January 29, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Can God really use me?” In part four of the Book of Exodus, we’ll unpack Exodus 3:16–4:17 as we see the Lord reveal His power and plan to Moses, inviting him and us to consider what’s in our hands, hearts, past, or present that God wants to use to accomplish His awesome work in the world.
Below, you’ll find some key discussion points to consider, questions to personally reflect on and/or discuss in your small group, with your family, or in your circle of friends, and some action points for the week.
Memory Verse of the Week: Exodus 4:1–2 (NIV)
“Moses answered, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you”?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’”
READ: Exodus 3:16–22 (NIV)
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
“And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”
El Roi—the God who sees. I think there’s something so valuable about the various Jewish names for God.
In our language, we often tend to use various adjectives to describe God. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s worth remembering what the Jews would refer to Him as. They had names such as Jehovah Rapha—the God who heals, Jehovah Jireh—God the Provider, and El Shaddai—Lord God Almighty.
Reading through God’s conversation with Moses in this chapter of Exodus allows us to see how God affirms His character to Moses through the message. We also see Him explicitly state who He is just two verses before. In Exodus 3:14 (NIV), God tells Moses “I AM WHO I AM” or “I will be who I will be”—where we get the name Yahweh.
Not only does God tell Moses to refer to Him as Yahweh, but He also tells Moses to remind the elders that He is “the God of our fathers.” When God reminds them that He is the God of their ancestors, specifically naming Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He helps them recall His faithfulness through each of their stories.
God first shares the promise with Abraham, calls him to leave his home, and grants him a child with Sarah despite their old age. Even after multiple faults in Abraham’s faith, he continually returned to God, and his child, Isaac, would continue to practice this faith. God entered the covenant with Isaac, continued the promise through him, and although Isaac’s youngest son, Jacob, also had his own share of faults, God then chose Jacob to continue this covenant with as well. Even through Jacob, God’s faithfulness is seen in His continual provision and grace despite Jacob’s and his family’s mistakes.
And now, with Moses and the current generations, God would continue to prove Himself faithful. Although it’s difficult to completely trust and follow someone who we can’t see, it’s our faith that grants us the assurance of that which is not seen (Hebrews 11:1). And we can have faith because God does see, he is El Roi, and He sees much more than we can and loves much more than we can.
Discussion Question 1: How you have seen God’s faithfulness in your own story or even in the stories of those you know or have heard?
Discussion Question 2: What steps of obedience is God calling you to take in this season?
READ: Exodus 4:1–9 (NIV)
“Moses answered, ‘What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you”?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ ‘A staff,’ he replied. The Lord said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.’ So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. ‘This,’ said the Lord, ‘is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow. ‘Now put it back into your cloak,’ he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. Then the Lord said, ‘If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.’”
In this profound conversation, God reveals His power to do miracles to Moses. He turns a staff into a snake and back into a staff, gives Moses’ hand leprosy and then cures it, and reveals He can turn water into blood. And while it is absolutely amazing that God can do all of that, the focal point here is the first two verses.
Moses asks the Lord, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” The Lord’s response to Moses is truly so powerful and, if you understand it, life changing! He simply asks Moses, “What is that in your hand?”
Let that marinate for a second . . .
So, what was in Moses’ hand? A simple wood staff.
Did you catch that? It’s not about Moses or what was in his hand. It wasn’t about his ability, his resources, his influence, his speaking skills, or his strength. What made Moses great was declared all the way back in Exodus 3:12 (NIV) where God said, “I will be with you.”
Similarly, it was nothing that Gideon did or possessed that made him a “mighty warrior” or Israel a “great nation” or the disciples amazing miracle workers, evangelists, and church planters. Instead, what made Gideon a mighty warrior was that the Lord was with him (Judges 6:11–16). What made Israel a great nation was that “the Lord loved [them] and kept the oath he swore to [their] ancestors” (Deuteronomy 7:8 NIV) to “make [them] into a great nation” (Genesis 12:2 NIV). What made the disciples amazing miracle workers, evangelists, and church planters was that they remained in Him and He in them and that “[He] chose [them] and appointed [them] so that [they] might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16 NIV).
Whether it’s a staff, water from the Nile, a robe, a rock, containers of water, five loaves, or two fish, it’s God who is amazing! In His hands—not ours— all things are possible, miracles can happen, walls can come down, lives can be changed, hearts can be healed, breakthrough can take place, strongholds can be broken, relationships can be restored, and all things can be restored, redeemed, and made new!
What’s our role? Well, it’s the same role Moses, Gideon, and the disciples had . . . to be obedient and to surrender! Our greatest ability in the kingdom is humble availability. When we listen to the Lord, obey Him, go where He leads, live open handedly, put in His hands what’s in our hands, and live on mission, God will work because “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV).
So, “What’s in your hand?” Whatever it is, offer it to the Lord!
Discussion Question 3: Why does God so often work through flawed, broken people who aren’t very skilled?
READ: Exodus 4:10–17 (NIV)
“Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.’ Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, ‘What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.’”
Why did the Lord’s anger burn against Moses? Because even after everything the Lord had shown Moses, after all the wondrous signs, Moses still doubted, feared, and sought to refuse God’s call.
At first, Moses gave the excuse that he was “slow of speech and tongue.” Some have tried to interpret this as Moses saying He had a speech impediment or a stutter; however, Acts 7:22 says Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and deeds. More than likely it was his self-confidence that lacked not his ability to speak.
The Lord; however, demonstrated patience and challenged Moses’ self-doubt, saying, “Who gave human beings their mouths. . . . Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” So you see, whether or not Moses believed that he was an eloquent speaker is irrelevant because the very God who gave us language, speaking ability, and mouths was on His side!
Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough to accomplish something you feel the Lord has called you to? Do you ever feel ill-equipped or unfit, lacking confidence and full of doubt? You’re not alone! But you don’t have to feel this way, because if the Lord called you to something, you can be sure He will work in and through you to carry it out.
And now we get to the part where the Lord became angry. After telling Moses He would be with him in Exodus 3, after performing amazing signs and wonders, and then after reassuring him that He would help Moses speak, Moses still refused. Politely declining, he basically told the Lord to find someone else.
God wasn’t angry when Moses asked, “Who am I?” or when he questioned how he could accomplish the mission or even when he falsely claimed he was “slow of speech,” but when Moses became flat out unwilling, this incited the Lord’s anger. And yet, even in His anger (His perfect, righteous, good anger), the Lord was patient and provided a way. The I AM provided exactly what Moses needed in the help of his brother Aaron.
Do you see it? Even when what we say or do is not pleasing to the Lord, even when we run away from His calling and flat out refuse to do what He has commissioned us to do, He is still patient with us and provides for us.
Today, one of the most prevalent examples of our unwillingness is seen in the Great Commission. I pray we would let go of our self-doubt, our pride, our convenience, and our comfort in order to take this mission seriously. He will give us the words, He will give us the ability, He will surround us with the right people, and He will equip us with everything we could possibly ever need.
Discussion Question 4: How have you seen the Lord’s patience and grace in your life?
Discussion Question 5: What does it look like to be open-handed and open-hearted to the voice and work of the God in your life?
Bring any doubts and fears to the Lord today. Ask for God-given boldness in these areas to walk in His purposes and will.
In our next study, we’ll unpack Exodus 4:18–6 as we see Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh for the first time!
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.