The Message of Exodus – Chapters Three & Four

Moses the Horse & Moses the Mule!

 

By I Gordon

 

In this study I simply want to look at the life of Moses as an example of what we can be like when it comes to following God’s direction and leading. In short, Moses the horse and Moses the mule! Not that I’ve got it in for Moses of course… far from it! The horse or mule could just as easily be you! In fact, by the end of this study I am hoping that you too will see your own horse and mule tendencies! I know I do. It’s just that in the life of Moses both of these tendencies are highlighted through extreme cases, so they are very easy to spot. But before jumping right into it with guns blazing, it’s time again for… (Drum roll…)

 

Preparation!!!

 

Ok, so I don’t know how to make this part of the study sound any more exciting! I know the last thing you probably want to do when you are reading someone’s Bible study is to have to go do some of the work yourself. I know, it’s the age of fast food, fast cars, and knowledge on demand. But I also know that you will be better off if you do! So with that ‘encouragement’ in mind, please read the following scriptures – start with Psalm 32:8-9 and think about God’s instruction and leading of our lives. Most importantly, think about the warning it gives and what it means to be like the horse or the mule. What is characteristic of these animals? With this as the basis of our study, read Exodus 2:11-15, and Exodus chapter 3 and 4. In these latter chapters note Moses objections to God’s desire in using Moses to deliver His people. You just may see something of yourself here! Note also God’s response to Moses’ objections, as God may just want to teach us something here too!

 

The instruction of God to an impulsive and stubborn creation!

 

Psalm 32:8-9 ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.’

 

Now, Moses has a lot to do with the above verse, but before we get onto him lets just quickly talk about this passage. Obviously it’s speaking about the instruction and leading of God. It gives us the great promise that God will instruct us, teach us, counsel us and watch over us! Great promises indeed, especially in times that demand the guidance and direction of God. Now all of that is what God has promised to do. Our part in this sounds simple – do not be like the horse or the mule! So what is characteristic of a horse? Well, simply put, they love to run! They were born and designed to run. It’s in their veins![1] What about mules? Well, they have a characteristic that is just as true, but completely the opposite! Ever been called ‘a stubborn mule’? Well this saying didn’t stick because mules love to run! Stubbornness and a refusal to move is their great trait.

 

This passage tells us that a bit and brindle are needed to control these animals – but for vastly different reasons! For the horse, you are generally pulling on the reigns trying to gain control and slow them down! With the mule, you are standing in front of them pulling forward in a desperate attempt to get them to move! With their legs dug in, their neck straining, and their teeth nearly popping out, it can be a bit of a mission! Well, Moses is a great picture of both of these creatures as we shall now see.

 

Moses the Horse!    

 

Exodus 2:11-15 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.

 

Here we have Moses, approaching the age of 40 (Acts 7:23), and about to have an early mid life crises! You see, with all wisdom, education and power of Egypt within his grasp, Moses’ heart was still for his own people – the Israelites. As he watched their hard labour, and heard their cries for help, he couldn’t help but think that he must do something. And do something he did - He murdered an Egyptian! Now we have to ask a few questions here… do you think his heart was right? Do you think his mission was right? Was it a noble cause? I do. Moses was completely genuine in his desire to deliver his fellow Hebrews. It was certainly God’s heart and intention to deliver Israel from this bondage, and it was even God’s intention for Moses to be the person to do that. But not yet![2] If Moses had got his calculator out he would have found his actions 40 years too soon! (Gen 15:13). This was Moses the horse, with all the best intentions in the world, racing ahead of the plan of God.

 

‘Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.’ – Moses looked everyway possible… left, right, and left again[3]. Everyway that is, except up! If Moses had asked God, no doubt he would have heard those words ‘I will instruct you, and teach you in the way in which you shall go… but do not be like the horse or the mule!’ The same goes for us doesn’t it? We can easily be busy for God, like Martha racing around, when all Jesus wants is for us to rest like Mary and be with Him.

 

God’s heart for His people

 

Exodus 3:7-10 ‘The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.

 

Here we are presented with the true character of God, and His heart for His people. He says that He has ‘seen their misery, heard their crying, and is concerned for their suffering.’[4] So He is going to do something about it! But that something is going to be through the use of a simple servant! This is always the way that God works. It was then, and it is now. When we are available to be used in God’s service, there will always come a time when God says to us ‘Now go, I am sending you to bring my people out of Egypt.’ The timing for this, as we have said, is God’s prerogative. But His calls, and our obedience, are the essentials. That’s where we find Moses now… through the wisdom of God, the time is now perfect for Israel’s deliverance and judgement upon Egypt. Nothing could go wrong, unless of course the unthinkable happens and, no…

 

Moses is a Mule!

 

Exodus 3:10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

The command of God is to ‘GO!’ but Moses says ‘NO!’ This is definitely a different Moses from what we have previously seen. Gone is the worldly confidence that marked ‘Moses the horse’ 40 years earlier (Acts 7:30). As we shall now see, Moses has gone to the opposite extreme and no excuse under the sun is forgotten! And, for that matter, seeing that ‘that which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done, is that which will be done’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9), you should be able to relate. Bet you have tried these on with God at times when He has called!

 

Ex:3:11-12 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

 

Objection No 1: ‘God, I’m a nobody[5], and have nothing to offer! I can’t lead your people, or speak to someone as mighty as Pharaoh! ’ Been there? Ever thought that you are too insignificant for people to listen to you? Well listen to God’s response - He says ‘Too true, and well said. You are a nobody, but I will be with you and that is all that is needed!’

 

Ex:3:13-14 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’[6] Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

 

Objection No 2: ‘God, I don’t know enough. I barely even know your name or what you are about.’ Likewise, many believe that they cannot be used by God because they don’t know a lot and will have nothing to say. But God’s reply again reveals much! The God we serve is the great ‘I AM’. The one who is everything we will ever need!  If all you have is a testimony about how God saved you, then that is enough. If God calls you to step forth, then share what you have and He will look after the rest.

 

Ex 4:1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”

 

Objection No 3: ‘What will people think of me? They may reject what I say?’ If you are like me, then you will see yourself in Moses’ question here. No one especially enjoys being thought a fool or being rejected. In Moses’ case the Lord was very kind to him and gave Moses specific signs which confirmed who had sent him. But signs or no signs, it is not the result of our obedience that should be in view, but our focus should always be on the one who has called us. There is no getting around the fact that to some our message will be ‘the fragrance of life’, and to others, the ‘smell of death.’ (2 Cor 2:14-16) We can never afford to focus on the results.

 

Ex 4:10-12 Moses said to the LORD, “O 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 man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? 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.”

 

Objection No 4: ‘Sorry Lord, but I’ve got this st st st st stuttttttttttttter. Can’t sp sp sp sp speak at all well. Ssssssorry, I’ll have to be excused!’ Nice try Moses! Maybe you think that you’re the same - that you are slow to think and slow to speak. Well, God loves using the weak things to confound the wise. His promise to Moses is that He will help him speak and will teach him what to say. God still does that! But with Moses being the full mule, we begin to see the patience of God being tried, and I’m sure it was with force that God says ‘Now Go!’  

 

Ex 4:13 But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses…

 

Objection No 5: ‘I just can’t do it! Please find someone better!’ The mule is fully digging in now! Like I said earlier, this was a totally different Moses from the one who ‘was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.’ 40 years earlier he had been supremely confident in his own abilities but in doing so had not relied on the Lord and had raced like a horse ahead of God’s plan. Now, after 40 years contemplating his failure, he was a mule and very difficult to budge. You may ask, well which is better? Despite Moses stubbornness, this is the Moses which God chose to use. Humility and meekness are virtues that the Lord loves to mould into a person’s character and Moses definitely had these (Num 12:3). Although, we need to be careful that we don’t focus so much on our own weakness that we start to use it as an excuse for disobedience. This, Moses was doing here and we read that the Lord’s anger burned against Moses.[7]

 

Conclusion   

 

Thankfully, after this slow start, we see in the rest of Moses’ life the testimony of a humble yet obedient servant of God and as you all know, Moses would be greatly used of the Lord in Israel’s deliverance. What can we say then that God is asking from us? Well what would a shepherd desire from his sheep? Or what does the head demand of its body? A shepherd wouldn’t want the sheep running ahead of himself, in different directions, trying to lead the way. Nor would he want the sheep to refuse to move once it was time to move onto new pastures. What he asks of his sheep is for them to rest, to listen for his voice, and then to be obedient once they hear the call. What does your head require from your hand? Do you want your hand to be constantly moving and active, even when it is not being commanded to do so by the head? Of course not! But nor would you want your hand to refuse to move when you’ve got that must scratch itch! You desire for your hand to be at rest, yet available to obey once the call comes. Jesus Christ is obviously our great shepherd, and the head of the body and He is fully able to direct us in our Christian lives. This is His responsibility as our head. He has promised to guide us, teach us, and lead us in the way in which we should walk. Just guard against the horse and mule like tendencies that are within each of us!



[1] I recently went on my first ever horse trek. Loved every minute of it! It was very interesting to see the natural tendencies of the horses to want to bolt and run ahead. And this was on well trained, ‘beginner friendly’ horses. One of my friends’ horses bolted and sure enough, all of the other horses made a dash for it as well. Their natural tendency is to be free and to run ahead. There is a warning here for us, which we shall definitely see through the life of Moses!

[2] I really agree and appreciate the comments of Ian Thomas on this passage where he states “Moses lost his sense of God, and maybe you have lost your sense of God for the same reason. You are not called upon to commit yourself to a need, or to a task, or to a field. You are called upon to commit yourself to God! It is He then that takes care of the consequences and commits you where He wants you. ‘The need’ it is all too often said, ‘constitutes the call!’. There are a thousand needs, but you are not committed to these. You are committed to Christ, and it is His business to commit you where He wants you.” – We have to believe that God can, and will, do this. It is His responsibility and His right to do this. Unfortunately, Moses the horse looked only at the need, and not to God, and the result was disastrous!

 

[3] I believe it was CHM that said that we look around for one of two reasons – in fear of man’s wrath or in hope of man’s favour. Neither is necessary for the one divinely sent. If we look for man’s frown or to catch his smile, then something is wrong! So true! But Moses wasn’t divinely sent here and his nervous looking to and fro testifies to that fact.

 

[4] Actually, this is a nice picture of God sending Jesus into the world to deliver us. Did God not see the misery of those in the world (Egypt), did He not hear their cry for help because of their bondage to sin, and was it not concern for their souls that led the Father to send His only Son? Jesus then ‘came down’ to rescue us from the Egyptians (world) and to bring us into the land (resurrection ground! – Jesus living through us)  

[5] I have always likes D.L Moody’s analysis of Moses’ life. He said ‘Moses spent 40 years thinking He was a somebody, 40 years learning that he was a nobody, and 40 years seeing what God can do with a nobody!’ This is the essence of what God was trying to teach Moses earlier with the burning bush. In the words of Major Ian Thomas, ‘Any old bush will do!’ God could use any old bush, or any old person for that matter, because it was not the bush that mattered – what mattered was that God was in the bush, and if God was there, the fire would never go out. Moses needed to learn to look way past himself and his abilities, to God and His adequacy.

[6] The New Bible dictionary says that Moses question of God’s name uses a special word (mah) which ‘invites an answer which goes further, and gives the meaning or substance of the name.’ So Moses was asking for more than a name to take back to Israel. He was asking for the essential meaning behind God’s name and character. This makes God’s reply to Moses easier to understand.

 

[7] Just as a side note, this is the first mention that I can find of the Lord getting angry. I’m sure he was angry at other times but the Bible doesn’t mention it. No doubt He was angry during the wicked times of Noah or Lot but it doesn’t say so. So it is interesting that it happened here first with his own servant being the full disobedient mule!