God Causing Illnesses

This entry is part 393 of 507 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Does Exodus 4:11 mean that God is responsible in every case for such defects as deafness and blindness?

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”” (Exodus 4:10–12, ESV)

This is the second of Moses’ red herrings against the calling of the Lord so he doesn’t have to go to Egypt and contend with Pharaoh for his people. First Moses says that the people of Israel will not believe his words and that the Lord is behind him (Exodus 4:1).

The Lord answers Moses by giving him signs and wonders to show to the Israelites. The first is that his staff will turn into a snake and back into his staff when he picks it up (Exodus 4:2-5). The second sign is that his hand would be leprous and then be healed (Exodus 4:6-8). A final sign is that the Nile would turn to blood when poured out on the ground (Exodus 4:9).

Moses then complains that he does not have eloquent speech to go before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:10). He calls himself “slow of speech and tongue.” This may refer to some kind of speech impediment, especially because of how the Lord responds in the verse you pointed out.

Some commentators have explained that Moses’ use of “slow of speech and tongue” is not a reference to a defect of his mouth but to his inability to switch between Hebrew and Egyptian. I’m not sure this would be accurate considering that Moses grew up in Egypt as pharaoh’s daughter’s adopted son, trained in the ways of Egypt. He surely learned Egyptian.

The Lord responds that he is the God of all of those who are mute, deaf, seeing, and blind. God declares his sovereignty over how every human being is made (Exodus 4:11). He reminds Moses that he will be with Moses’ mouth and give him the ability to speak before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:12).

We must remember that in the context of Exodus 4:11 is Moses’ continued attempts to get out of the call of God to go before Pharaoh and represent him and his people Israel. When Moses sees that he can’t get out of it, he asks the Lord to send someone else (Exodus 4:13).

Up to this point the Lord has encouraged him with a response every time. But now that Moses responds honestly how he feels this last time, the Lord is angry with him (Exodus 4:14). But even in his anger he allows Moses to bring his brother Aaron along with him.

So how are we to take Exodus 4:11 even with this context of Moses’ complaints and attempts to get out of his call? There are probably many who will try to theologize or spiritualize it in some way.

But if we take it for what God says on the face of it, we must remind ourselves that God is sovereign. This question is very personal to me because I was born with cataracts in both eyes. I’m still considered legally blind to this day, at 37 years old.

Not that it was part of my birth, but I’m now paralyzed from the neck down, a quadriplegic. The circumstances of becoming paralyzed seem to be quite random and unexplainable by scientific means. In less than 30 minutes my body attacked its own spinal cord at the very top and then destroyed the antibody it made.

It’s the worst hit-and-run I ever heard of in all my life. Joking aside, the Lord has been with me all of these years no matter what my condition has been health-wise. He has never let me down. He has blessed me beyond measure and given me an opportunity to serve as a minister of his Gospel.

Anyone might ask if I blame God for the things that have happened to me. I never considered blaming him. The fact is that whether we are in trials or suffering of some kind, the Lord is always with us. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

I serve him not because he promises to heal my body, even though he does in several places throughout his Word. I serve him because he exists and he is sovereign. There are many reasons that a person is born with birth defects.

One of them is the sin that is in the world. Unfortunately, some of the choices that people make for their babies can result in birth defects. We cannot blame God for these. I’m sure there are other reasons we are not aware of from my limited human perspective.

But here in Exodus 4:11 God does seem to take the blame, so to speak, for the defects of people’s bodies. We do not know the circumstances of Moses’ speech defect. We don’t know if it was from birth or from some other time.

So we can’t fully answer this question. There are other passages very intimate for every person. For instance, God talks about being the one who informs us in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). God decides how he forms every person in the womb. We are all different.

Whether or not God allows for these birth defects in the womb, we must remember his sovereignty, his promises, and the glory we bring him. I have seen God’s glory when those who are sick continue to worship him despite their circumstances.

And I have seen God’s glory when he heals people before the eyes of many. I have seen God be praised and hospital rooms and doctors offices when doctors cannot explain God’s healing. And I look forward to the day when he will do the same for me and I will praise him for his wonderful works done in my body.

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