The Call of Moses: Exodus 4:10-12

Exo 4:10 - "I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant..."

It is interesting to note, by the way, that in verse 10, Moses has begun to see God as "my Lord" and himself as "Your servant."

"I am not eloquent..." There are at least three ways in which this excuse has been interpreted by commentators. The first that Moses had some natural disability that made it difficult for him to communicate fluently. He got easily tongue-tied and tangled when trying to speak (NLT). But, Moses is not just worried that he is not eloquent, he observes that he is not eloquent even after God had started speaking to him and shown him these amazing signs ("nor since You have spoken to Your servant"). It seems he is saying, "Lord, it's okay with these external signs, but what about my own disability, my own thorn in the flesh?" We are not told if Moses was ever healed of this disability, if there was one. But, it is worth noting that what Moses considered to be a hindrance, a problem, and a disqualifier is not considered a problem at all by God. I remember the story of Smith Wigglesworth whom God used to deliver many people from sin, diseases, demons, and even death; how he used to travel around with his daughter, Alice, who had a hearing problem and had to use a "hearing horn" (a hearing aid). Once somebody shouted out to him and asked, "Wigglesworth, if you are such a healer in the power of God, then why does your daughter need a hearing horn?" Unshaken, Wigglesworth answered “When you can tell me why Elijah was bald, I’ll tell you why Alice needs a hearing horn.”1 The man of God is not shaken by the fact that he has a disability in the flesh that God hasn't miraculously healed. In anyway, whatever, this disability is not a hindrance to obeying the call of God.

But, there is a second way of interpreting this excuse. Some think that Moses was not able to eloquently speak, in the technical sense of eloquence. He was not an orator, neither naturally nor by practice. He was not at all good in the art of persuasion. He was a rhetoric failure. That may be one reason why he raises the concern again when the Israelites reject him, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" (Exo 6:12 NIV). But, Moses had to learn what Paul understood when it came to preaching the Gospel,
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God." (1Co 2:1-4)
For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible. Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. (2Co 10:10-11)
But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things." (2Co 11:6)
Paul knew that this was no human mission, this was no human calling; and, when God calls and when God sends, human methods have no significance before the power of God. There is a story about D.L. Moody, who after his preaching was countered by a certain gentleman who tried to point out several grammatical mistakes in the preaching of Moody. Moody only asked back in answer, "That’s all right, brother. What little grammar I have, I use for the Lord Jesus Christ. What do you do with yours?"

Thirdly, some have seen it as Moses' inability to communicate fluently anymore in the Egyptian language, after having not used this language for about 40 years in the wilderness. If he can't speak the Egyptian language fluently, and could look archaic and comical in his communication, how could he authoritatively speak before the Egyptians, especially Pharaoh? Doesn't that seem to be a very poignant question? What would it look like to go to a foreign land and try to speak of God and His salvation when the missionary is not very fluent in the local tongue or dialect, as elite fluency may be considered? In one way, Moses seems puzzled that God should choose him when there were better people, as he thought, who were great orators and had strong confidence. Also, now he was 80 years old. But, God rules out all the disability, inability excuses as invalid; in fact, He ruled them out all as invalid before He called out Moses.

Exo 4:11 - "Who gave man his mouth?..." God knew Moses better than Moses knew himself. 

Often times, we behave with God as if He is doing things without knowing anything about us properly. Sometimes, this lands us in false self-pity that helps nothing. The servant of God must be confident that God sees all, knows all, and that God does what He wishes. The clay cannot say to the Maker, "What are you doing?"

Exo 4:12 - "I will be with your mouth and teach you.." Another promise. He will not only go with him but also speak through him. The same is promised in a much intimate way to the disciple. Jesus is with the Gospel bearer, He works through him, and through the Spirit teaches and gives what the disciple must speak.

1The quote seems to mistake Elisha for Elijah in Smith Wigglesworth on Prayer, Power, and Miracles, compiled by Roberts Liardon, p.9. In the Biblical narrative, it is not Elijah but Elisha who was bald.


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