The staff of Moses becomes the staff of God—Exodus 4:2, 17, 20

If you’re like me, maybe you have thought, “God healed people in the Bible, but is there any precedent for praying for stalled cars or frozen computer screens?” Perhaps it’s only some of us who are very picky who think that way, since the Bible offers much more general promises of prayer. And I have seen God answer prayer for stalled cars; such a prayer once even saved the life of my brother-in-law when he was fleeing war.

Look what God chose to do through a shepherd’s staff (4:17). There was nothing special about a shepherd’s staff per se. God meets us where we are, and uses us where we are. For an ancient shepherd, he might use our staff or sling; today he might use airplanes or computers. (If the power grid goes down and we can’t use computers, I think that maybe I did save my old manual typewriter.) My point is just that whatever is at hand, God can use it. God uses Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s face cloths (used to wipe off perspiration while he was working and maybe snatched without him knowing!—Acts 19:12). God isn’t limited to what he can use—or whom he can choose. Moses’s own staff (4:2, 17) becomes the staff of God (4:20).

I might joke about Moses’s staff (with puns that probably work only in English), but the Bible has a very serious message for us. God can work through instruments that could do nothing on their own. What matters is that God is with us.

(For other posts on Exodus, see

A commission whether you like it or not—Exodus 4:13-17

As long as Moses is raising logistical problems, God has solutions. But finally Moses is out of objections and simply asks God to get someone else, still more convinced that this is not the job for him than trusting the God who has called him. As Paul later points out, however, if we’re not willing to accept God’s call willingly, as a gift, then we will have to do it anyway, under duress (1 Cor 9:16-17). Life-hardened, old Moses is no young Isaiah, who when touched by God offered, “Here I am! Send me!” (Isa 6:8). Although God has offered to be with him and teach him what to speak (Exod 4:12), Moses responds, “Please, Lord, send just by the agent you will send!” (4:13). In other words, “by someone other than me!”

Honestly, none of us is worthy of God’s service. He doesn’t call us because we’re worthy in ourselves, so we shouldn’t kid ourselves with either pride or despair. We can’t turn down God’s service because we’re unqualified. Referring to the call to proclaim the good news of Christ, Paul asks, “For matters such as this, who indeed is adequate/qualified?” (2 Cor 2:16). He soon answers about his confidence for his calling, “Not that we are adequate/qualified by ourselves so that we should consider anything as coming from ourselves! No, instead our adequacy/qualification is from God, who also has qualified us as ministers of the new covenant” (2 Cor 3:5-6). Think, for example, of Gladys Aylward, rejected for service with a major mission to China because her poor academic performance apparently disqualified her from being able to master the Chinese language. Convinced that God was sending her, however, she found a way to China, learned Chinese, and became Chinese, including adopting Chinese citizenship.

Moses’s reluctance had finally crossed the line from reasonable concerns to polite refusal, and God was angry (Exod 4:14). This anger against Moses becomes more evident later when God nearly has to kill him to secure fuller obedience (4:24), apparently because he was more afraid of his wife’s anger than of God’s (4:25-26). Moses’s reluctance will again emerge later when he complains again to the God who called him that Pharaoh will not listen to him because he is such a poor speaker (6:12, 30).

Nevertheless, at this point God simply resolves this final logistical complaint, Moses’s insistence that he should not be the one to speak even if God teaches his lips. The Lord explains that Moses’s brother Aaron, whom God knows to be a good speaker, can speak for him. (God does not make mistakes: he knew exactly who he had called, and knew his family too.) Nor can Moses now try to object that Aaron might not be able to meet with Moses; God had already taken care of that and Aaron was on his way (Exod 4:14)!

Just as God had offered to be with Moses’s mouth and teach him what to say (4:12), so Moses was to provide words in Aaron’s mouth, and God would now be with both their mouths and teach them what to do (4:15). In other words, Moses had gotten out of nothing. His surprise commission still stands, though he now had an assistant, one that God may have already planned ahead for anyway. Moses would give God’s words to Aaron and Aaron would deliver them to the people (4:16).

The reluctant prophet is caught between a rock and a hard place. Confronting Pharaoh is terrifying. But resisting this God who summons Moses is more dangerous still!

(For other posts on Exodus, see