Understanding the Old Testament

Moses, the Reluctant Prophet

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

The tale of Moses in Exodus chapters 3 and 4 is one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament because I can really sympathize with poor Moses.

The chapter begins with Moses taking his father-in-law’s sheep west into the Sinai Peninsula, all the way to Mount Horeb, which is also known in the Bible as Mount Sinai, “the mountain of God.” (Exodus 3:1) Although we don’t know exactly where Mount Sinai is, most experts believe it to be in the southern portion of the peninsula, about halfway between the Gulf of Suez to the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east.

To reach this point, Moses would have had to travel at least 80 miles, and probably further, which raises the question of why he went so far. Perhaps he was trying to find water or better grazing land for his animals. But there seems no doubt that God led him there, even though Moses was probably not aware of it at the time.

At Mount Horeb he sees an amazing sight—a bush that is on fire, but which doesn’t burn up. Moses must have seen the bush from far away, and his curiosity would have been aroused because the fire didn’t go out, nor did it spread. So he turned aside to see it, and there he encountered God, who had a special mission for him: to deliver the Israelites from slavery and oppression in Egypt.

Moses felt inadequate to the task, as would most of us in that position. So he tried to excuse himself. But God had an answer for every excuse:

Moses: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

God: “Certainly I will be with you. . . .” (Exodus 3:12)

Moses: Whom should I say sent me? (Exodus 3:13)

God: Tell them, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

Moses: What if they won’t believe me? (Exodus 4:1)

God: Show them these miracles. (Exodus 4:2-9)

Moses: But I don’t speak well. (Exodus 4:10)

God: I’ll help you. (Exodus 4:11-12)

Moses: Couldn’t you find someone else? (Exodus 4:13)

God: Fine, Aaron can speak for you. Now go! (Exodus 4:14-17)

As Moses found out, God doesn’t take “no” for an answer. So Moses went to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand that he let the Israelites go.

Question to ponder or discuss: God sometimes calls us to do things that are outside of our comfort zone—for example, to assume a leadership position, or talk about our faith with an unbeliever. What does Moses’ experience teach us about how we should react in those moments?

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

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