Did God become frustrated with Moses excuses?
Here is presented some material I have put together in the past that I believe goes a long way toward answering that question.
It is good to contemplate Moses life and work. As we grow in understanding of him we find much that we can identify with him about. For instance there is the tendency of people to be eager for the work until faced with the actual responsibility of following through with it. People become timid and hesitant when faced with the need to get on with it. This is especially true when God’s plan is not consistent with the way man would go about it.
We can see the common situation with men as they age present in Moses as well. That is, men as they age become less willing to dare and do, especially when faced with failure early in their lives. Moses at eighty chides God: “…neither heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant…” (Exodus 4:10) Contained within the expression is a double meaning, the second part of which is often missed. Moses felt that God should have been communicating with him directly long before this moment in preparation for what he would do. We all have problems with His subtle work of forming us mentally and emotionally. We want direct contact with no uncertainty.
The first part of the expression, the more obvious, is something we also use an excuse to draw back from serving the Lord. “God, you haven’t made me what I think I need to be to do this job yet. We always seem to think we have to meet some qualification of our own before we can go and do His will. Our real concern should be the meeting of His requirements of us, and knowing the difference. The problem with what we should do and what we tend to do is our fleshly selves. What we should do requires submission and that is a spiritual position that is enmity with the flesh.
Knowing that Moses was a man of like passions, such as we are, should be a great encouragement. We can study his life and deeds and learn from them. We can also see the kinds of things that anger God and study not to do them that it may be well with us. One thing is sure, failure to go readily where He leads is not pleasing to Him.
People have opined that the complaint of Moses to God was that he stuttered in Exodus chapter four: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent…but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (10) But when you study the text you see the issue of speech is not focused on Moses ability to communicate with the Egyptians. He is concerned with how he will be received and accepted by the Hebrews in captivity. The current day discussion over the proper pronunciation of words was probably not as pronounced as now. As Rabbi Austin once said concerning spoken Hebrew today, you can get three Jews together and have four opinions. But in the absence of such confusion, the children of Israel would no doubt even more carefully consider how (eloquently) things were said, than they do today.
In actuality the more likely complaint of Moses was that he was not fluent in the Hebrew tongue. During the time of his childhood, he no doubt heard Hebrew being spoken to him as he was nursed and cared for, but his primary language as he grew up was the tongue of Egypt. For forty years he had resided on the back side of the desert and heard tongues and dialects, many Semitic ones, as wayfarers passed through. The language of the Midian people was probably a dialect related to Hebrew. But as a friend who had learned Spanish in south Texas and tried to speak it in Spain would tell you, there is a lot of difference.
Moses problem was that he did not remember the power of God, or trust Him to accomplish all that was necessary for His will to be performed. So the Lord spoke to him in this manner: “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” (11-12) At such a rebuke and command you would think Moses would go. But yet he will linger.
Lest we condemn Moses over much, we must first consider ourselves. Who among us, knowing the will of God for our lives, has not lingered over long before accepting the call?
An interesting question presents itself when we consider Exodus 4:13. We must pause to ask is Moses referring to the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ when he uttered those words? If he was, we must note with some humor that his conversation was taking place with that very Person of the godhead. “And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.” There have been many down through the years who reading these words and thought them to be a plea for God to send the Promised One at this time.
The words read as if they might be a Hebraic expression or one of some other related tongue. This means they would convey more than is actually said in the word picture the expression presents. Yet, I know of no such term, and such authorities as I have consulted provide me no clue, even when they hold to the belief that it is a plea for He who will come to come. It then comes down to a matter of opinion as to whether this is so or not. Those who see it as a reference to Messiah will embrace it firmly, and those who do not will call the other sides evidence flimsy.
But there is no doubt, Moses wants out of the commission. He wants the children of Israel delivered. He just wants someone else to do it. Yet contained within his words are an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God and the ability of God to empower the project. How much like Moses we are. It is easy to find a comfort zone from which we might look about and think it would be better if someone else goes forth to meet our responsibilities.
Of course every time some adversity comes our way we are also more than ready for Jesus to come and help us to escape all this mess. “Come Lord Jesus,” should be the cry of exultation, not the weeping of one who finds their challenges bigger than they have ever been before. The return of our Lord is supposed to be a triumphal entry, not a tremorous retreat from the world’s rigors.
The sin of failing to meet God’s perfect plan and following Him, nothing faltering has penalties. No better account of this truth could be unfolded than the one beginning with Moses commission from God. Presented with God’s plan, Moses wants another. So God gives him his brother. (Exodus 4:14) Aaron will prove as much a liability as an asset, for he will give the children of Israel things that they should not have had such as a golden calf.
Notice the text of instruction that comes from God concerning Aaron: “And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.” (15-16) There is something very important being conveyed here that should not be missed.
The word instead is used to convey the concept of in the place of. For instance it is appropriate to say that a preacher is one who stands and proclaims the truth of the Gospel message in Christ’s stead. God’s promise to Moses was that He would be with him and give him the words he should say. It was Moses who was commissioned to lead the Chosen People out of Egypt in the Messiah’s stead. God had no intention of dwelling and communing with Aaron as He did with Moses.
When we notice how much trouble Aaron was able to get into when Moses was not with him, we are often amazed that someone could be that lacking in understanding. But most of us who study the Scripture do so with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Aaron had no such resource. He was dependent upon the presence of Moses to lend direction to his life. This does not excuse his conduct where one would think even common sense should prevail. But then common sense does not always seem to be all that common a commodity.
A Daunting Challenge
Having spent some days considering the calling and sending forth of Moses, we might have a better understanding of the issue. It is a daunting challenge indeed, but not because of the possibility of failure to deliver the children of Israel. The challenge lies in the responsibility that goes along with the commission. There are different kinds of responsibilities that go along with every relationship whether it be the one he has with his wife, his brother, or the people of Israel themselves. Over all of these things is the responsibility he has to God.
Adam Clark wrote of that responsibility in a lesson we should all take to heart no matter what service we are called on to perform in His kingdom:
“The backwardness of Moses to receive and execute the commission…has something very instructive in it. He felt the importance of the charge, his own insufficiency, and the awful responsibility under which he should be laid… Who then can blame him for hesitating? …he must account to a jealous God, whose justice required him to punish every delinquency. What should ministers of the Gospel feel on such subjects? Is not their charge more important and more awful than that of Moses? How few consider this! It is respectable, it is honourable, to be in the Gospel ministry, but who is sufficient to guide and feed the flock of God? If through the pastor’s unfitness or neglect any soul should go astray, or perish through want of proper spiritual nourishment, or through not getting his portion in due season, in what a dreadful state is the pastor! That soul, says God, shall die in his iniquities, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hands! Were these things only considered by those who are candidates for the Gospel ministry, who could be found to undertake it? We should then indeed have the utmost occasion to pray the Lord of the Harvest to thrust out laborers unto the harvest, as no one, duly considering those things would go, unless thrust out by God himself. O ye ministers of the sanctuary! Tremble for your own souls, and the souls of those committed to your care, and go not into this work unless God go with you. Without his presence, unction, and approbation, ye can do nothing.”
In the end, and after due consideration of that we are called to do, we must bow the head:
First we will bow to repent for we see ourselves as unworthy and incapable in ourselves of responding properly to the slightest commission that might be given by the hand of the Almighty. We are sinful men who dwell in the midst of sinful men. We are vessels of clay commissioned to hold that purer than gold, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we must bow to worship the One who has chosen to bestow upon us honor and trust by virtue of His calling wherewith He has called us
Then we must stand erect. Not as we once did in the strength of flesh, but in His strength alone. The high calling of God in Christ Jesus compels that we be nothing wavering, but clear eyed in our view and assessment of all about, as well as fearless in our stance.
Then we must go forth. With a holy unction we seek under our Lord’s direction that place where for us the battle will rage the hottest, knowing that no matter what might be the apparent outcome, we know of an assured victory not by might or power but by the very Word of God.
Then we must rest. In the midst of greatest adversity we must rest lest the weary heart be overcome with care. Lest the Holy Spirit sorrow for souls about prove overmuch; lest the burden we feel for our own shortcomings and moments of fleshly variance grieve discourage our endeavors, we must find what is means to rest in Christ.
In the end, whether it be for the Gospel Ministry or some other calling we must discover this. His grace is sufficient.
Now having said all this I return to the question of God becoming frustrated or angry with Moses. Can we say that the One whose ways are not our ways and who knew Moses reaction before he made it was either frustrated or angry? I think it is probably better to say that God dealt with Moses as with a man to bring him to the place where He could use Moses all along the way just as He will deal with all of us who are His.
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