Exodus 4:1-31

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 2, 2007


Moses has been living in the desert for the last forty years, tend his father-in-laws flock of sheep. One day he sees a burning bush and God speaks to him. God tells Moses that Moses is going to be the one who will deliver Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Moses objects. First Moses says, “But who am I?” and God’s response was that it doesn’t matter who Moses is, God will be with him. Then Moses says, “But what if they ask me Your name, who are You?” God tells Moses His name, “Yahweh”, He is the “I Am”, the one who always is.

God went on tell Moses what his mission was going to be.

God told Moses that he was to gather the elders of Israel together, go to Pharaoh, and ask permission to go and serve Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews.

God warned Moses that Pharaoh wasn’t going to let go of the people easily, but when they finally were allowed to go, they would go out with treasures from Egypt.

Exodus 3

:16-22 The general plan

:16 "Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, "I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;

:17 "and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey."'

:18 "Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, 'The LORD God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'

Note that “three days” refers the distance they were going, not how long they would be gone.  Pharaoh wouldn’t be told how long the trip would last and he wasn’t told that they would return.

:19 "But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.

mighty hand – God knows that it was going to take some big-time persuading for Pharaoh to let the people go.

:20 "So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.

:21 "And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed.

:22 "But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians."

The Israelites would ask their Egyptian neighbors for donations.  This “plunder” would be a partial repayment for the hundreds of years they served as slaves.

It will be a part of the fulfillment of Abraham’s ancient prophecy:

(Gen 15:14 NKJV)  "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Some of this “plunder” may have been a part of what was used to build the tabernacle:

(Exo 35:5 NKJV)  'Take from among you an offering to the LORD. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the LORD: gold, silver, and bronze;

Exodus 4

:1-9 What if they don’t believe?

:1 Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.'"

If you’ve been around a while, you know that there are going to be people who will claim that God has spoken to them. Some of them might be telling the truth, but some people are just kooky in their head. Moses is concerned that the Israelites might not believe that God has indeed appeared to Moses.

Paul noted something about the way his people think:

(1 Cor 1:22 NKJV) For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;

God is going to be giving Moses the ability to perform miraculous deeds in order to help his people believe that God is going to help them. When Moses reaches Egypt, he will do these miracles before the elders of the people (Ex. 4:29-30).

:2 So the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod."

This is Moses’ shepherd’s staff. This is what has been his main “tool” in his job for the last forty years. This is what God is going to use in his ministry for the next forty years.

Are you wondering if God could ever use you? How could God ever use you? Maybe take a look at what’s in your hand. Is it a frying pan? A football? A computer? A hammer? A wrench?

:3 And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.

It was a real snake. Moses was afraid. There was no power in Moses’ rod. It was just a piece of wood that God would use. Satan would imitate this work and turn the Egyptian magician’s rods into snakes.

It’s like many things around us, they are neither good nor bad, but it depends on who uses it. Music can be like this. Some people can use music to promote sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Or God can use music to touch lives.

Moses took that thing that was in his hand and for a time it turned into something frightful.

:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),

:5 "that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."

by the tail – I’m not sure this is the way you want to catch a snake. I would imagine this is how you will get bit by the snake.

Snakes represented power and life to the Egyptians. This miracle was going to be a reassurance that God was going to be able to overcome the power of the Egyptians.

For Moses, it’s going to take some faith for Moses to catch the snake by the tail. Moses had to face his fear.

:6 Furthermore the LORD said to him, "Now put your hand in your bosom." And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.

:7 And He said, "Put your hand in your bosom again." So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.

:8 "Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.

Leprosy was considered an incurable disease. The “bosom” might be a picture of the heart, the inner person.

Perhaps this is a picture of how God is able to deal with even the most incurable problems of a heart.

Perhaps this miracle is a picture of what God can do to our life. In a way it’s like a testimony, letting people see that God can take a wicked heart and make it new again.

:9 "And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. And the water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land."

The River Nile was considered one of the chief gods of Egypt. It was considered the source of life and productivity. It’s a sort of picture of the kinds of things the world uses to keep people going.

When Moses turns the Nile to blood, it is not only a picture of God’s superiority over the world; it’s a picture of the death that comes from the world.

When we are sharing the Lord with our friends, we ought to share the “good news” of what the Lord can do in their life. But it’s also important to talk about the “bad news” as well, the fact that the way of this world ends in death.

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well:

(John 4:13-14 NKJV) …"Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

:10-12 I can’t speak

:10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."

slowkabed – heavy, great; dull; this might mean that he’s not quick at the “come backs”. Some have said that Moses might have had a stutter.

And yet during his first forty years, Moses had a reputation:

(Acts 7:22 NKJV) "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.

Perhaps forty years talking mostly to sheep has hurt Moses’ confidence in his speech.

:11 So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

If God is the one that made Moses’ mouth, then who is Moses to question God when God is the one asking Moses to use his mouth?

:12 "Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say."


Honoring God’s work

Be careful about questioning who you are. You may look in the mirror and not like what you see.
A lady was walking past a pet store when a parrot said, “Hey, lady! You’re really ugly!” The lady was angry but continued on her way. On the way home, she passed by the pet store again, and the parrot once more said, “Hey, lady! You’re really ugly!” She was enraged now, so she went into the store and said that she wanted the bird disposed of. The store manager
 apologized profusely and promised he would make sure the parrot didn’t say it again. The next day, she deliberately passed by the store to test the parrot. “Hey, lady!” the bird said. “Yes?” she replied. “You know.”
You may feel like that woman and you don’t even have a parrot talking to you.   It might be your looks.  It might be your physical strength.  It might be your brains.  It might be your emotions.
But the bottom line is that God made you and God made me. And even though I may have a hard time accepting who I am, I have to admit I have an even harder time thinking that God makes mistakes.
I am often in awe at the life and wisdom of Joni Eareckson Tada.  As a teenager she broke her neck in a swimming accident and has lived her life as a quadriplegic. Though I may find lots of things wrong in my life and think that God could never use me because of those things, I look at her and how she has allowed God to use her, and I find many of my excuses for serving God simply melting away.  Listen to some of the wisdom that God has given this wonderful lady:

- “The weaker we feel, the harder we lean on God. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow.”

- “It’s ironic. In heaven, where I will be able once again to wipe my own tears, I won’t have to.”

- “While lunching at a friend's house, I had to borrow a spoon and have her bend it so it could be inserted in my hand splint and I could feed myself. Throughout lunch, she glanced at the spoon. Embarrassed, I offered to have my husband straighten it out. Later I thought, Isn't that the way God works in our lives? He knows he can accomplish his unique plan when he bends us to suit his will. The metal of our souls may be difficult to bend, but when we allow God the privilege of shaping our lives, we discover new depths of purpose and meaning. We become perfectly suited for his use.”

I think it’s a great place to come to when you realize that you’re exactly the way God wants you to be, even with your flaws and weaknesses.
Be careful you don’t say, “Well God could never use me …”

:13-17 Send someone else

:13 But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send."

“Send someone else. Send anybody else. Just not me.”

:14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses,

God is angry with Moses because his reluctance is now getting to the point of outright disobedience.

:14 and He said: "Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

:15 "Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.

:16 "So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.

There will now be a three-way relationship between Moses, Aaron, and the Pharaoh (Ex. 7:1-2). God will speak to Moses. Moses will speak to Aaron. Aaron will speak to Pharaoh.

:17 "And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs."

In a sense God is going to settle for second best in putting Aaron in the place of speaking for Moses. Later, problems like the golden calf come because of Aaron.

I understand what it’s like to not feel up to the task in front of you. But sometimes I think we do ourselves more harm by dragging our feet than we would do if we would just jump in and swim.

:18-23 Permission to leave

:18 So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive." And Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace."

Moses is eighty years old, and he’s asking his father-in-law’s permission to go.

:19 And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead."

I’ve heard that one of the best ways to deal with your enemies is simply to outlive them.

As you try and serve the Lord, there will be people who will come against you. You can get all flustered and want to quit, or you can simply continue to do what God has called you to do. Outlive your enemies.

:20 Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

This simple shepherd’s staff is no longer just “Moses’ staff”, but the “rod of God”.


Staffs and Snakes

The “rod”, the “staff” was simply that thing that Moses already had in his hand.
It was the thing that Moses had used as a shepherd.
When God tells him to throw it down, it becomes something ugly, something dreaded, a serpent.
After God tells him to take it up again, and Moses grabs it again by faith, it again becomes a staff, something useful, but now it’s the “rod of God”.
I see this as a principle of how God equips us to do what He has asked us to do.
Sometimes it involves our “skills”

Years ago during the Jesus People movement there was a musician named Erick Nelson. He had a band named “Good News”. I remember hearing him share his testimony about coming to the Lord as a musician, and God asking him to put his music down. For a period of time music became something evil, something of the devil for him. He stopped his music altogether. And then God asked him to take it up again, and it became something that God would use in a tremendous way.

Sometimes it involves relationships.

God told Abraham to take his beloved only son and sacrificed him (Gen. 22). Abraham was willing to lay his son Isaac on the altar and it was as he lifted up the knife to sacrifice his son that God stopped him.

God was testing Abraham to see whether or not God was the ruling passion in his life, not Isaac.

And as a result, God gave Isaac back to Abraham. Isaac continued to be the son of “promise”.

Give your talents, abilities, and relationships to God.
If He gives it back to you, it’s so He can use it. Consider it a “loan” back to you because when you gave it to Him, it became His.

:21 And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

We will see in future studies about God’s hardening the heart of Pharaoh.

The Bible mentions 10 times that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The Bible also mentions 10 times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

We will see that it was actually a process that started with Pharaoh hardening his own heart. Pharaoh will harden his own heart seven times until finally God steps in and helps Pharaoh harden his heart.

Be careful about continually hardening your heart toward God. There may come a time when your heart will become too hard.

:22 "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn.

firstborn – “The firstborn son was to the Egyptians not only special, but in many respects sacred” (Davis, “Moses and the Gods of Egypt”)

We’re going to see that one of God’s judgments against Egypt will be the death of the “firstborn”.

Here God makes it clear that Israel is very special to Him.

:23 "So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn."' "

Notice that Pharaoh will be warned about his firstborn long before it comes to it.

:24-26 Moses circumcises his son

:24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him.

We aren’t told just how this happens. Perhaps Moses gets sick. We do know that God is wanting to deal seriously about something in Moses’ life.

:25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, "Surely you are a husband of blood to me!"

:26 So He let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!"; because of the circumcision.

:27-31 Aaron joins Moses

:27 And the LORD said to Aaron, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses." So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him.

:28 So Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him.

:29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.

:30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.

:31 So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.

The people are encouraged when they find that God is going to help them.

:26 So He let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!"; because of the circumcision.

The issue was about the circumcision of Moses’ son.

Here was this man coming down to Egypt to deliver the nation of Israel from Egypt, and he himself hasn’t been doing the things he ought to have done as a true son of Israel.

Perhaps Moses was slow to obey the Lord because Zipporah didn’t want her sons circumcised. She is going to resent that this has happened. It is possible that at this time Zipporah takes her sons and goes back to live with her father in Midian (Ex. 18:2-3).


I am the example

God is serious that we set an example for those around us. People don’t just learn by reading books or memorizing lists of things to do. They learn by example. They learn by watching how it is done. Paul wrote to the Philippians:
(Phil 4:9 NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul compared life to a race, and it’s important in a race to follow the rules:
(1 Cor 9:24-27 NKJV) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. {25} And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. {26} Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. {27} But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Why does Paul not want to be “disqualified”? He is setting an example for others to follow.

In the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the American women’s 4 x 100 relay race was favored to win the gold medal. The team featured Marion Jones, a sprinter who had won four gold medals at the previous games in Sydney. The American team was already off to a strong start when Jones took the baton for the second leg of the race. She gained ground as she ran her 100 meters and approached Lauryn Williams, a young speedster who would run the third leg. Williams began running as Jones drew near, but when she reached back to receive the baton, they couldn’t complete the handoff. Once, twice, three times Jones thrust the baton forward, but each time it missed William’s hand—she couldn’t seem to wrap her fingers around it. Finally, on the fourth try, they made the connection. But by that time, they had crossed out of the 20-yard exchange zone and were disqualified. Everyone knew they were the fastest team on the track. The night before, they’d had the fastest qualifying time. But when they couldn’t complete the handoff, their race was over.
This story used to be an example of how important it is that we “pass the baton” on to the next generation.  It’s important that we pass on our faith not only by what we tell others, but by how we live it as well.

Now we know that Marion Jones also failed on another level.  She was not the winner we all thought.  She had won her gold medals through “chemistry”, taking steroids.  She’s been disqualified.

Moses is going to be setting an example not only for the nation, but for his own sons.
Note: Moses’ sons may be 30-40 years old at this time.

It’s never too late to start setting a good example.