Ministry Resources

A commission whether you like it or not

Author: Dr. Craig Keener

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!

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