My nemesis in the fourth grade was reading out loud. I dreaded it. And inevitably the weekly story was read paragraph by paragraph, around the room, one desk at a time. Instantly I’d start counting. Which paragraph is going to be mine? Is it long? Is it short? Are there any words I don’t know how to pronounce?
Devotional Scripture: Exodus 4:10-17, 27-28
Key Verse: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:12
Because that’s the worst, right? Reading a hard-to-sound-out word entirely wrong. Like the word colonel, which I phonetically sounded out as call-on-el, instead of kernel, much to the dismay of my classmates. But since when did the letter L make an R sound? And how had I missed the memo?
Incidentally, my second fourth grade archrival, the spelling bee. Waiting in line to spell a word in front of all my peers; I may as well have been waiting in line to have my arms broken.
Maybe it’s not a struggle for you, but for many, whether reading or speaking or praying or reciting a well memorized speech, the sound of one’s own voice in a public setting, can be paralyzing. The thought of messing up, sets every anxiety induced nerve at full throttle.
Just thinking about it, are you nervous yet? Moses was. The thought of speaking to Pharaoh in front of all those people; he didn’t want to do it. His excuse? A lack of eloquence. Saying to the LORD, “I am slow of speech and of tongue” (v. 10).
To which the LORD replied, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (v. 11-12).
Based on the LORD’s reply many scholars believe Moses had a speech impediment. A stutter, perhaps. But seeing as public speaking has been a top priority fear for umpteen generations, I’d say it’s also entirely possible his resistance was all nerves. After all, the LORD had just told him to go and tell the most powerful man on earth he was losing his free work force. “No thanks Jesus, please send someone else.”
Which is exactly what Moses said, kindling the LORD’s anger. (Finally.) Yet still the LORD didn’t rant at Moses. He didn’t bring up the number of times Moses had already questioned him. Or yell at him for lacking faith. Instead, the LORD graciously offered the help of Aaron, Moses’ older brother. Whom the LORD had already prompted to start walking that way (v. 14). (Isn’t He so very kind?)
The LORD knows our frailties, the cause of our undoing’s. He knows what makes us feel safe and what makes us squirm. And he knows we need each other. He’s made us for fellowship and interaction. He’s made us for friendship and communion. That’s why he’s made us part of the body of Christ.
So we can help each other. So we can encourage and lift one another up. It’s a privilege, not a problem, to come alongside a sister in Christ with much needed words, a hot pan of lasagna, a skill, or an effort far above anything I could do on my own. I know it, every time I’m on the receiving end.
The downside, it’s much easier to rely on the tangible hand of my mom, sister, best friend, or man than it is to rely on my God. Whose ways are not my ways. Whose thoughts are not my thoughts.
God had assured Moses multiple times, “I will be with you.” Over and over he said it. Yet, it was only after gaining the assurance of Aaron by his side – a weak, sinful man, like himself – that Moses agreed to go.
And I get it. All too well. The security a friend offers. The boldness it instills to have a physical hand to hold. A visible face. A discernable voice. It just feels good and right and easier. (So much easier.)
But when our go to is the word of a friend, instead of the word of God, it’s good to reevaluate. Because where does my help come from? “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2). Along with my mouth and hands and heart. Forming, arranging, weaving, until I was just right, for the kingdom worthy works He prepared in advance for me to do (Eph. 2:10).
There’s no greater presence than the Almighty. And no better friend than the one who made me. He gets me, inside and out, He gets me. Yet my tendency, like Moses, is to find more comfort in the assurance of weak human flesh, than in the promised presence of Jesus. When there’s no one more able than He.
When the LORD says go there and do this. Or stay here and don’t miss the powerful way I’m going to work through you. I can do it. I can watch or wait or speak or move forward because it’s the LORD God Almighty who’s with me.
I love God’s assurance to Moses. “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” How much better it is when we go in His strength and our weakness; for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). His glory made known in the trenches. His majesty unveiled every time we allow Him to lengthen our short comings.
Thanks be to God who made my mouth. And promised always to go with me, whether I pick up a friend along the way or not. Incidentally, reading out loud is now one of my favorite things. And speaking? Another. If you have a lady’s event, I’d be honored to come in His strength, by His might, with His word, and share what God’s been teaching me. Rothbury Community Church, I’ll see you in a few weeks. (Just don’t ask me to join a spelling bee.)
Contemplate and Evaluate:
Whose presence do you rely most on?
Do you tend to go to God first or a friend, spouse, or relative, when you have a concern? Is the presence of God enough to make you go or do or be whatever God asks of you? Why or why not?
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