Moses is God to Aaron.  Of course Moses isn't God, but Aaron would say exactly what Moses tells him as if he were God.  Of course, what Moses tells Aaron is what God tells him. 

 

In verse 17 God tells Moses to carry his staff because God would use it to perform miracles before Israel so they would know that both Aaron and Moses were sent by Him.  The miracle staff would be a sign to all that God has sent Moses, just like the miracles of Jesus were meant to be a sign that God sent Him as well.

 

Moses Returns To Egypt (ch. 4:18 - 31)        

 

In verse 18 we note that Moses asks permission from Jethro, his father-in-law, to return to Egypt.  It is a matter of respect that Moses would ask Jethro to leave.  Remember, Moses worked for Jethro.  In our day, we would just leave, but respect meant something to the people back then. 

 

Note the reason Moses gives Jethro for leaving.  His reason was to see if there were any of his own people back in Egypt.  I guess you would have to interpret who "his own people" were.  I think he is speaking of the Jews in general, not just his immediate family.  If this does not refer to his immediate family, then he is not being accurate.  He knows there are Jews in Israel.  If it is referring to his immediate family, well, he might not know if there are any left, and in that sense he would be accurate. 

 

Jethro agrees to Moses request at the end  of verse 18. 

 

In verses 19 and 20, Moses and his family head to Egypt.  Verse 19 tells us that God told Moses that those who wanted to kill Moses for killing the Egyptian are dead.  This would mean that Moses had nothing to fear in that respect. 

 

Verse 20 states that Moses took "the staff of God", that is, the staff that turned into a snake when he threw it down to the ground.  A staff in those days had two uses.  One was meant to be a "sign of authority" for important people such as kings.  The other use was for shepherds as a means of caring for the flocks.  In both respects, Jesus is seen as one with final authority, yet at the same time, greatly caring for His people.  We see in the book of Revelation the term "rod of iron" in the KJV.   The "rod" is a "staff".  Jesus will rule in the thousand years of peace with a rod, or staff of iron, yet forever,  He will be the Lamb of God that has taken away the sin of the world.

 

Verse 21 has stirred up many conversations over the years.  God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and show him the miraculous signs that God had provided Moses.  These signs were the staff turning into a snake, his hand turning into leprosy,  and water turning into blood.  We saw this in the last chapter. 

 

Then God tells Moses that after he shows the signs, He will harden Pharaoh's heart so he will not let Israel leave.  You might wonder what went through Moses' mind after haring that.  Why would God give me this miraculous power to impress Pharaoh, then He turns around and hardens Pharaoh's heart. 

 

There are a couple of things we need to understand here.  One thing is that God is sovereign and He can, and does, do what He wants.  If he wants to harden someone's heart, he can certainly do that.  He did so here.  That being said, if you understand the whole event, Pharaoh's heart was already hardened.  God only spurred the existing hardness along.  In Paul's discourse  in Roman's 1 through 3 you will note that man is sinful.  If man continues in their sin, then God "gives them over to their sin".  Simply put, God says, "if you want to sin, go ahead and sin all you want, just remember there are consequences."   I think this is similar to what is happening here with Pharaoh.  Pharaoh's heart was already hard towards the Jews, and God allowed it to get worse.  As a matter of fact, He even helped it get worse. 

 

The most important thing to note here is the way in which God hardened Pharaoh's heart.  He just didn't dig  into his heart and make it hard.  That would have been beyond Pharaoh's heart to respond.  God did these miracles that made Pharaoh mad, thus making his heart hard.  When it comes right down to it, Pharaoh made his own heart hard.  It was his choice.  He did not lose his free will.      

 

We also should note that from time to time God steps into human history and changes it's course by Himself, which He did here.  He has done that throughout history, although those with no Biblical understanding will see this.  God will do this at the end of this age.  He will bring the anti-christ to power in able for him to perform His will.  God's will in both the end time anti-christ and Pharaoh here, is specifically directed towards Israel. 

 

Israel is the center of so many things in the Bible and in history, and it certainly is here.  This is the meaning of verse 22.  God states that "Israel is His firstborn son".  You might wonder what that means.  Israel can't be referring to Jacob here, because in terms of firstborn sons, I'd think Abraham would be that.  So I see Israel here is the nation of Israel .  Israel would be the first born son among the nations of the world.  Other nations would follow as being sons, but Israel was the first born, and would have the rights of the first born.  So, as a first born son would rule a family, so a first born nation would rule the other nations.   This is the picture we see of Israel in the book of Revelation and elsewhere during the thousand year rule of Christ, and even beyond that, throughout eternity on the new earth.  This shows us the importance of Israel as being the "first born son", or, "the first born nation" among many nations.        

 

Verse 23 carries on from verse 22, the things God told Moses to tell Pharaoh,  God says that because Israel is His first born, and because Pharaoh refused to let Israel go, God would judge Pharaoh by killing his first born son.  So here we go.  God begins to deal with Egypt in accordance with how Egypt dealt with Israel.  This is part of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel, will be cursed.  God is beginning the cursing of Egypt based on Pharaoh's hard heart that was hardened because of the miracles God had performed through Moses and Aaron. 

 

Verses 24 to 26 are hard to understand, and I think because we do not know the whole story.  In these verses we see that God was about to kill Moses.  That does not seem to make sense.  If God wanted Moses  dead, why did He send him back to Egypt to free Israel?  

 

I think verse 25 clues us into what the problem was, although, we can't say exactly because the details are left out.   In verse 25 Zipporah, Moses' wife cuts the foreskin of their son and throws it down at Moses' feet.  She then calls Moses a bridegroom, a husband of blood.  It appears to me that she was very upset with Moses over this circumcision.  I think she did not want her son circumcised, and Moses wasn't strong willed enough to make sure the son was circumcised.  For this reason, God was upset with Moses, so upset that He was about ready to kill him.  How could the soon to be leader of Israel enter Egypt, free God's people, and not have his own son circumcised, which was a strict command of God. 

 

I don't know, because it is not stated, but God might well have been speaking to Moses on this issue, and as reluctant as he was to be the leader of Israel , he might well have been reluctant to circumcised his son because his wife didn't want that to happen.  He was giving into his wife instead of obeying the Lord. 

 

Verse 26 makes it clear that the "bridegroom of blood" statement was in reference to her son being circumcised.  At that point the text states that God left Moses alone.  To me, once the circumcision had taken place, God's will was finally done, and God had no reason to kill Moses any more.

 

In verse 27 we see God speak to Aaron, Moses' brother.  God told him to go into the desert and meet Moses.  At this point in time, I believe Moses was already on his way to Egypt.  When they saw each other, they hugged.   We don't know when these two brothers last saw each other, but it was probably long ago.

 

In verse 28 Moses explains all that the Lord had told him, including the miracles that were to be signs. 

 

In verses 29 to 31 Moses and Aaron go back to Egypt and meet with the elders of Israel.  I believe this is the first mention of "elders" in Israel in the Bible.  They had grown into such numbers that they needed elders.  Some scholars suggest that there might well be about two million Israelis at this moment in time. 

 

Note that Aaron did the talking, as was the plan.  We know that Aaron was doing all the talking because Moses was not a good talker, or so he said. Yet there might be another secondary reason why Aaron is doing all the talking.  Maybe it was God's will in the first place.  Maybe He chose Moses because He knew Moses would decline because of his poor speaking ability.  This might suggest that it was more than just shyness on Moses' part, but a speech impediment.  Anyway, because no one in Israel knew Moses, I doubt if they would have accepted him to be their leader, even with the miraculous signs.  Everyone probably knew Aaron, or at least, knew of him, and they would accept him.  The Pharaoh himself might have known Aaron as well, although we can't say that for sure because the text does not say that.  The point is simple.  Moses job was easier because Aaron was known by the Jews since he had lived among them all of his life.   

 

Note also that the text says that "he" performed the miraculous signs.  The pronoun "he" refers to Aaron, not Moses.  So here we learn that Aaron performed miracles as well as Moses.  The fact that Aaron could perform miracles is also confirmed in chapter 8:5.  

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