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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Exodus 4

Verses 10-14

DISCOURSE: 66
MOSES DECLINING THE COMMISSION GIVEN HIM

Exodus 4:10-14. And Moses said unto the Lord, Q 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. And the Lord said unto him, 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. And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.

THAT iniquity should prevail among the blind and ignorant, is no more than might reasonably be expected: but when we behold it in the most eminent saints, we are ready to exclaim, “Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou so regardest him?” It should seem indeed that God has determined to stain the pride of human glory, by recording the faults of his most favoured servants. It is remarkable that those who are most noted in Scripture for their piety, not only fell, but manifested their weakness in those very graces for which they were most distinguished. Abraham yielded to unbelief, Job to impatience, Moses to anger, Peter to fear. The circumstances here related concerning Moses, clearly shew, not only what Moses was, but what human nature is, when put to the trial. The following observations therefore, while they elucidate the text, will lead us to behold our own faces as in a glass.

I.

There is in man a backwardness to engage in God’s service—

[Who was this man? Moses, in some respects the most pious of mankind. What was the service to which he was called? The most honourable and beneficial that could possibly be assigned him — — — Yet, with a pertinacity truly surprising, he persisted in declining it, and desired that any one might be employed in it rather than he [Note: 3.].

We, it is true, are called to no such service. But is there no work committed to us? Has not God appeared to us in his word, and commanded us to devote ourselves to his service? Has not the Saviour bidden us to “deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily, and follow him?” And have we not shewn an utter aversion to obey his call? Glorious as his service is, have we not declined it; and, like Moses, been more studious of our own ease than either of God’s honour or the benefit of our fellow-creatures? Because we have foreseen difficulties, we have been unwilling to embark in the cause of God and of our own souls; when we ought rather to have gloried in enduring hardships for God, and closed with the proposal at once, saying, “Here am I, Lord; send me [Note: Isaiah 6:8.].”]

II.

We are prone to cloke this backwardness with vain excuses—

[Moses would not in plain terms refuse to obey his God: but he tried by even method to excuse himself from undertaking the office assigned him. He first pretends to decline through modesty [Note: Exodus 3:11.]: and we might have given him credit for real humility, if his subsequent refusals had not shewn that he was actuated by a far different principle. When God has obviated all objections arising from his unworthiness, then, in direct opposition to God’s promise, he objects, that the people will not believe his message [Note: Comp. Exo 3:18 with 4:1.]. To remove all apprehensions on this ground, God works three miracles before him, and commissions him to perform the same in the sight of Pharaoh and the people of Israel [Note: –9.]. Still averse to engage in this work, he pleads his want of eloquence, and his consequent unfitness for such an undertaking [Note: The text.]. To obviate this, God asks him, “Who made man’s mouth;” and whether He, who had given him the faculty of speech, was not able to give effect to his endeavours? Yea, he promises to “be with him, and to teach him what he shall say.” And does not all this overcome his reluctance? No: he still declines the service, and begs that God would employ any other person rather than himself.

Now we say that these were rain excuses: for the real principles by which he was actuated, were unbelief and cowardice. He had failed in this attempt forty years before, when he had run unsent, and acted in his own strength, and striven for the victory with no other than carnal weapons; and now he is apprehensive of another failure, when expressly sent, and furnished with a wonder-working rod, and assured of success by a God of almighty power and unimpeachable veracity. Moreover, as on the former occasion Pharaoh sought his life, he is afraid to put himself within his reach, lest he should execute his threats upon him [Note: 9.].

And what are the pleas whereby we attempt to justify or extenuate our neglect of God? Have they any solidity? yea, have they any foundation in truth? Are they not mere excuses? and is not an aversion to the service to which we are called, the true reason of our declining to engage in it? We will not say in plain words, ‘I hate God; I hate religion; I am determined never to follow the Saviour’s steps:’ but we pretend that this is not a convenient season, or that the work to which we are called is impracticable. Yes; if we will only suffer our own consciences to speak, they will tell us that our pleas are mere excuses, and that, in fact, we are hypocrites, and dissemblers with God.]

III.

However satisfactory our excuses may appear to ourselves, they will only bring upon us the divine displeasure—

[Possibly Moses was unable to discern the true workings of his own heart: but did not God spy them out? and was not God’s anger kindled against him? How God manifested his anger, we know not: it is sufficient to know God’s “judgment was according to truth.”
Who then are we, that we should think to impose upon God, or to hide from him the motives by which we are actuated? Has he not cautioned us sufficiently against such fatal mistakes, saying, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap?” Has he not warned us, that we shall certainly incur his displeasure, if we suffer any thing to keep us back from his service? He has mentioned the excuses made by those whom he invited to his feast: one had bought a piece of ground; and another a yoke of oxen which he wanted to see; another had married a wife, and therefore could not come. Now these were as weighty excuses for not going to an entertainment, as any that you can urge for not serving your God: and yet he declared that none of them should ever taste of his supper [Note: Luke 14:18-24.]. If this was the doom of those who were invited but once, do you think that you shall sit down at his supper, who hare rejected ten thousand invitations! No: you may excuse your supineness by saying, “There is a lion in the way; there is a lion in the streets;” but he will say, “Thou wicked and slothful servant!” “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” The spies thought they had reason enough for postponing the invasion of the promised land: but they were all excluded from it; as were all others who yielded to their pernicious counsels.]

Advice—
1.

Beware of self-deception—

[The heart is deceitful above all things: and we have a subtle adversary, who will not fail to help forward the most fatal delusions. We see how others are biased, and how empty the pleas are by which they often justify their conduct. Let us see in them an image of ourselves; and learn to suspect the treachery of our own hearts. Let us remember that we cannot deceive our God; and that the time is coming when we shall be judged, not by our professions, but by our practice.]

2.

Learn what are the duties to which you are called—

[With respect to particular steps in life, it may be extremely difficult to judge [Note: For instance, whether one should go to such or such a station; whether one should undertake the office of a Missionary, &c.]: but about a life of devotedness to God there can be no doubt. Endeavour then to ascertain what the Scriptures require of you; and set yourselves instantly to fulfil it. Do not invent excuses to shift off your duty; but look up to God to direct you in his way, and to strengthen you for the performance of all his will.]

3.

Yield not to any discouragements in the way of duty—

[It is not to be expected that you should meet with no difficulties. You must doubtless have conflicts, and many of them severe: but “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” You may not improperly, in a view of your own weakness, say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” but you must never forget who has said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Go on then, expecting assuredly that “your strength shall be according to your day of trial;” that the weaker you are in yourselves, the more shall “Jehovah’s strength be magnified in your weakness;” and that “you shall at last be more than conquerors through Him that loved you.”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 4". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/exodus-4.html. 1832.