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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: The gifts of communication and perceiving belong to God (Exodus 4)

Exodus 4:11-12. “The LORD said to him:
‘Who gave man his mouth?
Who makes him deaf or dumb?
Who gives him sight or makes him blind?
Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’”

Exegesis and Application

The context, of course, is that God is telling Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand release of the captive Israelites. Moses is pushing back by saying that he is not “eloquent” enough for the task. Moses tells God that, in fact, (as if God didn’t know), Moses is “slow in speech and tongue” (literally, “heavy-lipped and thick tongued”). Contrast Moses with the description of Job as a “man of the lips,” i.e. talkative (Job 11:2). This probably relates to speaking in the Egyptian tongue which Moses had not used for some time. This Mosaic hesitant response to God is customary in the Old Testament: everybody’s doing it.  (Gideon – Judges 6:14-15; Saul – 1 Samuel 10:20-24; Solomon – 1 Kings 3:7-9; Isaiah – Isaiah 6:5-8; Jeremiah – Jeremiah 1:4-10; Amos – Amos 7:14-15).

The LORD God is reminding Moses that because He created the mouth, the eyes and the mind (and by extension, everything else)(cf, Ps. 94:9; Luke 24:45), He will assist in communication. Verse 12 is translated “I will help you speak.” However, the literal Hebrew has it a bit different: “I am with your mouth.” If you see this as “I AM” (Exodus 3:14) it changes the tone a bit. It is not so much that Moses is the puppet and Yahweh is the puppeteer moving Moses’ mouth. Rather, it is more that Moses will be speaking the words of God and it is “thus saith the LORD.” So the individuality of Moses’ speech is left in tact. It is REALLY Moses speaking but his words convey the thoughts of Yahweh (cf, 2 Tim. 3:16). A very important point.

Furthermore, Yahweh will “teach” (Hebrew = “yoroh”) Moses how to frame his argument to Pharaoh. The root of “yoroh” is the same for “tora,” meaning “instruction” or “law.” Lots of valuable rabbit trails possible here but it seems that the main idea is that God’s representative in this situation, Moses, will speak in a manner consistent with Moses personality and ability, but the ideas and thoughts will be God-infused.

Finally, the LORD tells Moses that since He is the giver of human faculties, He is also the controller of how they are used and if He wishes he will make the human deaf, dumb, blind and stupid.

Christian journalist: We do not speak with the authority of a Moses or a Paul but we do represent the LORD God when we write and so our words must reflect our Lord’s sensibilities as we apprehend them. We are His ambassadors and He has given His reputation into our hands. We must handle it with care. Most of us will be “slow in speech” but there will be some of us quick in speech. We need to know our strengths and weaknesses and bring those characteristics before the Lord for help.

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