A New Life, an Angry Wife, and a Bloody Knife

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exodus_no titleTwo Sundays ago, I preached one of the strangest passages in the Bible. It is perhaps the second most debated Old Testament passage there is. It is a passage that talks about Moses and his family on their way to Egypt.

Moses had fled Egypt at 40 years old after killing an Egyptian man. He settles down and lives in the land of Midian. Moses meets a man named Reuel, also known as Jethro, and marries one of his daughters, Zipporah. Moses and Zipporah have two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. Moses lives as a shepherd and at the age of 80, God calls to him to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites to freedom. Moses reluctantly agrees, packs his things, and heads to Egypt with his wife Zipporah, and two sons. This story picks up at rest stop on the way to Egypt.

Exodus 4:24-26 (ESV) At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

We don’t have all the details. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about this passage and there are several theories about the meaning of this passage. I want to simply take what we know, and recreate the most likely scenario with the information God gives us.

  • Moses and Zipporah have two different cultures and sets of customs
  • Moses most likely circumcised their first son, Gershom
  • Zipporah doesn’t like circumcision and refuses to allow Eliezer to be circumcised
  • Moses keeps peace and doesn’t circumcise Eliezer
  • God calls Moses to be the leader of the Jewish nation
  • Moses reluctantly agrees to obey God and go to Egypt
  • Moses ignores the command to circumcise his son
  • Moses leaves for Egypt with Zipporah and his two sons
  • God (Angel of the Lord) intercepts the family in order to kill Moses
  • Zipporah circumcises Eliezer and God spares Moses

God has called Moses to lead the nation of Israel, but he first needs to learn to lead his own family. God expects for men to be godly husbands and fathers and provide spiritual leadership at home (Eph. 5:22-24; Heb. 12:9). Too many men have been content to opt out of spiritual leadership and leave the task to their wives. This is disobedience to the pattern for the family in the Bible. Men aren’t fit to lead anywhere else if they will not lead first at home. One of the basic qualifications for spiritual leadership in the New Testament is that a man leads his home (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Concerning Moses’ situation, Ronald B. Allen says “Moses was guilty of not carrying out circumcision in his own family, yet he was the one who was to lead the circumcised nation of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land.” This wasn’t some peripheral matter that could be excused. Circumcision was an important commandment for the Jewish people. It identified the males as belonging to God. Failure to be circumcised resulted in being rejected by God and cut off from the nation (Gen. 17:12-14). God was so serious about this that he would rather kill Moses than let him attempt to lead Israel while failing to obey the most basic of instructions to all Jews. We all do things to keep peace and we all pick our battles from time to time. However, we don’t get to pick battles where God’s Word and God’s will are concerned. We should value obedience to God’s commands more than the artificial peace born out of a lukewarm, compromised lifestyle.

There are two extremes of spiritual disunity in the home – the absentee, passive husband who just lets the wife make all the decisions to keep peace and the apathetic wife who does whatever the husband wants because she really doesn’t care. Men and women are both fallen and sinners, but we are sinners in different ways. Genesis 3:16 demonstrates that there is a power struggle between men and women. Men try to get their way by force and power, while women try to get their way with manipulation and cunning. Sinful but different. The best way for an unmarried person to avoid these types of struggles is to resolve to marry someone with the same faith and values as you. This will keep you from the trap of an “unequally yoked” marriage (2 Cor. 6:14).

God doesn’t want the family to be divided over spiritual issues; rather He desires spiritual unity. This was what Moses failed to achieve in his house. Moses and Zipporah had different social, religious, and cultural views. This resulted in a pagan compromise to withhold circumcision from their son, even though this was the most important expression of belonging to God. Zipporah either did not understand or did not care about the importance of obeying God completely. Moses should not have been content to leave her in this complacent spiritual state. He should have been concerned with his wife’s spiritual condition.  Don’t be content to let your spouse be the “spiritual one.” Also, don’t sit by and let your spouse die spiritually. Say as Joshua did, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). When Joshua made this declaration, he didn’t have to run it by his wife. Neither did his wife have to push him out to make it, nor did she make it for him. He stood there and boldly made this declaration and somewhere in the crowd, his godly wife was nodding her head in agreement saying, “That’s MY husband!” Let’s work with our family to build a godly home that brings glory to God and reflects the love of Christ.

Yahweh Our Father

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God relates to us in many ways, but no title represents His love and faithfulness for us as well as “Father.” While everyone may not have the blessing of a loving, earthly father; our God, Yahweh, longs to be the Father of all who will receive Him. God is presented as Father in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus addressed God as his Father (Matt.11:25) and instructs his followers to address God as Father as well (Matt. 6:5-15). In Psalm 103, David presents Yahweh as Father by praising Him for all his benefits and His mercy.  

God’s care for us is inexhaustible. David mentions at least five different benefits from our Father in verses 3 – 5. In verse 3, we find forgiveness and healing. Forgiveness is the first and primary provision for us. All earthly blessings we enjoy are of little value without the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Our healing, physical and spiritual, is a wonderful example of God’s complete care for us and we are to praise Him for all healing we experience. In verse 4, we see redemption and exaltation. David says God has “redeemed us from the pit.” Redeem means to “buy back,” or “deliver” while the pit refers to the grave. David is saying that Yahweh has rescued us from death and the grave. He goes on to say that we are “crowned with faithful love and compassion.” The word “crown” implies that we are given an important position such as royalty (Rev. 1:6). God’s love doesn’t only rescue us from the death we deserve, but His love exalts us to a position we do not deserve. In verse 5, we see our restoration. In Psalm 23:3, David said that God “restores my soul.” Through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, our heavenly Father can restore and renew us because “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

Because we are His children, we experience the spiritual blessing of God’s unconditional love. David assures us that this is not because of our goodness but because of God’s compassion and grace and because He is “slow to anger” and “rich in faithful love” (vs. 8). His love for us is as “high as the heavens are above the earth” (vs. 11). While we will receive chastisement and correction for sin (Heb. 12:6), God does not give us the punishment we truly deserve (vs. 10). Verse 12 tells us that our sins are forever and infinitely removed from us. God has separated the sin and the sinner in order to show love to us and punish our sins separately without condemning us to Hell. We know that the reason for this mercy is that Jesus bore our sins and was punished in our place at the cross (Isa. 53:5).

God gives us wonderful benefits and extends unconditional love to us, but this would be of little comfort if God were not true and unchanging. What if God changed His mind? We can be assured that He never will because of His eternal, unchanging promises. Verse 17 tells us that God’s love is faithful to us from eternity to eternity. This is amazing when considered in light of verses 15 and 16 which tells us how small and fleeting our human lives are. The eternal, unchanging God is faithful through all ages to small, insignificant people like us! I can be sure of God’s benefits tomorrow because of His truthfulness today.

It is easy to take the blessings of God for granted and even overlook them, but David charges us to “forget not” the many material and spiritual blessings that God has given us. We should remember the blessings of the past, enjoy the blessings of today, and be assured of the blessings of tomorrow.

This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, December 4, 2012.