Meditations in Exodus: 18. Enough!
Ex 4:13 But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
Four questions and now a plea that is a refusal. Moses really isn’t doing very well. If this had been a job interview as we know them today, the interviewing board would have given up on him long back. Holding on graciously they might have said, “Moses, you are clearly the man for the job. Everything we know about you says this is your job. Please stop asking questions and just take the job.” But he puts in this last plea, there must be someone else, use them. And I imagine the head of the interviewing board in exasperation going, “Oh for goodness sake! Go on then, get out of here!” But God knows His man and knows what can be done, so He doesn’t give up.
But He does get angry! Here is the scariest thought in this whole passage: you can push God too far! Anger can come from frustration and anger can be the right response to wrong doing. Psychologists and counsellors talk a lot about the reasons for anger and how to manage anger, but in the realm of ethics I would suggest that anger against a wrong is a measure of the wrong. One psychologist has written, “While anger is … vulnerable to excess ….it represents an appropriate response to wilful harm and needs to be afforded a central role in any conception of justice.” Justice is about right and appropriate responses to wrong behaviour. In a day when the media mixes up our emotions and the causes of them, we perhaps lose the idea that it is right to be angry, not for selfish reasons, but that something goes against the grain of God’s perfect design.
The Lord has patiently answered all of Moses’ questions but after all that when Moses still refuses, it is a legitimate and appropriate response to feel anger. Make sure you distinguish anger from hostile and violent responses. God never has knee-jerk responses and when He feels anger it is always right and appropriate and is always the precursor to Him then considering what response should follow. The following response is not always as we might expect.
Earlier I imagined the head of an interviewing board throwing him out, but God’s response accepts the problem of Moses’ low self-esteem (maybe the work of the desert has gone too far!) and looks for an alternative way to work through the plan without giving up on it: “he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” (Ex 4:14-17) A solution! It sounds a bit heavy handed having a God-interpreter (Moses) plus a direct negotiator (Aaron) but it can work and in the long-term God knows what Moses can become, a long-suffering shepherd of His people Israel.
So we then read, “Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” (v.18a) The conversation is at an end and so all that is left is for Moses to go. He goes first to his father-in-law, because he is still looking after his sheep and he needs to leave them with him if he is to go back to Egypt. Moses accepts the situation and acts accordingly. Whether he explained to Jethro all that had happened we don’t know but the old man’s response of gracious: “Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.” (v.18b) We’ll see some more of Jethro later but for the time being Moses leaves him in Midian and starts off for Egypt. We’ll pick it up there in the next meditation.
But what about application? What does this story say to us? Well, first and foremost it says the same thing that so often comes over in the Bible: God knows our potential, our future capabilities, better than we do. He knows what He can achieve through us in working through His plans to bless His world.
But second, and very much associated with that, He also knows our limitations and knows where He will have to step in to help us. In the conversation we have been considering, we have seen the Lord say, “I will be with you,” (3:12) and “I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them,” (3:20) and “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say,” (4:12) and then in respect of Aaron, “I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.” (4:15) And that is apart from the miracles of the staff and the leprous hand that He would enable Moses to do. The Lord will be there doing the heavy stuff in this encounter with Pharaoh. Moses just has to speak out or at least now, let Aaron speak out. These four words of comfort can perhaps be summed up as ‘I will guide you and teach you’. What more can we ask of Him as He leads us through life?
Remember, if you get involved in a feeding of the five thousand situation, the dynamics of it: Jesus prays (Lk 9:16), he breaks the bread and then hands it to his disciples for them to “set before the people”. You are just a distributor; Jesus is the miracle performer! And that’s how it always is: he involves us and guides and teaches us in the situation, but he is the one who performs the miracle!!!! Let’s hold on to these truths.