Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moses had a speech impediment

...or did he?

We tend to think so. It makes a really good email forward, after all. We love to know that God can use anyone, regardless of his handicap. After all, they say, Moses had a speech impediment.

So did I.

I was born what they used to call  tongue- tied. One big - mouthed baby wail, and the Duchess discovered a little unfinished business with my yakker.  My tongue, she noticed, was unnaturally attached to the bottom of my mouth. She alerted the doctor, who did some kind of snipping to untie my tongue and make it go flippity flop.

It's been flippity flopping ever since.

Even with the rapid response, however, I still had some speech issues which sent me to the therapist as a little one.  That's why I always liked the notion that Moses had a speech impediment.

But did he really?

If you read most English translations, he did.

Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am *slow of speech and slow of tongue." (Exodus 4:10)

The problem is that a study of the Hebrew doesn't back it up with concrete evidence. What Moses means by slow or heavy of tongue is open to debate, and debate it they have... for millennia.

They claim everything from a stammer to an unfortunate lip burning incident. Many scholars don't believe it was an impediment at all, but that Moses considered himself to be a bit of a rambler. 

I can still relate...

I like to tell my class that in the absence of a concrete answer, we should look for a larger lesson. I've been thinking about Moses and that thick tongue of his, and here's what I've been thinking:

Maybe it doesn't matter whether or not Moses had a speech impediment. Maybe, what matters is that he thought he did.   

Maybe... just maybe... his only real impediment was a tendency toward self-deprecation.

Think about it. In no place in Scripture does anyone else say that Moses has a speech impediment. In fact, in no place in scripture is it mentioned as a statement of fact. It's only mentioned as something that Moses says about himself.  


He says it so often, in fact, that he manages to irritate the Almighty.

Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and He said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. (Exodus 4:14)

His anger burned. The Hebrew words create a image of God giving a snort through flared nostrils, hot with indignation. Can you picture it? 
I can. I can even imagine myself on the receiving end of the holy snort.  That's because like Moses,  I  have a tendency toward self-limitation.  Yep. No matter how you slice this story, I can still relate.

Just like Moses, I have a peculiar calling. We all do.  Oh, maybe I won't be leading an entire nation through the sea on dry land, but I have a calling nonetheless.   And just like Moses, I keep responding to the burning bush with a list of  my own limitations... 

...which when you think about it, is a really a list of His limitations, isn't it?

Yeah, I think so too.  And  I wonder why I keep hearing the big snort.

The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. 
 Thessalonians 5:24

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