Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, "Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive." Jethro said, "Go, and I wish you well." (Exodus 4:18 NIV)
Moses is getting ready to go fulfill his part of God’s plan. When we finish with a God encounter, we can struggle with whether it was real or not. Often times, though, it gets real…fast. The prayer time turns into action time. The Scripture turns into a habit change. We find ourselves coming face to face with the changes that will need to take place in order to do what God calls us to do. So, we make the changes. It’s real.
Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, "Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead." So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand. The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, "Let my son go, so he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'" (Exodus 4:19-23 NIV)
When his story is told, people often relegate Aaron to sidekick status. Moses’ wife, Zipporah, often doesn’t even make it into the story. She certainly doesn’t make it into the Sunday school class version of the story. That’s because her part of the story gets angry and bloody. You see, Moses is moving his wife and children with him. They are all going to Egypt together. This is going to be a family ministry. That’s why Moses got permission from Zipporah’s father, Jethro, to go and do what God said. Moses is trying to preserve the family unity here. Moses, it seems, is ready to give in to people even if it means not following God. This is an important insight that will help us understand what happens next.
Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." (Genesis 17:9-14 NIV)
Moses just had a God encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses is about to go speak to the elders of Israel. They all identify themselves as God-followers through the rite of circumcision. This is a rite that would have been performed on Moses on the eighth day after his birth. This rite, however, wasn’t performed on one of his sons. Moses wasn’t following God in the details of his life and family. So, Moses was struck by God with an illness and was about to die.
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it. "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me," she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said "bridegroom of blood," referring to circumcision.) (Exodus 4:24-26 NIV)
Perhaps Moses was trying to appease his wife. (Clearly she did not like the rite of circumcision.) Maybe Moses was simply waiting longer than he should. (The baby could have turned 8 days old while they were on the road. Moses could have been putting the ceremony off until a more opportune time.) Whatever the reason, Moses did not circumcise his son on the eighth day, became too ill to do it, and his wife performed the ceremony. As soon as she performed the ceremony, Moses got better. They could not escape following God in the details.
How about you? Do your God-encounters get real, fast? Do you see God’s call in your life today? Do you forget about the parts God said hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago as preserved in His Word? Do you follow God in the big things, only to ignore following Him in the details?