Putting words in his mouth
If you accuse me of putting words in your mouth you’re probably complaining that I’m misrepresenting your views. Perhaps I have elaborated on your statement in a way you never intended. “Stop putting words in my mouth,” you’ll say.
But the biblical origin of the phrase is a little different. In the Bible, Moses is meant to put words in his brother Aaron’s mouth. And both Moses and Aaron are very happy about the whole arrangement. You see Moses doesn’t want a podium or a microphone. If he’s going to play any part in this whole Exodus caper he wants his brother to be his mouthpiece
This is quite understandable from a human viewpoint. Moses’ last attempt at leading the Israelites was 40 years ago. It was a failed coup and he’d spent the last four decades as a stranger in a strange land. He’s not exactly brimming over with confidence:
Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)
Moses is full of self-doubt. So what does he need?
Well ask anyone today and they’ll tell you: the solution to self-doubt is self-confidence. That’s the modern cure-all for whatever ails you. Have more confidence in yourself!
That’s what the world says. What does the LORD say?
I will be with thee (Exodus 3:12)
There used to be a saying in tennis that the greatest doubles team imaginable was John McEnroe and anyone. John McEnroe and anyone could win Wimbledon.
If you happened to be that anyone it would be absurd to spend the whole pre-match press-conference saying “Who am I to win a tennis match? Who am I to win Wimbledon? I’m not a brilliant tennis player!”
What would John McEnroe say? Apart from ‘You cannot be serious?’ He’d say, “I will be with you. Enough about yourself, really it’s irrelevant.”
This is how the LORD seeks to address Moses’ self-doubt. Not to instil self-confidence, but God-confidence.
Well Moses responds asking about the LORD’s identity. And the LORD responds pronouncing His name: “I AM THAT I AM.”
Even if Moses’ self-confidence is flagging, His LORD knows who He is. He’s strong enough to get the job done.
But Moses still has his doubts:
Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice. (Exodus 4:1)
Well, the LORD gives Moses three miraculous signs to authenticate his ministry.
But even this is not enough.
Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. (Exodus 4:10)
If we were reasoning with Moses at this point we’d probably head in two directions. We’d either give up in exasperation or we’d pander to his inverse pride: “Nonsense Moses, you have a lovely speaking voice I’m sure you’ll be just brilliant!”
But the LORD is different. Again he seeks to take Moses’ eyes off himself:
And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? (Exodus 4:11)
Which is harder, making a mouth or putting words in it? If the LORD has done the hard thing, don’t we think he can do the easier thing too?
But Moses responds, effectively saying “Send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)
And the LORD is angry with him (v14). Not for some failure of self-confidence, but for his failure of God-confidence. Moses does not trust the LORD to do in him what He commands of him.
And so we come to our phrase for today. The LORD brings up Aaron, Moses’ elder brother, and says to Moses:
thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: (Exodus 4:15)
In this way the LORD redeems the situation. In spite of Moses’ sin, the LORD will use this turn of events to reveal truth about Himself.
In verse 16 the LORD says that Moses will be like God to his brother. This is because God addresses the people only and always through His Prophet, Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-23). God speaks through His Son the way Moses spoke through Aaron.
As Jesus says:
as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)
all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:15)
When we hear the words of Jesus, He is not speaking on His own. The grace and truth that drop from His lips are the words which the Father puts in His mouth.
And for all of us, do you lack confidence in the calling God has placed on your life? Let this story teach you. We mustn’t look within – we will only find reasons for doubt there. Look out to Christ, He is the great I AM. The Christian does not have self-confidence, we have Christ-confidence which is better by far!
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