1Then 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.’” 2The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4But 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— 5“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.” 6Again, 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. 7Then 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. 8“If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9If 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.”
10But 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.” 11Then 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? 12Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14Then 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. 15You 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. 16He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” – Exodus 4:1-17 ESV
As we continue this week with the dialog between Moses and God, we witness the exchange between the two. In chapter 3, it was mainly God speaking and declaring to Moses his sovereign identity. In this chapter it gets a little more real. We will see in this chapter that Moses is full have “if’s” and “but’s”. He seems to have a reason and excuse for working with God, for God.
Moses seems to declare how inadequate he is at everything. His incompetency and portrayal sure does not seem like the same man that broke up a fight and killed an Egyptian (Chapter 2). Moses was reflecting on how he saw himself. He was really using his past to justify not being obedient now. We often have this same character; when we blow it and don’t measure up, we tend to discredit what we can do and we become passive. This behavior then results in us not doing what God knows we can do because of what we have done. (lack of faith in God)
Do you recall a time in your life where you were apprehensive? If not with God, maybe with someone else? A boss, spouse or friend? What was the motivation, or lack there of, behind your stance?
An interesting observation of the dialog between Moses and God, is that God never consoles Moses’ low self-esteem. When Moses declares he is unworthy, God does not come in and build up Moses’ self-esteem; “you’re a great shepherd Moses”, “you’re a good husband Moses”, “it wasn’t your fault your mother abandoned you”. No God just moves on with what Moses needs to do.
Miracles, signs and wonders are sprinkled all throughout the bible. They should not be confused with magic, tricks or witchcraft. Each time God is involved in a miracle, sign or wonder, it is for a purpose; to communicate to people, to send a message, not just show off. In this chapter, God gives us a couple of examples.
Out of the 3 main signs illustrated in this chapter (Staff/Snake, leprosy, and Nile/blood) what are some of your insights? If God is only doing these things to communicate, what is his message?
The of first of three signs which involved miraculous transformations for Moses to show the people was how his staff could be changed into a snake and back. This special event could easily be credited as a demonstration of what God could do, but it seems like it could be so much more than that.
If we remember at this time and when Moses left Egypt, the most powerful man in the world, was Pharaoh. One of the possessions of the pharaoh that set him apart was his headdress. Do you recall what the main symbol on pharaoh’s headdress was?
It was actually a hooded cobra snake. Remember, God does not just perform tricks, he communicates. When he turns Moses staff into a snake, what does Moses do? He retreats, he is intimidated, and that is the same situation he had with pharaoh. Isn’t it crazy to think that Moses had been a shepherd in this area for 40 years and we have to suspect that he had seen his fair share of snakes.
After the snake appears and Moses reacts, what does God do?
the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail” – Exodus 4:4 ESV
What is the recommended way to catch a snake? Is it by the tail? No. That is the opposite way to get it. Moses does what the Lord commends and is able to catch it without any drama. Interesting that Moses did not argue with how to catch the snake, or doubt his ability. He just abided in the direction, and the snake was returned to a staff. By Moses’ obedience he was able to experience God’s power. The message God was communicating: I AM WHO I AM, the power of this world is no match for the creator.
Hand of Leprosy
We may be familiar with the lepers in the New Testament and be aware that it was a nasty, contagious skin disease, but what we might not know is that in this period of human history leprosy was the great scourge of humankind. They had no answers for leprosy. What is found in some ancient writing is that Egypt had thrown some of its wealth and some of its brightest minds on being able to conquer this highly contagious disease that was kind of ravaging the ancient world to no avail.
Moses experiences the miracle of the snake and then by faith sticks his hand in his shirt. Why should he be fearful. He just was demonstrated how powerful God is and that he really should not hurt him.
What do you think crossed his mind when he pulled his hand out and it was white as snow?
I would guess that Moses was most likely terrified. What has God done? Why is God so mean? Then when asked to put the hand back in his shirt, what does he have to lose? And what he experienced was a true miracle physically experienced. Not a staff, but his own hand.
Once again, God says, “Hey, you know what Egypt has been unable to do? With all of their wisdom, with all of their gold, do you know what they have been unable to do? Moses, put your hand inside your cloak. Pull it out.” That’s a death sentence. That’s advanced. That’s stage four. His hand was white with leprosy. I’m guessing that’s just going to be a little moment of panic. “Okay, put your hand back in your cloak.” What Egypt could not do, the Lord did in seconds.
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. – Exodus 4:9
This story can kind of sound similar to Jesus changing the water to wine in Cana, but we need to note this is not even close to the same miracle. A major difference is not that Moses grabs a cup of water from the Nile and God turns it to blood. What he says is, don’t worry about the color of the water in the cup, just believe that when you pour it out, when it hits the ground it will turn to blood. For this miracle to happen, Moses had to take action.
What would be the significance of turning the water to blood? What kind of message would this send to pharaoh? The wealth and power of Egypt laid in the Nile’s ability to create soil that produced crops, that brought in fish, water fowl and water crops. Almost all of the power of Egypt was built around the Nile.
Each of these miracles all involved Moses doing something; being obedient. For the miracles to happen, Moses had to do what God instructed him to do. We can’t imagine what would have happen if Moses did not listen and respond appropriately. What if he did not grab the snake? What if he did not grab it by the tail as expected? What if he shook his hand and ran to the Nile to try to rinse off the white leprosy? It is definitely a training session for Moses to fully understand the power of God as well as the acts of obedience.
Obedience rooted in faith is powerful. What is some of your experiences about being obedient in difficult times with faith of God’s sovereignty?
A Covenant Moment
18Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
21And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”
24At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
27The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. – Exodus 4:18-31 ESV
In the closing section of the chapter we get a glimpse of God in action. Moses has headed back to Egypt, but this break in the action has a huge message involved.
At first, Moses goes to his father-in-law and requests to return to Egypt, but notice that he does not mention why. He does mention the miracles and engagement with God. He seems to be a bit embarrassed with his intentions, or maybe his own pride does not want to be shattered if something goes wrong. He does not want to burn the bridge, he might have to return if things don’t turn out well. This is just after all these real-life example of faith in God, but yet he may have been depending on his own abilities, once again.
The remainder of the chapter tells the story of Zipporah, Moses’ wife, taking action and circumcising their son. What is this section all about?
Moses recorded that at this resting place, God came in to kill him. His wife took action and circumsized their son. This unusual incident possibly centres on Moses’ continued lack of faith regarding his mission. Although God had assured him that he would deliver the Israelites out of Egypt because of his covenant with Abraham, Moses had failed to circumcise his own son as required by God under that very covenant.
10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” – Genesis 17:10-14 ESV
The incident serves as a reminder of the danger of failing to take God seriously. When God says no, that does not mean maybe. God loves us, but that does not mean God does not care if we are obedient. There are millions of people that come to church on Sundays and hear direction from God and they leave for another week being more obedient to their own belief than what God has instructed.
This whole chapter focuses on obedience rooted in faith. Doing what we are asked to do based on the confidence of the outcome. In our daily life we tend to do what we need to do and weigh our passion about it based on results, immediate results.
How are you doing with being obedient to God? In James 5:16 it declares that we need to confess our sins to God, ourselves and to someone we trust so we can get healing. I think each of us know, we are more convicted to take action or change if we put it out in the light and confess it.
What are some areas that God is challenging you to be obedient rooted in faith?
This week, let us be aware of what God is teaching us about being obedient rooted in faith. Let us examine our ways and test them. Not being obedient is being rebellious. Let us commit to doing the next right thing.
Alexander, T. D. (1994). Exodus. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 98). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Alexander, T. D. (1994). Exodus. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 97). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ex 3:1–22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.