Scripture Focus: Exodus 4.13
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Reflection: Visionaries Not Vigilantes
By John Tillman
An aged, fearful, desert-dwelling Moses begs God to send someone else. Why? Perhaps because Moses has already failed. He tried helping his people by using violence but this neither reduced suffering nor earned him respect. He was forced to flee as a criminal. (Exodus 2.11-15)
What if Moses hadn’t been forced to flee? Imagine Moses living a pampered life in the palace, but secretly working behind the scenes dispensing vigilante justice like Batman, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Punisher, or John Wick. Would that have done any good or accomplished any justice?
Old Moses asks, “Who am I to lead these people?” If we had overheard this conversation, we might agree. We’d prefer the young violent hero.
We love stories of people standing up against violence…using violence. When Jesus said, “those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” he intended it as a warning, but we prefer it as a plot device. Violent people receiving violent payback is a sure box office hit.
One thing that makes us comfortable with violent heroes is the effort storytellers take to ensure we see how bad the bad guys are. The four-film-long John Wick franchise kicked off with the title character’s puppy being killed. All the violence stems from that and no one mourns the heartless puppy killer or his fellow criminals.
But what happens when God picks up the sword? We get nervous about divine violence. “Are we sure all these people are THAT bad? What if there are some righteous among the wicked? Are you sure, God?” Biblical authors don’t always write exposition about the crimes of those killed in judgment. The authors don’t tell us what they assume to be obvious: God’s hand of judgment can be trusted.
God chose the elderly, humbled, Moses, not the young, cocky, violent Moses. Where are we on this spectrum? If you are angry and frustrated (and it’s hard not to be in today’s world) turn your frustration to God. He hears our cries for justice. (Exodus 3.7-9) If you are humbled, burned out, or washed up, don’t shy from God’s call.
God calls Moses, not with a sword in his hand, but a staff. He doesn’t need vigilantes. He needs visionaries. As we work to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” we must start with humility first. Without humility, we’ll never have mercy. Without mercy, we’ll never act justly.
From John: Divine violence is a difficult and disturbing topic. If you’d like more in-depth study on this topic Erin recommends Confronting Old Testament Controversies, by Tremper Longman. You can also hear Erin discuss some of these topics on the Faith and Culture Now podcast.
Read more about Testing Before Judgment
God’s tests prove him righteous. God is merciful and compassionate, but he does not leave the guilty unpunished.
Read more about Supporting Our Work
Our ministry of providing ad-free devotional content to inboxes across the world would not be possible without our donors. Consider joining them with a gift of your own.