Hey, so, do y'all remember that part in Exodus where the Lord sought to put Moses to death and then Moses' wife, Zipporah, circumcises their son and touches Moses' feet with her son's foreskin?
To be fair, all of this takes up just three verses sandwiched between the Lord commissioning Moses and Moses gathering with his brother, Aaron, and the elders of the people of Israel just before confronting Pharaoh and delivering the Israelites. Take a look:
"And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 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!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped." Exodus 4:21-31
See what I mean? What are we supposed to do with this?
Okay, first, let's remember that God called Moses. God heard His people and intended to deliver them. God gave Moses promises concerning this weighty call:
"When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”"
God called Moses by name and promised not only the Israelites' deliverance, but also His presence with Moses and a sign unto him - "...when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." So, did the Lord really intend to put Moses to death?
There's a lot about these three verses that are not straightforward and even invite some speculation, but I do think that we can look at the text and also Scripture as a whole and see that, a) the Lord's promises are true, and b) if He really did seek to put Moses to death, He absolutely could have, but He ultimately did not. So why is this included, then?
I believe we see here the importance of obedience unto the Lord. For some reason, Moses' son was not circumcised. We see in Genesis 17 that God commands circumcision as a sign of the covenant between Abraham and God. "So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant." (17:13b) I believe we can conclude with some certainty that Moses himself was circumcised (Pharaoh's daughter did immediately recognize Moses as one of the Hebrews' children) and yet his son was not. How could Moses answer the call of the Lord to deliver the people of Israel from slavery and oppression if he was not obedient to the Lord's command? How could he move into the promise of God if he was neglecting the covenant of God?
Matthew Henry's commentary says this, "Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment, and particularly the contempt and neglect of the seals of the covenant; for it is a sign that we undervalue the promises of the covenant, and are displeased with the conditions of it."
Whoa. Okay. Let's talk about Zipporah now.
For whatever reason, their son was not circumcised. And yet, when this event happens, Zipporah somehow knows exactly what to do.
And she does it.
All speculation of her part in this ommissive disobedience aside (as she was a Midianite), she, at the very least, knew of the call Moses had received from the Lord Himself and had left her home behind in order to set out for Egypt. And when faced with the conviction and judgment of the Lord, she immediately obeys. She knows - and she goes. Whatever reservations she may have had before, any mindset or notion - gone, in the presence of the Lord.
Listen, dear sister: we have to know that our obedience is of utmost importance. There are going to be times in our lives when the Lord has set something before us and we need to be obedient. That may look like stepping forward in obedience into a calling, yes, but we also must be faithful to listen and to obey quickly, when the Lord confronts us by His Word and by His Spirit. When conviction stirs in your heart and sears your conscience, do not delay! Do you not know what God has promised and the fullness of life that lies before you?
Zipporah may not inspire us to radical obedience in the same way that, say, Miriam or the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1 may, but in her swift obedience on the precipice of the call and subsequent promise of the Lord, she provokes an immediate obedience, full of a great fear of the Lord.
May we remember Zipporah and today, even, invite the Lord in to cleanse our hearts, transform our minds and invite us into even greater obedience. May we step right into the promises of God over our lives, fully trusting in His Word, His character and His ways. May we remember such a seemingly small step of obedience that was of the utmost importance before the Lord God Almighty and that led to the deliverance of a nation and the securing of freedom for generations thereafter. That is how very big our obedience is.
May we have fresh eyes to see!
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