1Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’”
1Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’”
Moses has a third objection. He foresees the problem that the people will not believe him. That in itself is an understandable objection, for in all the time that the people had been in Egypt – which is now about four hundred years – the LORD had not appeared to them. Moses has to learn that his mission does not depend on how he will be received. A mission is never dependent on reception, but on the Sender.
2The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” 3Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp [it] by its tail”—so he stretched 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.”
In His goodness the LORD meets Moses’ objection. He gives him two signs. For the first sign the LORD points out to him what he has in his hand. For the Lord, what matters is what we have, not what we do not have. We should also be reminded of this. With what we have, we may serve Him.
The staff here is a rod of power and authority. It represents here the power that was once given to Adam. Adam had given that power to satan. We see that in the incident where the staff becomes a snake. Satan speaks in that sense about it to the Lord Jesus during the temptation in the wilderness, and the Lord does not contradict him in it (Mt 4:8-108Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;9and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”10Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”).
Power returns in the hand of man, that is, in the hand of the Man Christ Jesus. Christ robbed satan of his power through his work on the cross (Col 2:1515When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.). He therefore says that to Him “has been given all power in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:1818And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.). The actual claiming of that power comes in God’s time (Psa 2:88‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the [very] ends of the earth as Your possession.
In faith that the situation has not got out of God’s control, but that everything is under His control, we too may do our ministry. That is why we must not flee – as Moses did – but resist the devil. Our small abilities can be used by God to do His work (cf. Jn 6:9-139“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.11Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.12When they were filled, He *said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.; 2Kgs 4:2-72Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”3Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, [even] empty vessels; do not get a few.4And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.”5So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing [the vessels] to her and she poured.6When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped.7Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you [and] your sons can live on the rest.”).
6The LORD furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7Then He said, “Put your hand into your bosom again.” So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like [the rest of] his flesh. 8“If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign.
Israel must learn the lesson that, although the devil now exercises his power, God holds the ultimate power. Through the affliction they experience the power of the enemy. Then there is another lesson to be learned. There is not only outer slavery, there is also the indwelling power of sin. It’s not good inside. The second sign, that of the leprous hand, makes that clear. Leprosy in the heart represents hidden sin; leprosy in the hand represents the outwardly visible sin.
From within, from the heart of man, sins come forth, and that is evident from the deeds of man, of which his hands speak: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting [and] wickedness, [as well as] deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride [and] foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mk 7:21-2321For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,22deeds of coveting [and] wickedness, [as well as] deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride [and] foolishness.23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”). When the heart is unclean, the works of man are also. Only by faith the heart is cleansed (Acts 15:99and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.). And when the heart is cleansed, the works can also be good works. Change of behavior and actions can never start from the outside. A cleansed hand is now fit for his service.
9But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
If both signs are not listened to, the judgment must come (Job 33:14-1614“Indeed God speaks once,
Or twice, [yet] no one notices it.
15“In a dream, a vision of the night,
When sound sleep falls on men,
While they slumber in their beds,
16Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction,
). This is represented by the change of the water of the Nile into blood. The Nile is for the Egyptians the source of life. The Nile represents the natural blessings that the world without God – of which Egypt is a picture – enjoys through the goodness of God. If a man remains deaf and blind to the message of the first two signs, the blessings that God gives him to enjoy, and for which he does not thank God, will turn into a curse. Many have already been spiritually killed by the excessive use of things found in God’s creation.
10Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes [him] mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”
Moses’ fourth objection is his lack of eloquence (cf. Jer 1:77But the LORD said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
And all that I command you, you shall speak.
). The effect of God’s message does not depend on the eloquence of man. Paul has learned that it does not depend on excellence of words or wisdom (1Cor 2:1,41And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.4and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,; 2Cor 10:1010For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.”). The flesh may be impressed by this, but it does not contribute to God’s work.
We must learn what Paul has learned, that God’s power is accomplished in weakness: “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:9-109And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.).
There is nothing left of Moses’ power in work and word. There is no confidence in himself anymore and that is good. Yet there is not yet full trust in God. He still has to learn that God also gives what is necessary to fulfill His task when He calls someone to a certain task.
In Christianity one is sensitive to beautiful choral singing, compelling music, in-pressive speeches, but this does not result in conversion. This only happens through the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit.
In addition, it is a misunderstanding of what the Lord gives or does not give. He can make everything so that it serves His purpose. We must learn to be satisfied with this. And not only that. We must learn that this is most effective for His work. Then He gets the honor and not the one He uses. It must be “by the strength which God supplies” (1Pet 4:1111Whoever speaks, [is to do so] as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves [is to do so] as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.).
13But he said, “Please, Lord, now send [the message] by whomever You will.” 14Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. 16Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him. 17You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
Moses’ fifth objection can no longer be regarded as an objection. It is a refusal. Refusal is not humility. This is no longer weakness, it is unwillingness to obey. Giving in to weakness ends in unbelief.
God’s answer is appropriate. God becomes angry. He does not relieve Moses of the commission He has given him. God does, so to speak, deprive him of the honor of his mission, by giving him a companion in his brother Aaron. In this case, this is not a strengthening, but a weakening. This is evident from the course of history.
Moses speaks to the LORD again as “Lord”, which means commander (verse 1313But he said, “Please, Lord, now send [the message] by whomever You will.”; verse 1010Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”), but does not do what He says. This denies His authority. It is disobedience (cf. Acts 10:1414But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”; Lk 6:4646“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?).
18Then Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19Now 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 mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand. 21The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which 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 son, My firstborn. 23So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”‘”
Although Moses is called by God, he tells Jethro of this call to return to Egypt. He asks his father-in-law for permission to leave and this is granted. With Jacob we have seen a different behavior (Gen 31:2020And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing.). Moses receives extra encouragement from the LORD (verse 1919Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.”). Then he leaves with his wife and children and with “the staff of God in his hand”. It is no longer the staff of Moses, but the staff that God will use.
Once again the LORD reminds Moses of what he must do and say. Moses must introduce his words with “thus says the LORD”. This expression, which will be repeated so often by the prophets later on, will sound for the first time from the mouth of Moses. The names God gives his people here are beautiful: “My son, My firstborn” (cf. Rev 11:11Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.). This applies above all to the Lord Jesus (Mt 2:1515He remained there until the death of Herod. [This was] to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”). God wants His son to serve Him (Mal 3:1717“They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare [My] own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”) and that’s why Pharaoh has to let them go.
The LORD tells Moses that Pharaoh will not listen because He will harden the heart of Pharaoh. That does not mean that Pharaoh has no other choice. The LORD is not dealing unrighteous, and Pharaoh is fully responsible for his conduct and actions. The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay. It depends on the kind of material.
God hardens a heart only after the person himself has hardened his heart. That is what the history of Pharaoh teaches us. First Pharaoh himself hardens his heart (Exo 7:13,14,2213Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.14Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go.22But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.; 8:15,19,3215But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.19Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.32But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.; 9:7,347Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.34But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants.; 13:1515It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’). As a result of this the LORD hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Exo 9:1212And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.; 10:1,20,271Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them,20But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.27But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.; 11:1010Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.; 14:4,8,174Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.8The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly.17As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.). He thus confirms Pharaoh’s stubborn and self-willed attitude in his refusal to comply with His command to let His people go. Therefore, at the end of verse 2323So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”‘”, the LORD already points out the final judgment of the last plague.
24Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26So He let him alone. At that time she said, “[You are] a bridegroom of blood”—because of the circumcision.
After the LORD has spoken of his people as his firstborn son, he addresses Moses on his relationship with his son, probably his firstborn son, Gersom. It is so serious that He wants to put Moses to death. This shows that God cannot condone anything wrong with those He wants to use, even though Moses is about to carry out the LORD’s command. The LORD can only use those who also observe His statutes in their families.
The reason the LORD wants to put Moses to death is that one of his children has not been circumcised. Circumcision is a recognition of God’s judgment on the flesh. The picture here is that God’s judgment has not been carried out on the flesh of that child. It may have escaped Moses attention. Perhaps the originally pagan Zipporah didn’t realize its necessity. She does it now because she has to do so, but with the reproach to Moses that he is a “bridegroom of blood” for her. What she means by this is not quite clear. Perhaps it shows that she, although against her will, did the bloody act of circumcision to save her husband. She then gets him back, as it were, as her bridegroom by performing this bloody ritual. The life of Moses is spared.
Here is the lesson that it is of great importance to every leader of God’s people that he rules his family under God’s authority (1Tim 3:4-54[He must be] one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),). His family is his first responsibility. The LORD wants to put Moses to death, as the head of the family, and not Zipporah.
27Now the LORD said to Aaron, “Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which He had sent him, and all the signs that He had commanded him [to do].
The reunion with Aaron is hearty. These two will be of great significance for God’s people in the time to come. Moses is a picture of the Lord Jesus as King over His people; Aaron is a picture of the Lord Jesus as Priest for His people.
The place of meeting is “the mountain of God”. The subject of their conversation are the words of God and His miraculous deeds. This is a nice illustration of how our encounters with fellow believers should proceed.
29Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; 30and Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.
As the LORD has said, Moses and Aaron do the signs in the sight of the elders, so the people believe on the basis of the signs they have seen. They even bow low before the LORD and worship Him. Moses had been afraid that the people would not believe him (verse 11Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’”).