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 http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)

On the non-Trump evangelicals

I am not one of those people antagonistic toward those who voted differently than myself. But I do lament when some people assume that all evangelicals in the U.S. voted for Donald Trump. That overlooks millions of U.S. evangelicals who didn’t.

My thoughts on this are posted here:

You’ve got the wrong person, Lord—Exodus 4:10-12

Moses thus raises another objection: even if signs would persuade the people through someone, Moses is not the right one to speak (4:10). Sometimes we may have faith in principle, affirming that God has power to do something, yet deny that God can do that through us. If God should choose to act through us, however, who are we to question his call? Our belief in our inability may be correct, but it dare not take precedence over belief in God’s ability to perform his will—even if he chooses to do so through us.

Moses objects to God’s call that he is not a good speaker; as one who had been near Pharaoh’s court, he knew the sort of eloquence demanded there. Moses is claiming that his ability does not match God’s call (4:10). (He can hardly assume, however, that God simply picked whoever would stop by this bush, rather than set his flare here to call Moses in particular. There were undoubtedly not many Hebrews out here in the wilderness of Sinai. But would a God strong enough to reveal himself in a bush in the Sinai, a desert place in which Egypt’s gods lacked interest, have much power in Egypt?)

Moses’s objection unfortunately and irrationally implies that the Lord has made a mistake, an implication that the Lord immediately yet patiently corrects. God is not dependent on human ability; God is the one who supplied or withheld that ability to begin with (4:11), and he is capable of enabling one to speak, supplying the right words (4:12). (“Heavy tongue” in 4:10 might be idiomatic for speech difficult to understand; the same Hebrew expression appears in Ezek 3:5-6.)

God often calls us to do what we cannot do in our own strength. Later, when Jeremiah (a youth in contrast to Moses’s age) fears that he does not know how to speak (Jer 1:6), the Lord similarly declares that he is with him, that he will give him the right words (1:7-9). Not surprisingly, many of the people God called in the Bible recognized their inadequacy to fulfill their commission; but God is not limited to our ability.

Unable to dissuade God about Moses’s suitability for the task, Moses is about to refuse it anyway (Exod 4:13). And that will prove to be a very big mistake.

Striking the striker—Exodus 3:20

God enacts justice, though mercifully tempered by his restraint. God had not punished the oppressors’ injustice immediately, but now his impatience was coming to an end. Harsh taskmasters struck God’s people (Exod 2:11; 5:14, 16); Moses had struck an oppressor in retaliation (2:12), but in an act of virtual futility against the greater might of Pharaoh. Now, however, the Lord himself will strike his people’s oppressors (3:20).

Through Moses’s staff, God “strikes” the Nile (7:17, 20, 25) and the earth (to produce an insect plague, 8:16-17). God sends hail to “strike” whatever is in the field (9:25, 31-2), and ultimately will strike down the firstborn of people and animals, striking the land (12:12-13, 29). But for his mercy, however, God could have struck them much harder than he did, destroying all the people from the face of the earth (9:15).

God will strike the oppressors with “wonders” (3:20), the sort of language in Hebrew that applies also to Sarah bearing a child (Gen 18:14), drowning Pharaoh’s army (Exod 15:11 in context), and other works to come (34:10).

But God was not just about striking. God will also give the people favor (Exod 3:21; 11:3; 12:36) with the Egyptians, just as he did for Joseph (Gen 39:4, 21; 50:4). Thus they would not leave Egypt “empty-handed” (Exod 3:21), just as God did not let Laban send away Jacob “empty-handed” after his years of toil (Gen 31:42), and just as Israel’s law later prohibited sending away former servants “empty-handed” (Deut 15:13).

Instead, they would “plunder” the Egyptians (Exod 3:22; 12:36)! (The term more often means “deliver,” but it also can often mean “snatch away”; here they are relieving their former oppressors from some of their possessions.) Egypt had achieved much of its wealth on the backs of slaves; now the slaves were about to get remuneration.

The Israelites plunder Egypt without fighting; they have the “favor” of the Egyptian people, who voluntarily recognize that the Israelites have been unjustly exploited but are now defended by their God. Nevertheless, “plundering” or “snatching” goods is what one normally does after battle. The oppression began because Pharaoh falsely assumed that the Israelites might war against him (1:10). Pharaoh’s unjust action, however, ultimately precipitates the very judgment it sought to evade!

God is patient, but he is also just. Some people today charge the God portrayed in these narratives as impatient and brutal; sometimes the same people deny that a God could exist in this world of injustice. God has been patient with their own unjust characterizations of him. But for them, and for other wrongdoers who refuse to change, a day of justice will come.

(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)

Discussion about holiness, sanctification

Paul Moldovan asked me some questions about the meaning of sanctification for his blog, and this prompted me to think about the subject.

My answer about the meaning of “sanctification” starts like this:

I might prefer the translation “consecrate,” since there is less theological-historical baggage attached. The term means “set apart” for ritual purposes; in biblical usage this especially means set apart from what is profane for exclusively holy use. By Christ’s sacrificial death for us, God has consecrated us, or set us apart, as “saints” (literally, “the consecrated ones”) for his exclusive use. We belong to him. Now, what are the implications of this? If we are “saints” in Christ—i.e., those consecrated to Christ—we ought to live wholly for his purposes, not for our own or others.

The written interview as a whole is posted here:

https://overthinkingchristian. com/2017/08/27/what-is- sanctification-anyway-craig- keener-responds/