1 Third Objection
1 Then 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 a comprehensible objection, for the LORD is all the time that the people are in Egypt, which is now about four hundred years long, 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.
2 - 5 The Sign of the Staff
2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” 3 Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4 But 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 hath 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 picture of power, authority. It represents here the power that was once given to Adam. Adam has given that power to satan. We see that in the picture that 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 4:8-10).
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 2:15). He therefore says that to Him “has been given all power in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). The actual claiming of that power comes at God’s time (Psa 2:8).
In the 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 means can be used by God to do His work with them (cf. Jn 6:9-13; 2Kgs 4:2-7).
6 - 8 The Sign of the Leprous Hand
6 The 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. 7 Then 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 7:21-23). When the heart is unclean, the works of man also are. Only by faith the heart is cleansed (Acts 15:9). 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 cleaning-hand is fit for his service.
9 Changing Water into Blood
9 But 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 33:14-16). 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.
10 - 12 Fourth Objection and God’s Answer
10 Then 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.” 11 The 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? 12 Now 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 1:7). As if the effect of God’s message depends on the eloquence of man. Paul has learned that it is not in excellence of words or wisdom (1Cor 2:1,4; 2Cor 10:10). 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 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 12:9-10).
There is nothing left of Moses’ power in work and word. There is no confidence in himself anymore and that’s 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-pressing speeches, but because of this one does not come to 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 makes 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 instrument. It must be “by the strength which God supplies” (1Pet 4:11).
13 - 17 Moses’ Refusal and God’s Answer
13 But he said, “Please, Lord, now send [the message] by whomever You will.” 14 Then 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. 15 You 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. 16 Moreover, 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. 17 You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
Moses’ fifth objection can no longer be mentioned 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 accordingly. God gets 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.
18 - 23 Back to Egypt
18 Then 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.” 19 Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So 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. 21 The 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. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So 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 takes into account normal politeness before returning to Egypt. He asks his father-in-law for permission to leave. He gets that permission. With Jacob we have seen a different behavior (Gen 31:20). Moses receives an extra encouragement from the LORD (verse 19). 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 11:1). This applies above all to the Lord Jesus (Mt 2:15). God wants His son to serve Him (Mal 3:17) and that’s why Pharaoh has to let him 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 ice 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 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34; 13:15). As a result thereof the LORD hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Exo 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17). 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 23, the LORD already points out the final judgment of the last plague.
24 - 26 The LORD Wants to Kill Moses
24 Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then 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.” 26 So He let him alone. At that time she said, “[You are] a bridegroom of blood”—because of the circumcision.
After the LORD hath 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 picture of God’s judgment om the flesh. The picture here is that God’s judgment not been carried out on the flesh of that child. It may have escaped Moses attention. Perhaps the originally pagan Zippora didn’t feel anything for it. She does it now because she has to do it, 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.
Here is the lesson that it is of great importance to every leader in God’s people that he rules his family under God’s authority (1Tim 3:4-5). His family is his first responsibility. The LORD wants to put Moses to death, as the head of the family, and not Zippora.
27 - 28 Moses Meets Aaron
27 Now 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. 28 Moses 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 can proceed.
29 - 31 The Signs for the People
29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; 30 and Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. 31 So 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 people. And otherwise then what Moses is afraid of (verse 1), the people believe on the basis of the signs they have seen. They even bow low before the LORD and worshipped Him.