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.

The Character of Leadership 1 Timothy 3:1-15

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WANTED: Christian leaders and teachers! Must have church membership and a pulse! Does this sound familiar? Too often in ministry we find ourselves shorthanded when it comes to responsible leaders. We have positions to fill and not enough qualified leaders to fill them. As a result, we enlist unqualified volunteers hoping for the best and then we find ourselves disappointed. Timothy was a young pastor at Ephesus who probably faced this same ministry challenge. His mentor, the apostle Paul, gave him some key characteristics to look for in potential leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-15. Paul deals specifically with pastors and deacons in this passage, but these qualifications are a must for anyone in Christian leadership. These characteristics deal with three areas of a leader’s life: his character, competence, and creed.
A leader’s character must be “blameless” and “respectable” (vs. 2, 8). A leader must take every measure to protect his integrity and never give away influence. The reason for this is to avoid falling into “disgrace” and “a snare of the devil” (vs. 7). We lose influence when we lose integrity. How many leaders have been destroyed because a scandal destroyed their influence? Paul warns of some common character flaws that endanger our integrity: sexual sin, self-indulgence, greed, anger, and hypocrisy (vs. 2-8). Nearly all leadership failings stem from these character flaws. Many may disagree with our theology, but a true leader will never give others a valid reason to question his integrity or ethics.
A Christian leader must also be a competent leader who is “sensible” (vs. 2). Someone who is sensible has their priorities straight, is disciplined, and is serious about their responsibility. An unorganized, unprepared person who is flippant about their duties does not need to be given spiritual responsibilities. A Christian leader must be “able to teach.” It is not enough to know God’s Word personally; we must be able to communicate it to others so they understand it. Some aspects of competent leadership must be developed over time, such as the ability to wield leadership with humility (vs. 6). This is why young Christians should not be placed in leadership roles immediately (vs. 6, 10). We must follow before we can lead. One great indicator of leadership competence for an adult is the status in their home. An irresponsible spouse or parent will make an irresponsible leader (vs. 4, 5, 12). Individuals who don’t display competence in secular matters won’t be competent with spiritual matters either (Luke 16:10, 11).
A leader must be committed to some type of creed; in our case that creed is the Bible. Christian leaders must hold “the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (vs. 9). What is the mystery of faith? “[God] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (vs. 16). If a leader cannot affirm the doctrines of Christianity, he is certainly not eligible for Christian leadership. Leaders in a local church should be familiar with the church’s doctrinal statement to insure clear communication on what type of teaching is expected. We cannot compromise our convictions especially where leadership is concerned.
I recently heard a Christian speaker say that we recruit 95% of our problems. Perhaps this is true. It is not enough to simply desire to be a leader (vs. 1), but one must possess godly leadership abilities and ethics. Paul gave this list of leadership qualities to help the church identify those ready to lead and to help leaders to stay on track (vs. 15). We need to intentionally develop these traits in others in order to raise up capable leaders in our churches. If we discard this vital checklist from our leader training and enlisting process, we are ignoring the God of order and inviting chaos into our midst.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, February 5, 2013.