Signs for Moses, Exodus 4:1-17

Moses answered, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

snake-exodus-4-3Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the LORD, “is so 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,” (Exodus 4:1-5).

You may read Exodus 4:1-17 here: Bible Gateway.

In Exodus 3, God used a burning bush to reveal Himself to Moses before commissioning him to tell the Israelites of God’s plan of deliverance from their Egyptian bondage. While Moses doubts his calling at the burning bush, it’s God’s word he doubts in chapter 4. For God had just told him that the Israelite leaders would accept him (Gen. 3:18) and everything would work out.

So God graciously gives Moses three miraculous signs to show the Israelites: He exists; His words to Moses are true; and His power is superior to Egyptian gods.

Miraculous Signs      

Moses gets a front row seat as God uses three ordinary objects to demonstrate His power. Not only is God commissioning Moses, but He’s also giving Moses the power he needs to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

  1. A shepherd’s staff was a simple wooden rod, three to six feet long, with a curved hook at the top. Shepherds used their staffs for walking, leading their sheep, and killing snakes among other tasks. Moses probably never dreamt the power his simple staff would yield when it also became God’s staff!
  2. Similar to the first sign, the second sign involves Moses’ hand. Moses follows God’s order to put it inside his cloak. His adrenaline most likely rocketed again when he pulled his hand back out. For it was covered with the most feared disease of his time: leprosy. But when Moses obediently repeated the process, his hand was completely restored.
  3. As if the first two signs weren’t enough, God patiently gives Moses one more sign. “Take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the Nile will become blood on the ground,” (vs.9). This time Moses would need to take God at His word and step out in faith before seeing the result.

Moses Struggles

I always thought Moses’ reluctance to follow God’s call came from inadequacy of speaking. For he told God that he was “slow of speech and tongue,” (vs. 10). But Stephen’s report of Moses describes him as an eloquent speaker (Acts 7:21-22). It’s possible he developed his oratory skills as he stepped out and obeyed God. Maybe he just lacked courage, or it could have been a combination of the two.

Anyway, God sees through Moses’ excuses as He reminds him that He is the One who fashioned him. He who gave him his mouth will also give him the right words (vs. 11).

But Moses is persistent. He pleads with God to send someone else.

Although God is patient and long-suffering, He is now angry.

So God tells Moses that his brother Aaron can speak for him. But as time goes on, Aaron is not only a burden to Moses, but he also proves to be a stumbling block to others at times (Exodus 32:1-5; Numbers 12:1-12).

Reflect

I like to think of leaders in the Bible as always being giants in the faith. Although Numbers 12:3-8 commends Moses for his humbleness and faithfulness, we’re also given a picture of how he began his journey when God called him. Like us, he also struggled with failure, fear and uncertainty.

Although Moses was passionate and quick to defend the people around him, it’s comforting to know that God wasn’t dependent on his strengths. Even though God knows we will mess up at times, He chooses to use fallible people to do His will anyway.

If God asks us to do something, He will help us. In our weakness, He will supply the resources. We don’t need miraculous signs to prove His existence or power. We have numerous examples in His Word, not to mention His power in creation.

What ordinary tool(s) does God want to use in your hands? A hammer, laptop, mixing bowl? What is God asking of you? He delights in using the ordinary to do the extraordinary. But we may need to step out in faith first before He demonstrates His power to us. For He delights in our trust.

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