What is the significance of Exodus 3:18–4:9?

The Lord tells Moses that the elders of Israel will heed his voice (vs. 18). Moses says, “suppose they do not believe me or listen to me…” (4:1). God performs a miracle “so that they may believe that the Lord…has appeared to you” (vs. 5). Moses remains unconvinced so the Lord performs a second miracle and comments, “If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground” (vs. 8–9).

If the future is eternally settled in God’s mind, God would have known exactly how many miracles, if any, it would take in order for the elders to believe Moses. The meaning of the words he chose (“if,” “may”) could not be sincere. If we believe that God speaks straightforwardly, however, it seems that he didn’t know exactly how the elders would respond to Moses.

This verse demonstrates that God is confident in his ability to achieve the results he is looking for (e.g. getting the elders of Israel to listen to Moses) even though he must work with free agents who are, to some extent, unpredictable. He relies on his infinite wisdom and a degree of providential guidance in order to accomplish his goals. We have difficulty fathoming such a wise, gentle yet powerful sovereignty, which is perhaps why many are inclined to believe that God needs something like a “crystal ball” vision of what is coming in order to accomplish his purposes. If we simply allow the text to say what the text says, however, we are led to embrace the beautiful truth that God is omni-resourceful and thus doesn’t need to have everything in the future settled. He is confident he can persuade the elders of Israel to listen to Moses, though he is not sure how many miracles he’ll have to perform in order to achieve this goal.

Category:
Tags: ,
Topics:
Verse:

Related Reading

How can prayer change God’s mind?

You’ve argued that since God is all-good, he’s always doing the most he can do in every situation to bring about good. But you have also argued that prayer can change God’s mind. How are these two beliefs compatible?

Doesn’t Psalm 139:16 refute the open view of the future?

One of the passages most frequently cited in attempts to refute the open view of the future is Psalm 139:16. Here David says that God viewed him while he was being formed in the womb (vs. 15) and then adds: “[Y]our eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in…

Topics:

How do you respond to Romans 8:29-30?

Question: Romans 8:29–30 says that everyone God foreknew he predestined. You deny both that God foreknows and predestines individual believers. So this verse seems to refute your open view. Answer: First, as many exegetes have noted, the sort of “knowing” Paul intends in this passage is not merely intellectual knowledge, but rather an intimate affection.…

How do you respond to Psalm 105:25?

Speaking of the Egyptians, the Psalmist says,“…whose hearts he [God] then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants” Some compatibilists cite this verse as evidence that God meticulously controls human hearts. If so, we must accept the conclusion that even grotesquely wicked hearts like Hitler’s and Stalin’s were exactly as God…

A Video Introduction to Open Theism

Here’s a video clip on Open Theism from Greg’s sessions with Travis Reed with The Work of the People. What is Open Theism? Open Theists affirm that God knows all of reality perfectly, so Open Theism really is about the nature and content of the future. Does the future contain real possibilities? We have to wrestle with…

Roger Olson’s Review of The Cosmic Dance

Today we wanted to share a review of The Cosmic Dance by esteemed theologian Roger Olson. You can check out an excerpt below or you can read the whole review here. You can place an order for The Cosmic Dance here. The Cosmic Dance is Greg’s (and friends’) attempt to present the case that the best contemporary science supports viewing…