Meditations in Exodus: 19. The Reality of the Return
Ex 4:19,20 Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
The Lord has answered Moses’ four questions and sidestepped his plea for someone else to go by agreeing to send Aaron with him. There is little more to be said and so, I suspect, a still somewhat reluctant Moses got ready to return. Now we should never be foolish enough to say that stepping out in faith is not nervy. If the Lord has put some new venture on my heart (as has just recently happened) after the initial burst of faith comes the questions: is this really of the Lord, if I submit this idea to the leadership of the church, will they go along with it, and if they do go along with it, what demands will that put on me, and if they reject it, will I have the grace to accept their decision? These are all things that push me more into prayer and leave my heart beating furiously for a while at least. Doing God’s will, especially as part of the body of Christ, is not always an easy thing to discern or plan or work out.
Before he goes the Lord gives him a further encouragement: “all the men who wanted to kill you are dead”. Those who had been upset about Moses killing an Egyptian slave-master forty years ago have passed away; he has outlived them so that is one problem or difficulty overcome.
When Moses goes he takes his wife and family with him. He has the comfort of their company and presumably her support, but this might be a two edged blessing because although it would be good to have his family with him, it may be that that means that they are in a dangerous place as well if Pharaoh turns nasty.
And he takes his staff with him but note it is now referred to as “the staff of God”. This is going to be God’s instrument in Moses’ hand and the very presence of it is a reminder of the miracle that he has witnessed in respect of it already, and of what the Lord has said about its use back in Egypt.
The Lord reinforces His instruction to Moses: “The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do.” (v.21a) Moses, you really have got to settle in your mind that the ‘ministry’ you are being called to is a signs and wonders ministry. Living in a country that has largely hardened its heart against the Lord, I am convinced that it will only be as we obediently do the things Jesus did (see Jn 14:12) moving with both word and power will we see any change for good come to our nations in the West. When we start praying over the lost and see God move in power on them, then hearts will be softened and opened to receive the Gospel.
Now having just said that, we find it is going to be very different for Moses because ultimately the Lord is going to judge Pharaoh and his people but not until He has given them every opportunity to repent. There is going to be a problem when they arrive in Egypt. Moses is going to find he is confronting a king with a very hard heart and the more he confronts him the harder that heart is going to become; that is what happens when pride and arrogance have taken root in someone. This is why the Lord says, “But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” (v.21b) Humanly speaking any rational man will respond to plagues that get gradually worse and worse – and that is what is going to happen – but Sin and especially the sin of pride is not rational, it cannot stand being opposed because it is self-centred godlessness of the extreme kind and everything in it rises against God and against any demands He makes. So Pharaoh, who already has a hard heart, is just going to get harder and harder along the way. Understand that and accept that that is what is going to happen and you’ll be all right Moses and remember it is God bringing the plagues not you!
And so to make it patently obvious Moses is to be completely up front about what the outcome will be: “Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” (v.22,23), although that will only be right at the end, but the build-up to it should, as we said, make any rational man come to their senses and say, go then.
So we’ve had the question and answer session, we’ve had two miracles, we have the support of the family and now the Lord had made it perfectly clear what is going to come about. You may not like it, Moses, but at least you know exactly the strategy that God is going to use, and you now know your part in it. That’s a lot of information, a lot of preparation, but also a lot of encouragement.
Now I’m going to conclude with a suggested principle: the bigger the task the greater the preparation and revelation the Lord will give. The corollary for that is that the smaller the task the less you are going to get. The nudge by the Holy Spirit, “Go and talk to that person over there,” is a simple nudge and that will be all you will get. You already have the scriptural backup to that which we looked at recently: “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:19,20) You don’t need any more preparation than that. “Go and set up a ministry to inner city drug addicts.” Now that will need some preparation and certainly a lot more confirmation. Trust that the Lord will give you sufficient for what He will put before you, and remember when He sends you, He will always go with you and will be there for you and will be your guide and your resource in all you do. Amen? Amen!