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Physician, Heal Thyself

by Tim O'Hearn

Every now and then an intriguing bit of scripture raises some unimportant and unanswerable question. Such questions may be merely a waste of time. They are generally meaningless. But still, they may be interesting and occasionally even informative. Such is a question raised by Deuteronomy 1:1. “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red Sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.” The question is, if Moses truly spoke these words (and many words they are) did God at some point cure him of a speech impediment?

When God first approached Moses at the burning bush, one of the objections Moses raised to his speaking to Pharaoh was that he was “slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Ex 4:10) Four verses later God says of Aaron, Moses’ brother, “I know that he can speak well.” So Aaron was to be Moses’ mouthpiece before Pharaoh. God, in essence, acknowledged the fairness of Moses’ argument.

Forty years later this man of slow tongue delivers a speech that lasts for thirty-three chapters. His slow tongue seems to have been loosened in four decades. Was this a miracle of God or something else?

We can’t say for certain that any miracle occurred. Surely God hints that he could perform such a miracle, saying, “Who has made man’s mouth?” (Ex 4:11) He could have cured any speech impediment he chose. He apparently chose not to before the exodus. But did he afterward?

There is another possibility that teaches all of us a lesson. Moses may have cured himself. He may not have been conscious of doing so. It may have taken the full forty years. But it is possible.

Perhaps it happened this way. One night somebody runs to Moses with a problem. Aaron is nowhere to be found, or maybe unable to get away from service in the Tabernacle. It is entirely possible that Moses speaks only a little Hebrew. But this is a matter that can’t wait, so Moses responds to the petitioner himself. Soon he realizes that a leader has to take charge for himself. After all, how well could a President of the United States lead if he spoke only Chinese? Analysts say John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon for the presidency because he expressed himself better and looked better on television. So Moses realizes that he has to take a more direct role in governing Israel. To do this he learns to speak better, just by doing it. Or perhaps he realizes that he never really had a speech problem.

That is, of course, only a possible scenario. But don’t we play out variations on it every day? What Bible class teacher might not have thought at one time that they couldn’t teach? (Myself being the exception.) They may even have told God they couldn’t do the job. Over time they found that they could not only teach, but that they could enjoy doing it well. I doubt that I know an elder who knew from the beginning that he was qualified and able to do the job.

Maybe God cured Moses. Maybe he just let Moses learn that the “slow of speech” thing was just an excuse. Maybe we need to let God teach us the same thing. Whenever God places an opportunity before us, instead of saying “I can’t,” perhaps we need to tell God instead to “prove to me I can’t.” What might we be able to do for God with this attitude? Maybe cure ourselves.