But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:10-12 ESV)
Moses was God’s chosen vessel to redeem His people from the bondage they were in to the Egyptians. Moses was chosen.
God promises here to be with Moses’ mouth when he needs words. He promises.
All who are called to the ministry (and those not called to the ministry, for, as Peter says, we are all priests [1 Peter 2:9]) are God’s chosen vessels to redeem His people from the bondage they are in to their own sin nature. We are chosen.
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20 ESV)
God promises here to be with our mouths when we need words. He promises.
We can learn a lot from the story of the Exodus about our own ministries. These truths are simple, and yet at the same time, they have such a liberating effect on the chosen vessel of God. Words flow like honey when we acknowledge that we are screwed up and messed and and can’t do it on our own. When we acknowledge that our isms and our charts and our systematics and our catechisms and our confessions and our statements of faith are all man-made documents and that our liturgies and our orders of worship are all man-made traditions and we acknowledge that they are all fallible, there is true liberation found there.
I remember something that Jesus once told the Pharisees. They had come to ask Him a question. They wanted to know about His disciples and why they (the disciples) didn’t follow their (the Pharisees) traditions.
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (Mark 7:5 ESV)
In this instance, the Pharisees are like many of our typical church people today; they’re like the ones who have grown up in church all their lives; they’re like the ones who are so wrapped up in their little church world that they can’t see anything outside of that world being valid.. They see somebody doing something a little bit different than them, and they ask, “Why aren’t you doing things our way?” “Why are you not using the same music as us?” “Why aren’t you using our catechism?” It is a sad state for Christianity indeed when we can complain about someone else’s tradition and never once look at our own and ask why we practice our Christianity the way we do.
So the Pharisees have asked their question, and Jesus responds.
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:6-13 ESV)
Jesus tells these people who’ve grown up in church all their lives that they “leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men”. These are powerful words for our church culture today. They are powerful words that are so overlooked. We like our traditions. We love our traditions. I would even go so far as to say that we are in love with our traditions. We view our traditions as that faith “once for all delivered to the saints” that the Bible speaks about (Jude 1:3).
Which brings me back to my original idea. Moses. His screwed up mouth. Moses said to God, “Please, Lord, I’m not a good speaker. I’ve never been a good speaker, and I’m not now, even though you’ve spoken to me. I speak slowly, and I become tongue-tied easily.”. If we would only see ourselves for who we really are, we would be so much more powerful. If we would look at ourselves apart from our memorized Sunday School answers we would have so much more to offer.
What would we look like without our traditions to hide behind?
If we had nothing; if we saw ourselves as nothing, we would be truly submissive. We would have no choice but to be submissive.
Guess what. Moses didn’t just sit and argue with God all day. In the face of the Almighty, He had no excuses. He had nothing left. Guess what he did. He submitted.
Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. (Exodus 4:18-20 ESV)
Moses went and did all that God had commanded him to do. But he only submitted after all his excuses not to had been stripped away.
Isn’t it the same with us? We have our traditions to hide behind. We have our catechisms to get us through. We have our isms and our charts and our systematics and our confessions and our statements of faith. We have our liturgies and our orders of worship. And we use them as excuses. We say, “I can’t associate with them, they don’t do things like me”, while Scripture clearly states that we are to be unified. It is what Jesus prayed for.
Learn from Moses. God will empower us. God will speak through us. But He won’t do so until we stop hiding.