Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 4

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-17

Slow to Obey

Exodus 4:1-17


Not for one moment would we take from Moses the honor which is his. He was a great man and a man faithful unto God. However, the Word of God in painting a picture of God's great men, never fails to set forth their failures. Ingersoll is not the only one who wrote on the mistakes of Moses. God, Himself, did this long before the infidel was born.

1. Let us consider the misgivings of a great man. The first verse of our Scripture opens with the startling statement, "And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee."

God had given Moses a commission. He had told him to go, and He had emphatically said, "I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt." Over against God's command, and God's "I will," Moses threw his expression, "But, behold." What right had this man to put any question marks around the positive statements of his Lord? However, we must not be harsh with Moses, lest in condemning him we condemn ourselves. Where is he who has not questioned the Divine and direct statements of the Lord?

Moses said "They will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice." Would you call this modesty and meekness, or would you call it arrogancy? Perhaps you say we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We merely answer that when we place a question mark around God's Word we are setting our opinions and thoughts against God. We may excuse our unbelief under the plea of modesty or meekness. That does not excuse Moses. This mighty man was filled with misgivings. God answered every one of them patiently and completely. In addition God gave every promise and pledge of the success of Moses' mission, God's "I will be with thee" still rings in our ears. Against all of this, however, Moses flung his fateful word, "but." When God speaks, there is no place for "but."

2. Let us answer the question. Is a sense of personal weakness an excuse for disobedience? When God tells us to go, shall we go, or shall we plead our inability? Are the obstacles to be considered by us? Are the facts of our own inherent weakness and our natural shortcomings, to be considered?

The real question is, Shall we go, or shall we stay? Shall we trust, or shall we doubt? When God asks us to do anything, or to go anywhere, the responsibility of the success of our mission belongs to Him. Here is the way we voiced it recently in a little poem.

When God tells you what to do,

Start to do it;

He will surely see you through,

So, pursue it:

If to Him you're faithful, true,

He your foes will all subdue,

Needed strength He will renew;

Why not do it?


Our verse reads this way: "And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod." The Lord was speaking to Moses, and seemed to be taking stock of Moses' possessions.

1. The rod with which Moses led his sheep. Perhaps it was a crude stick. It certainly was not a matter of any dignity, or any human beauty; and God knew the purpose to which it had been given. When God saw it, He seemed to say, "That will do."

2. The rod glorified. God took what Moses had, not what he did not have. God always does this. He wants us to bring to Him whatever we have at hand. It is the dedication of what we have that counts. Many of us would like to give God something great, something big, but why not give God what we actually have in our hand. God took Moses' rod and glorified it by the use to which He placed it. It was the old rod in a new task.

3. A personal application. What do we have in our hand?

· What did. Joshua have? A ram's horn.

· What did Gideon have? Pitchers and lamps.

· What did Samson have? The jaw-bone of an ass.

· What did David have? A sling and five smooth stones.

· What did Peter have? "Silver and gold have I none."

· What did Dorcas have? A needle.

In each of these suggested cases God took what the person had. Stop and weigh well the accomplishments of the ram's horn, the pitcher, the jaw-bone, the smooth stones, the nothing at all, and the needle. How marvelously did God in each instance use what each person had in his hand. God can use what you have in your hand if you will give it unreservedly into His hands.

II. SIGN NUMBER ONE: THE ROD (Exodus 4:3-5 )

We wish to make some inside excursions into the meaning of this rod. Perhaps you think of just a rod or stick. Perhaps you think of it as a shepherd's crook, or the stick which Moses used to stretch forth over the sea, or with which he smote the rock, or with which he wrought miracles before Pharaoh. God did, indeed, use it in a remarkable way and it showed conclusively how the accomplishments of the Almighty do not depend upon the great and the noble. The rod shows us how God uses the humble things, the weak things, the unseemly things.

However, this rod became to Moses, and afterward to Pharaoh, a sign. When Moses cast it down, the rod became a serpent. When Moses took it again, it became a rod in his hand. What meaneth this?

1. The rod turned into a serpent demonstrates Satan as the one who would withstand Moses. The Bible tells us in Exodus 4:3 that Moses fled before the serpent. What a sight! A simple rod in his hand, cast to the ground, became a serpent from which he fled in terror. We know very well that the serpent was the beast with which Satan clothed himself in the garden. From that day on, the serpent stands for Satan.

In Revelation we read of the angel who laid hold of the dragon, "that old serpent which is the Devil, and Satan." It was this serpent that Moses was now called upon to face. Doubtless, it was the knowledge, not so much of Moses' own inability, as of the enemy's great power which made Moses afraid to appear before Pharaoh.

2. The serpent turned into a rod. As Moses put forth his hand and caught the serpent by the tail, it became once more a rod. This was God's sign, not only to Israel and to Pharaoh, but to Moses himself, that he, Moses, under the power of God should conquer the devil.


Our Scripture shows us how God commanded Moses to put his hand into his bosom, and how his hand became leprous as snow. Once more he was commanded to place his hand in his bosom, and when he plucked it out, it was turned again as his other flesh.

1. Leprosy, the Bible type of sin. We remember through-out the Bible that leprosy stands for the curse of God. It begins as a small whitish pink spot upon the hand, or the brow. It grows slowly, but surely, until the body rots and falls away. It was a most loathsome disease, and it was incurable.

Sin begins in the heart of a child. It is the most vile of all moral power. It leads to death and it cannot be healed by man. It brings to mind how the human race fell under Satan's sway from its Edenic glory, and of how Adam and Eve were driven from the garden with the sentence of death upon them.

2. The hand turned again to flesh is the type of Christ's saving power. Jesus came to undo the works of the devil. Let us get the picture clearly in our minds. The rod turned to a serpent, and then restored to the stick stands for Satan himself. The hand covered with leprosy stands for Satan's work; it shows his power over the human heart in its corruption. The hand turned to flesh shows the power of God in taking out the stony heart, the heart of pollution, and making it once more a heart of flesh. It all stands for redemption, restoration, purity in the new life, Christ Jesus. We see Satan cast down, and we see Christ as the One destined to undo the works of the devil. These two miracles were, to be signs unto the Children of Israel that God had appeared unto Moses. They certainly remained signs through all ages that God appeared unto His saints of old, and that He appears unto us.


"And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land."

Our mind immediately rushes on to Christ's first miracle in Cana of Galilee. It was there that He turned the water into wine. After the miracle was over this statement is recorded, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him." The word "miracle" in this Scripture, in the Greek, is "semeions" and it means "signs." Thus we have the third sign in Exodus 4:1-31 , the sign of the water turned to blood. This was to be an added sign if the others mentioned were not sufficient. Let us examine its significance.

1. The sign suggests the shedding of the Blood of Christ. When He died on the. Cross His visage was more marred than any man's, and His form more than the sons of men, His back, His thorn-crowned brow, His nail-pierced hands and feet were red with blood.

2. The sign suggests the Blood of Christ's enemies sprinkled upon His garments. Upon the Cross the Blood stood for sacrificial death and substitutionary sacrifice. When Christ comes again, however, He will have the blood of His enemies staining His raiment, as He grinds them out in the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God against the unbeliever.

We must remember that this sign was not only to be wrought in the presence of Israel, but it was to be wrought before Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God seemed to be saying to Moses, "his shall be unto them for a sign as to how I will deliver my people through fiery judgments and plagues until Pharaoh shall let them go."


With what patience and forbearance had God dealt with His servant. He had answered his fear of being rejected by the people by giving Moses three signs by which he could establish his relationship to God, and his Divine authority and commission. Moses still demurred, and said unto the Lord, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."

1. Moses withstanding the marvels of God's revealings. We need to review a moment what had happened unto Moses. (a) By the backside of the Mount of God he had seen the bush burning, but not consumed. (b) At the same place he had heard the voice of God as He spoke to him face to face. (c) God had revealed unto Moses His Name, "I AM that I AM." (d) God had wrought before Moses the miracle of turning his rod into the serpent, and the miracle of his hand becoming leprous as snow. In spite of all this Moses still holds back and makes his plea, "I am not eloquent." Instead of looking at the omnipotency of God, he was looking at his own impotency.

Beloved, have we not had every reason to trust God? We have the miracles of ages before us. We have the consummation of all miracles in the resurrection of our Lord. We have the wonders of the wonderful Word. We have the definite demonstrations of the Holy Spirit and of power. Yet, with all of these upon us and before us, how often do we cry, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent." How often do we hesitate to undertake for God!

2. God was not dependent upon Moses' oratory. One does not have to be eloquent to be a successful preacher. Is it the powerful God, or the powerful man that assures victory?


1. God's reply. When Moses pleaded his slowness of speech, God said, "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."

One would have thought that this promise of the Almighty would have sufficed Moses, but Moses still pleaded, "O my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send."

2. Looking to man more than to God. Moses' eyes were evidently upon himself. When Peter sought to walk upon the waters of Galilee he was successful so long as his eyes were upon Christ. The moment, however, that he looked around and saw the wind and the waves boisterous, he began to sink. We can never accomplish anything for God if we are going to keep our eyes centered upon ourselves; whether it be upon our weakness, or upon our strength. We have no power of our own with which to war or to work. Let us run our race looking unto Christ the Author and Finisher of our faith. Let us remember that God can take a worm to thrash a mountain.

3. Losing God's best. Why should we allow some one else to fulfill our task? Is it a small matter that we have been called into comradeship with God? Should we not the rather weigh well the privileges of this fellowship? Not only that, but should we not consider the glories to which we are called?

The Lord was leading Moses away from his father-in-law, to be sure. The Lord was calling Moses to undertake a difficult and disappointing task. However, God was leading Moses into the highest riches of eternal honor and glory. All of this Moses was about to thrust from him, pleading only his lack of eloquence.


1. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses. When a parent seeks his child's best, and finds that his child refuses to undertake, what grief does the father-heart express. When God undertakes in behalf of one of His children, with what sorrow does He behold the uncertainty of His child. God was angry with Moses with a holy indignation. He not only wanted Moses to serve Him, but He wanted to serve Moses. Moses withdrew and would have failed God altogether, had God not dealt tenderly with him.

2. What Moses gained. God heard the voice of Moses, and yielded to his request, saying unto him, "Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart." Then God gave unto Moses his desire, and gave him his brother as a companion.

Some one immediately says that Christ sent the seventy out two by two; that He sent the twelve out two by two; and they therefore ask, was it not right that Moses and Aaron should go to Pharaoh by two? I think it was all right, but Moses still would have gone "two by two" it would have been Moses and God, but now it must be Moses and Aaron. We do not mean that God was not with the two, but we do mean that the eyes of Moses were diverted from God, just to the extent that they were centered upon Aaron.

3. What did Moses lose? He lost much of the power and the fruitage of his labor inasmuch as they were shared with his brother. Besides all this, we remember how the man Aaron, who went with him, was the man who, in after years, made the golden calf and led the people away from their God.

Beloved, it is pleasant to have a strong man or woman at your side some comrade who can go forth with you to the battle, and yet, let us be very careful that this in no wise turns our faith and trust away from God.



Let us cast away our fears.

"The earth is never the more unsettled because to giddy brains it seemeth to run round." Even so the salvation of the saints is sure, though to their trembling hearts it may seem to be in terrible jeopardy. A passenger on crossing the Channel is none the less in safety because he himself feels ready to give up the ghost with the nausea brought on by the rolling of the vessel. Our feelings are poor judges of facts. Some who felt sure of Heaven are now in hell, and others who had almost lost hope are now glorified in Heaven. My brain may whirl and make me think all things are running round, and yet I know those very things to be steadfast as the hills, and therefore I do not believe my feelings, but trust the facts; and so, when my poor silly heart imagines that the eternal promises will fail, I must chide its folly, and fall back upon the everlasting verities.

Yes, Lord, Thou art immovable and immutable! This I know of a surety. Therefore give me grace never to doubt Thee, or to "distrust Thy faithfulness to all those who put their trust in Thee, Chas. H. Spurgeon.

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Exodus 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/exodus-4.html.
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