Tag Archives: exodus

Telling God “No”

tellinggodno
Exodus 4:10-12
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Here, we see one of many times in the book of Exodus where Moses doubts whether he can fulfill all that God is asking him to do. Yet in each case, God gives Moses the abilities and knowledge he will need to tackle each new challenge. Even though Moses feels ill-equipped to be all that God asks him to be, God knows better.

As one whose tongue routinely trips all over itself and begins 5 different sentences, only to never finish any of them, I am feeling the truth of these particular verses–I, too, feel “slow of speech and tongue” sometimes. But Moses’ “Pardon your servant” line is about more than just speaking badly; Moses worries that he will fail publicly, which is more a matter of pride than anything.

We often fall into the same trap–I’m currently stuck in it myself! These two verses are stepping ALL over my toes. I, too, have told God “no” because I’m scared I can’t do it. But when we experience God moving in our hearts to do something, a divine “tug” in a particular direction, and then tell God “no, I can’t do that,” what are we actually afraid of? More often, we’re afraid of failing and humiliating ourselves–we fear losing control and looking incompetent, and/or fear that others will judge us harshly for poor performance. (Living example of that sitting right here typing this. :D)

The Lord’s reply to Moses, then, is also a reply to our fears and questions about where God is leading us. He is in control–He gave us our brains and our abilities, and He knows the whole plan where we only perceive a small portion of it. If He leads us to a new task, a new place, new people, then we must trust that He will provide what we need. We just have to allow verse 12 to serve as inspiration–we must go and do, because God will help us and teach us along the way.

Calling God’s Bluff, Moses-Style

Exodus 32:7-10
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'” 9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'” 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

To people who do not know much of God, this seems like a very harsh and unforgiving God speaking. Indeed, even to many Christians, this is an odd characterization of God. Why is God speaking of “destroying” the people He saved from Egypt? Why isn’t He just forgiving them and letting them come back to Him? And why is He speaking to Moses like a confidant?

One reason: there is much more going on here.

Moses has been up on Mount Sinai receiving word from the Lord for so long that the people waiting for him have all but given up; they need something tangible to worship, something physical and real. The Israelites pressure Moses’ brother Aaron into making a “substitute” god–they take a page from the ancient Canaanite religions of the region, and end up making a calf-shaped idol to worship instead.

God is angered by this, this blatant breaking of the covenant He had cemented with Abraham, but not so much that He is in a killing rage. In fact, that is against the nature of God, to want to kill His creation.

“But He just said–” you might be thinking. “Look at that, in verse 10–He JUST told Moses He wants him to leave Him alone so that He can destroy the Israelites!”

Exactly. He’s telling Moses all this. This isn’t a statement of what God is INTENDING to do–it is a test for Moses’s faith and leadership. What God is doing is allowing Moses to respond and to stand up for the salvation of his people. Though we do not know the mind of God fully, we can surmise that God tests three things about Moses:

  1. Moses’ faithfulness to the Lord, even to not leave him alone as God asks in verse 10;
  2. Moses’ knowledge of the covenant and of the graces which God has bestowed on Israel before now;
  3. Moses’ ability to lead the people of Israel back to God.

God knows that Moses is capable of this–after all, He created Moses. What remains now is for Moses to rise to this test. In effect, God is bluffing, and Moses calls Him on it in verses 11-14, showing that he knows all about the covenant struck with his ancestors, and all about God’s loving grace towards His people when he rescued them from Egyptian slavery. Not to mention that he actually pleads with God on behalf of the Israelites.

Here, Moses is being a true spiritual leader for the Israelites, even if he himself doesn’t realize it yet. God wants Moses to see that he IS capable of leading God’s people, and that he IS fit to teach them about the will of God. Moses had been reluctant to accept God’s call to work in this capacity before, citing his lack of eloquence and other faults. But God knows him better–knows that this man is fully capable, if he will accept the duty. This ultimatum which God delivers only to Moses’ ears is a challenge to bring Moses’ bravery out of hiding for the last time.

God challenges us to accept the calls He’s made to each one of us, every day. After all, He made us; He knows what we’re capable of. Sometimes, however, it takes a grave threat to make us actually step up and become the people God made us to be. God knew this about Moses, and made the exact threat He knew would spur Moses into action. Is God spurring you toward something new and better?

Christians Can’t Be Bystanders

Exodus 23:2
2 Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

As part of the Book of Exodus’ “Laws of Justice and Mercy,” this verse reminds us that in order to be just and merciful to others, we can’t just let things happen if we feel that it is against what God wants of us.

But this is a difficult law to apply to our modern lives. Christians do live slightly apart from the world’s rules, overall, and so sometimes it’s more tempting just to say, “Heck with it, let the world mess themselves up–WE’VE got JESUS so it doesn’t matter what they do.” Mob justice and mass apathy terrify us, and yet we feel powerless to speak up or to do anything for fear of being labeled one of THOSE Christians–one of the crazies who more often than not end up on the news for negative reasons.

Being a little isolationist is necessary to avoid the temptations in today’s global society; just as former alcoholics must avoid bars, so do born-again Christians have to avoid places (and sometimes people) who would tempt them back into a lifestyle that does not include a personal relationship with Jesus. But being completely isolated from the world, almost cloistered away and having nothing to do with it at all, is not what God wants either, and this verse tells us that very clearly. God does not want us to stand aside and let injustice and merciless behavior run rampant–He asks for us to step up and speak up, to brush aside apathy and resentment and try to help the world as much as we can. The example of giving testimony in a lawsuit is an example that shows how serious this concern is to God.

Since humans are generally a social species, and we tend to base much of our lives on how other people are living, it stands to reason that other people’s opinions would sway us heavily, despite our faith. We watch TV shows, read magazines, and visit websites that tell us how to live (and think) exactly like we “ought to.” This law doesn’t tell us to become completely worldly like this, but to be aware of what’s going on in the world, and to stand up and be counted if a decision is against what you believe. When we take this stance, of living a faith-centered life while still being aware of what’s going on in the world, we stand ready to seek God’s guidance and speak up when the world begins to tilt out of control.