CONFERENCE 2011 Bible Study 2

ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE METHODIST CHURCH OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
AT LESOTHO SUN, MASERU FROM 21 – 25 SEPT. 2011

Overcoming Disability (in our lives): An invitation to a Round Table


Bible Study on Exodus 4, 1-16

Presiding Bishop, Methodist General Secretary, Lay President, Bishops and Leaders, Delegates representing the Methodist People in this Conference

Please, receive my warm greetings with grateful in the name of our Lord, Jesus-Christ

1. Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters, people of God, I thank God again for giving us this opportunity to share His words. I would like to reiterate my gratitude to you for the privilege to lead Bible study in this conference and to speak about perceptions of disability.

I hope that you will enjoy today’s. The theme for Bible study Bible study is “Overcoming Disability in our lives: An invitation to a Round Table”. The reason I chose this theme because “disability” is part of the human condition. There is a proverb in my mother tongue says, “Mulengela wakabula kalema udi nekende kasokoma”, which means, whatever beautiful someone may be there is a hidden disabled part in him. (I am sure you might have also in your own mother tongues). The proverb shows that disability concerns everyone. One scholar describes disability as part of the circle of life: when we are born we are dependent, and when we are getting old we become weak and are at once more dependent.

 “Overcoming disability in our lives” implies that we must go beyond of our disabilities. As disability moto says, “Disability is not inability”. This means that people with disabilities need to seek what abilities they have and use these, rather than lamenting their disabilities which prevent them from sitting with others at a Round Table”. Today’s text will lead us to understand that there is more than one disability and God’s view of disability implies an empowerment.

2. Reading Exodus 4, 1-17

What is this text about?

Exodus 4, 1-17 is one of the rare positive texts that constructively deals with disability in the Bible, as opposed to the many texts which “focus on medical diagnosis” or which “…locate disability in an individual’s body and tend [s] to view disability as an individual tragedy”.

Chapter 4 of Exodus it is a follow- up scenario of the encounter between God and Moses on Mount Horeb where God was manifest in a burning bush. In chapter 3 of Exodus, the concern is with God’s plan to deliver His people, the Israelites, from the oppression in Egypt and bring them to Canaan.  Moses’ task is to explain this plan to the elders of Israel; to request Pharaoh to let Israel go; and then to journey into the wilderness and worship God.  Moses complains that in comparison to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, he is insignificant. Moses objects to God’s mission for five times (3. 11, 13; 4. 1, 10, 13), he uses fear to excuse himself from a task that God is urging on him. Thus, in chapter 4 Moses is empowered by God to fulfill his mission.

What problems/difficulties does Moses think he will face in dealing with the Israelites?

- He is afraid to oppose Pharaoh

- He is not clear about what the words of God means

- He is uncertain because of the fact that he is slow of speech: he is afraid to speak because of this disability.

- He is not sure whether his brothers, the Israelites would welcome his message

- Moses is afraid to return to Egypt, because he is aware that it had become known that he was a killer: he had killed of the Egyptian.

In considering all these problems, Moses felt unable to accept God’s mission. Moses was concerned about what he lacked; he was seeing only his inabilities, rather than his capacities.

A lack of self-confidence, often leads to an inferiority complex, which means that people with disabilities often compare themselves unfavorably with non-disabled people. In this comparison they ignore their capacities and deplore their disabilities. They do not perceive their potential but focus on their ignorance. They do not accept what they have, but despise themselves for what they lack

Let us draw a picture in two parts, starting from v. 1 to 17. In the one part we will list Moses’ handicaps and in the other part will show how God deal with these.

Moses’ handicaps

God deal with Moses’ handicaps

Doubt v. 1

What is in your hand?

Lack of faith and confidence v. 1-2

God shows him how to use the stick

Fear v.1-2

God challenge

Speech impairment v. 10

I will help you and will be with your mouth

Disobedience v. 13

God’s grace

“Doubt” the philosophers define, “doubt is a way of seeking truth and knowledge”. Yet, in this context Moses’ doubt is a disability, it is perceived as an obstacle to the accomplishment of God’s mission or as an excuse to refuse the God-given task. Thus, “doubt” is the denial of God’s presence, Moses was uncertain of what God said to him.

Moses is saying “what if they do not believe me or listen to me…” (v.1) God’s reply indicates that God wants Moses to value him self; to consider that which he has in his hands.

“Lack of faith” and of “self-confidence” are considered as disabilities because they prevent people from discovering themselves and from seeing the magnificence of God. Ignorance about oneself leads to a lack of self-confidence. Hence, from a disability perspective it is important to find the meaning of one’s physical condition, because, even people with disabilities are prejudiced against  themselves. Charlton states: “Self-pity, self-hate, shame, and other manifestations of this process are devastating for they prevent people with disabilities from knowing their real capabilities and from recognizing the option they in fact have”.

V. 3- 7, God shows Moses how he will use the stick: sign of training and empowerment.

In this regard what I mean by “Overcoming Disability (in our life): An invitation to a Round Table” is that people who do not know their abilities, must be given opportunities through education of liberation to develop and to value themselves (is what I said yesterday “share the same food”).

“Fear” is self denial, and leads to hatred against the self and against others.

V. 8, God’s challenge reveals one of the characteristics of God, self-identification to fit human limitations. This means that God who is beyond limits accepts to be limited, to take on the size of human beings.  Almighty God accepts to work with human weaknesses and God of perfection identifies with human improvement. This stands to demonstrate that God works along with those who are weak; with those who feel that they are nothing.

“Speech impairment”, when Moses said that he was “slow of speech”, he indicated that he had a speech deficiency.  Literally, “uncircumcised of lips” (chap. 6, 30), was verbally impaired. This interpretation is opposed by scholars who consider the expression “I am slow of speech” as “metaphoric language and not as the description of a speech impediment”.

V. 11, God’s initial reaction to Moses’ objection was to remind him that he is the Lord of Sovereignty, “the Lord [who] determines man’s abilities or disabilities”. The verse speaks clearly about the issue of disability, “…Who gives man his mouth, who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? “Here is stated that God controls everything and He seems to be author of disability.

Joni  Aerkerson and Nancy L.  Eisland , state that Jesus choose to be disabled so that  on the cross so that we can overcome disability. Yet, Aerkerson adds that no one as human could accept to be born disabled, it’s hard.

My testimony

The Lord said to Moses, “Now go, I will be with your mouth…and teach you what to say”. God had planned to use Moses’ disabled mouth for ably-teaching.

God did not say: I will heal your mouth so that you can speak clearly. But he said “I will be with your mouth”. The healing in this passage is a psychological in nature. God wanted to enable Moses and to show him that, in spite of his weakness he was capable of doing great things.

“Disobedience”, Moses’ suggestion to choose another person rather than him, made God angry (v. 14). Why was God angry? It could be because God saw that Moses did not trust Him and did not understand the way He was dealing with this mission. As God, is slowly in anger and abundantly with grace, He provided Aaron, the brother of Moses to help him (v. 14 – 15).  Therefore, “how wonderful that God does not strike out at us when we provoked Him, but provide more grace, that we might ultimately obey”. The fact that God provided a brother to speak on behalf of Moses, shows we are dependent to one another for God’s purpose. Two are better than one (16) God identified Himself with both brothers to reinforce the execution of the mission.

The Lord said to Moses, “He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him”. To link with v. 8, as stated above, one of God’s characteristics is that He identified with humanity.  Moses was given the privilege of being in the “position of God”. This reveals how God works using   weaknesses in order to come out with something strong.

Conclusion

The text of Exodus 4, 1-17 is a challenge to people with disabilities and to apparently able-bodied people as well. As regards people with disabilities, they need to make a difference; they need to take responsibility for the way in which they respond to their situation:   they should accept that God is in control of their life; they should recognize that God knows them better than they know themselves; and they should accept that God loves them as they are.

In addressing apparently able-bodied people, the text calls for a constructive image of disability: for them to see beyond disability and to see that people with disabilities are human like others; and for them to consider disability as part of God’s creation of diversity.

The challenge for all of us this morning is that “Overcoming Disability (in our lives): An invitation to a Round Table” means that we should regard disability as God does. God do not ignore our weaknesses, limits or disabilities, but he considers and works through them so that something stronger can emerge.

“Overcoming Disability (in our lives):  An invitation to a Round Table” implies that we should open up and give each other the opportunity to develop our capabilities for the building of the Church.