Oh, My Lord
But he said, "Oh, my Lord, please send someone else." Exodus 4:13 ESV
When God met with Moses on Mt. Sinai, at the burning bush, He took the time to answer Moses’ questions and objections. God tells us He is slow to anger. Moses tells us God is slow to anger. But, God got angry with Moses. Why? God knows our form, that we are but dust. God understands our weakness. Why would He get angry?
We are going to look at the interaction between God and Moses and try to figure out why God got angry, and what we can do to avoid making the same mistake Moses made.
Now, I must clarify. I said “mistake,” but what we are talking about is sin. Moses sinned, and we see this in what Moses wrote. By his open admission and frank description of his sin, Moses helps us. This is a principle we can apply to all of our relationships. An open admission of our faults, shortcomings, oversights and/or mistakes can go a long way toward repairing the damage or healing the relationship.
Let us consider the interaction between God and Moses. Moses raises two objections. First, he says he is not a good speaker. Next, he suggests that God can find someone else. Exodus 4:10 says:
But Moses said to the Lord, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." (Exodus 4:10 ESV)
God deals with this speech issue and we will look at that, but let us consider where Moses starts. He says, “Oh, my Lord.” The actual words in the Hebrew are “bî ’ă·ḏō·nāy.” This can be translated “Please, Lord,” or “If it please the Lord.” He uses this same phrase in verse 13 when he says, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” The phrase “Oh, my Lord” is significant because of the attitude it reflects. The particle or word “bî” was used by an inferior making a plea to a superior or to a ruler. Joseph's brothers used it when they spoke with Joseph’s steward, when they expected to be taken captive and made slaves (Genesis 43:20). Judah used it when he pled with Joseph for Benjamin (Genesis 44:18). Aaron used it when he pled for Miriam to be healed of leprosy (Numbers 13:11). There is an apologetic or appeasing feel to it, and also a begging or pleading tone. An example that uses more words would be Abraham’s pleading in Genesis 18:32 when he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once." Abraham felt that he was trying God’s patience, and yet he needed to keep pleading for the sake of Lot who was in danger in Sodom.
What we see in Moses’ pleading is an unwillingness to accept the Lord’s call on his life. There is a lot going on here, and I am going to address what I can as sensitively as I am able.
The first time Moses objects using his pleading tone, God answers his objection. God’s answer takes on a different tone as God answers with a question. Moses says, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” And, God responds:
“Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11 ESV)
Moses is reluctant or unwilling to accept the Lord’s call, and part of his reluctance is his speaking ability. Acts 7:22 tells us:
“And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22 ESV)
Fluent or persuasive speech is not always a sign of wisdom, nor is wisdom always accompanied by fluent and persuasive speech. There were those who said of the Apostle Paul, “... his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” (2 Corinthians 10:10 NASB) Imagine that! One of the most powerful figures of history had a weak personal presence and contemptible speech! Moses was about to become one of the most influential figures of history, but according to his own testimony, he could not speak well. We often use the wrong standards to judge whether a person is worthy of our trust, mistaking smooth speech for wise words. If a person does not speak consistently with what God says in His word, they are not worthy of our trust.
God addresses Moses’ concern about his speaking ability by saying:
Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. (Exodus 4:12 ESV)
God promises to be with Moses’ mouth and teach him what he should speak. The maker of heaven and earth, and the maker of mouths and speech is promising to give Moses what he needs.
This is important for us to remember. God never speaks without bringing it to pass. We are told quite clearly in Numbers 23:19:
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV)
And again in Psalm 89:34:
I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. (Psalms 89:34 ESV)
God’s word is fixed forever in Heaven. (Psalms 119:89) Jesus, himself, said of the word of God:
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18 ESV)
We can judge how we should speak by the word of God.
Because of the importance of God’s word, the Bible is subject to more attack, criticism and abuse than any other book. However, because of the constant and historically long scrutiny the Bible has undergone, we can have confidence in the Bible like no other book. Any person who says the Bible contradicts itself speaks either from ignorance or ill motives. Let me put a question to you. Do you really think that thousands of years of criticism and scrutiny have not exposed every conceivable weakness of the text of Scripture? I would challenge you to seriously study any contradictions you may find in the Bible for yourself. First, you must find them in the Bible yourself, and second, you must study them with a willingness to change your mind if you find you are wrong.
We have wagered our lives on the belief that the Bible is the word of God, and yet many of us do not read it and are afraid to speak up in its defense. How can this be? God has made to us the same promise He made to Moses. Jesus taught us:
And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12 ESV)
When giving Moses the assurance that He would be with his mouth, God says, “Now go!”
This is a clear signal that the discussion is over. Whenever my parents said, “Now go,” I knew that they were finished talking about it.
God is giving the same kind of signal, and yet Moses, using the same pleading tone says:
Oh, my Lord, please send someone else. (Exodus 4:13 ESV)
Now we understand why God got angry. Now the text tells us God got angry. Moses is talking back. God already signaled the end of the discussion. Moses has revealed a character flaw that God does not take lightly.
God tells us something about Himself that is significant here. Hebrews 10:35-38 will work well as an explanation. It tells us:
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." (Hebrews 10:35-38 ESV)
God expects confidence and perseverance, and he says, “...if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” In other words, God does not like cowardice. He told Joshua to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6, 9). Moses shows timidity or a lack of confidence in the objections he makes, and God provides answers. However, there comes a point where God says, “Enough!”
2 Timothy 1:6-7 says:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV)
Timothy apparently had a tendency to be timid, and at some points all may have such a tendency because God takes the time to remind all of us that His Spirit is not one of fear.
Even though God expects Moses to trust Him, just as He expects us to trust Him, God answers Moses’ timidity by giving him a partner. Ecclesiastes 4:12 teaches the principle that two are better than one. It says:
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV)
There were times when Moses had to stand alone, even against his brother, but the two became co-leaders of Israel. And it was just as God said:
You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. (Exodus 4:15-16 ESV)
Next, the Lord gives Moses a push to get going. He basically says, “Now don’t forget your staff!) This reminds me of a mother seeing a child off to school. “Now don’t forget your books!”
God is done talking about it. He is saying clearly, “Now get going!”
God has given us a calling to spread the gospel.
He has given us the Bible, His word.
He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us what to say.
He has given us each other and commanded us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together. We are to encourage each other while it is still called today (Hebrews 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
We need to be aware lest fear or timidity holds us back.