Have you ever read something about God in the Bible and thought, “wow, that can’t mean what it sounds like it means – God’s not like that”? There was one verse that we read in our passage on Sunday that made a somewhat startling statement about the sovereign control that Yahweh exerts over His creation. Some of us may have had a strong impulse to rescue God from that verse…but does He really need our rescue?
You’ll remember that one of the objections Moses raised to the Lord’s call was that he was not an eloquent speaker, to which Yahweh responded, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exo 4:11).
Who makes the mute man mute? Yahweh. Who makes the deaf woman deaf? Yahweh. Who determines if a particular person is seeing or blind? Yahweh. We could extend that to other things as well. Who makes the cancerous child cancerous? Yahweh. Who makes the stillborn baby stillborn? Yahweh.
In much of modern Christianity, people struggle with how to explain what some have called natural evil, which would include natural disasters and disease. How do we explain tsunamis and earthquakes? How do we explain that some people are born with extreme birth defects? Some Christians would immediately begin to describe man’s fall into sin and the effects that sin has had on this world. Those effects include natural evil and so when we see these kinds of things – hurricanes that kill and children born blind – we should be reminded of Adam’s fall into sin and how horrible sin is. God doesn’t want these things to happen; man chose them when he chose sin. In other words, some explanation is found that lays the genesis for these disasters somewhere other than at the feet of Almighty God. “Man chose to sin. Sin caused these things. So in a sense man caused them and sin caused them, but God did not. God is as bothered by them as you are.”
Others in the church, recognizing that the Bible claims more sovereignty for God, seek to accommodate that teaching while still absolving God of responsibility for natural disasters and sicknesses. They explain that God selectively “allows” certain disasters to happen. He “allows” particular illnesses to take shape in the womb; He prevents others. So God is like a gatekeeper, not causing these things to take place, but allowing certain ones to pass. I find this option attractive although the text of Scripture, including Exodus 4:11, the more I read it, persuades me that this is an inappropriate explanation. Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
We have an impulse to rescue God from responsibility for birth defects and illnesses and earthquakes where He seems to feel no such compulsion. Being recognized as the creator of mute mouths, deaf ears, and blind eyes does not appear to be problematic to Him. He claims responsibility with absolutely no apologetic explanation.
In Exodus 4:11-12, Yahweh says, “I make mouths. All of them. I make them work well. I make them work poorly. I make eyes, too. I make them see and not see. I make ears, too. I make them hear and not hear.” And He offers no explanation to get Himself off the hook, even though we are so eager for Him to do so. He appears to want us to understand that He is in control even of these kinds of things.
But there is a “therefore.” Yahweh wanted Moses to trust Him with his mouth and speech because He created it and was Lord over it. Why was Moses not “a man of words” as the original more literally reads? It’s not that God allowed this to happen to Moses. God made him that way. Why? So that Moses would trust in Him and not himself.
Paul finds the same thing at work in his own trials in 2 Cor 1. The apostle describes his and his companions being burdened beyond their own strength, so burdened that they despaired of life itself. They felt that they had received the death sentence. But this burden came with a purpose. “That was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:8-11). The trial, horrific and terrifying, was from the hand of God for the purpose of God.
I’m challenged more and more by passages like Exodus 4:11-12 to let the Bible teach me about God, to accept and embrace what it teaches, and to resist the impulse to rescue Him from what the Bible says. Where He shows no desire to rescue Himself, He must want to be there, and I have no business removing Him.
We’ll have more opportunities to consider these things as we continue in Exodus and as we continue our Wednesday night series, Walking in the Excellencies of God. If you have questions, join us for both!