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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, September 4, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Exodus 4:1–17

Then Moses answered, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’“ The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail”—so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand—“so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” He put his hand into his cloak; and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back into your cloak”—so he put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored like the rest of his body—“If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.” (NRSV)

I’ve got to stand up for my guy Moses on this one. I mean, a bit.

The Lord is making the Big Ask—well, not really an “ask,” so much—but when Moses points out (quite rightly) that the Hebrews might have a bit of trouble believing him when he tells them stuff, the Lord’s response is . . . magic tricks?

“Here, kid, do the Snake Trick, see? Then after that, you put your hand inside your cloak and pull out—no, not a bunch of flowers, wait for it—The Leprous Hand! Then just do Water into Blood, and you’re set!”

Moses is, understandably, reluctant. I mean, everyone does the Snake Trick: later on, we see that the Pharaoh’s guys do the Snake Trick, too. What’s Moses supposed to do then? “Pharaoh, is that your card?”

Magic tricks. Good for getting attention, maybe. Then what? I mean, if the other guys can do magic tricks, too, what do you do to show people that this is something different? What do you deliver, once you have their attention?

“Lord, I can’t speak. Find someone else.” And this is where I find myself standing with Moses. Lord, I can’t speak. No one will listen to me. Find someone else.

And the Lord said, “Did I say Please, or did I say Go? What made you think ‘No, thank you’ was an option? Your brother can do the talking, but you’re going to tell him what to say. You’re going to stand up, mister.” (Loose translation.)

It’s not a request that God makes, this speaking for the people, this standing up for the oppressed and victimized. It’s an imperative. It doesn’t matter if our response to God’s call is not “Oh, wow!” but rather “Oh, no.” The imperative remains.

“Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”

Get their attention and speak. Stand up. Raise up the oppressed. Do it.

Lord, remind us of the difference between a command and a suggestion. Show us where to stand, give us the strength to do it, and remind us of your imperative. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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