“I will be with your mouth.” That’s all the further God wanted to go at this point, apparently (Exodus 4). Not “I will be with you,” as had been the case other times. Nope, this time all God would promise Moses was that the divine presence would be targeted at one specific body part.
God would not be with Moses’ left pinky toe, but would be with his mouth. Ha!
Of course, Moses’ complaint had to do specifically with his mouth, as he had said that he was “slow of speech and slow of tongue,” and as such was unsuited to follow God’s call to go to Pharaoh and demand release of the Hebrew people. (btw “Speech” and “mouth” are both the same word in Hebrew - peh - a word used 5 times in Exodus 4.)
How many times have we said something along those lines? As in, “I just don’t know what to say.” Or maybe, “I would go and visit her, but I wouldn’t know what to say.” Or in another context, “I’m just not comfortable talking with people about ‘religion.’” Or said in a specific way, “I feel like if I invite someone to church, they’ll think I’m being pushy.” Or something like that.
Listen to God - “I will be with your mouth.”
Or maybe, “Just let me do the talking.”
Now, we may be tempted to misunderstand this, and think that if God is doing the talking, we don’t have to do anything. We might take our protest a step further, like Moses did. We might say, “Well if you are going to do the talking, Lord, I’ll just stay home and read a book.”
Moses’ protest continued, “Please send someone else.”
It’s not my job.
That’s why we hire church staff, isn’t it?
That’s not really my “calling.”
I don’t think that’s one of my “spiritual gifts.”
But when we do so, we may find that God’s next move makes us even more uncomfortable. Yes, God appoints Aaron to go along with Moses, but do you know how God defines that relationship? God tells Moses, “He shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him.” It almost seems like God is saying to Moses, “All right, you won’t go yourself? Well, you trying being ‘God’ for someone else for a while and see how you like it.”
Moses maybe should have gone with the whole “I will be with your mouth” thing while he had the chance!
When Moses tried to shirk his obligation in realizing God’s mission, God did not remove Moses’ responsibility, but rather increased it. God told Moses, “Okay, I will still be with your mouth, and I’ll be with Aaron’s mouth, too. But now I’ll be holding you directly responsible for what words he says, as well as your own.”
So maybe we should stick with the whole “I will be with your mouth” thing, also. We talk a lot about having “filters” on our speech, a kind of governor on our words that prevents harmful, hurtful, hateful, and otherwise offensive things from coming out. When someone is under stress or not thinking clearly or somehow out of sorts, often those filters do not function well or are removed altogether. They may end up saying things that they do not intend, and never would have said without the filters in place. And filters don’t work just for the choice of words, they also work for the tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, and all of those communication tools available to us.
One way to think of God is as the divine filter for our words. We need to listen very closely to what we say (and are about to say) and run it by God a few times to see if it makes it through God’s filter. And that is as true (or maybe more so) for online communication as face-to-face conversation.
God’s very precise and kind of peculiar promise is, “I will be with your mouth.” You still have to go, but I will be with your mouth. You still have to start the conversation, but I’ll let you know what to say. So go, say “hello,” and see what happens after that.
God has something really important to say, and we are the ones God wants to be saying it.
Are you saying what God wants you to be saying? And are you saying it in a way that God wants you to say it? And if you’re not sure, maybe you should just be quiet and listen for a while? I'm sure God will let you know.
Make Room--A Sermon for Christmas Eve
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