“And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt….And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him (Moses), and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his (Moses) feet….”
Exodus 4: 20, 24, 25
King James Version
“Zipporah – Obedience That Matters”
“Obedience is the key of knowledge.”
In a marital relationship, when I hear the word “obey” spoken, what does it make me think about and what kind of response to this word comes to my mind?
“Obedience is the only virtue that plants the other virtues in the heart and preserves them after they have been planted.”
“I believe that we get an answer to our prayers when we are willing to obey what is implicit in that answer. I believe that we get a vision of God when we are willing to accept what that vision does to us.”
I’m old enough that I can remember when it was routine during a wedding ceremony for a woman to vow to “love, honor, and obey.” When Jim and I married 31 years ago, we said, “love, honor and cherish.” It sounds better. But is “obey” a bad word to say in relationships?
If we go back to the beginning of our studies of all the women in the Bible, you may recall that we looked at the meaning of the word “obey,” and found that it doesn’t mean, “I’ll hit you with a stick if you don’t do what I tell you to do.”
“Obey” means to “to listen.” It is the type of “listening” that makes us desire to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of what is being said.
Today, we are going to look at the word “obedience” again as it pertains to the lives of Moses and Zipporah. But to do this, we need to go back in history to the call of God – when He chose Abraham to be the father of a great nation. One of the signs of this special calling was the act of circumcising the male offspring. I don’t know whether God explained the why of this procedure but certainly in modern days, medical knowledge has shown it to have “hygienic” benefits.
If we roll time forward to the life of Moses, it is very likely that because he was born of God-fearing Hebrew parents, this procedure had been performed on him. But after living in an Egyptian palace for 40 years and then among Midianities for another 40 years, it appears the significance of circumcision wasn’t apparent to Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and maybe not even to Moses, himself.
Obviously, as our text tells us, at least one of Moses’ children wasn’t circumcised.
Let’s look for a moment at this very drastic scene. The Bible says that when Moses and Zipporah and their two children stopped for the night God “sought to kill him.” I don’t know about you but this passage makes God sound very scary! “If you don’t do what I say I’ll kill you!” Does this sound like a God of love or a God of fear? And would you obey a God like this out of love or fear? These are tough questions we will encounter over and over in the next few weeks because sometimes God’s behavior appears frightening. If you believe, as I do, that God is gracious, kind, and loving, then we must continually look for the bigger picture and the larger lessons that help us grasp the reasons behind God’s action. I believe this story is certainly one of the times when you have to ask yourself, “Why did God treat Moses as He did?”
Many Biblical commentators are of the impression that the older son of Moses may have had the Hebrew rite of circumcision performed but the younger did not because Zipporah hindered Moses. This is surmising, for the Bible doesn’t tell us why one son wasn’t circumcised.
However, seeing her husband ill, Zipporah took a “rock knife,” a very common practice at that time, and performed the procedure on their son, but not without telling her husband, in no uncertain terms that he was a “bloody” husband to her. Obviously, Zipporah appeared to have felt the procedure was barbaric and she wasn’t pleased she had to make this accommodation to save her husband’s life.
Now let’s look at the big lesson on obedience that is woven into this story. When Moses went to Midian, he wanted to fit in. For all he knew he’d be there the rest of his life. It may also be that when Zipporah first met Moses, she was much more desirous of learning the ways of a Hebrew and his God. So when their first child was born, Zipporah went along with the rites of the Hebrews. But as time passed, it appears to me that obedience – or listening to what God had to say – gave way to compromise. And God wanted Moses and Zipporah to understand that Moses, as the leader of the Israelites on their journey out of bondage, could not compromise and cut corners with God’s instructions.
In the New Testament in Matthew 10: 37 (K.J.V.), Jesus states, “He (or she) that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” I remember when I first read this text how harsh I thought it sounded. But let’s take a look at Jesus’ words and how they pertain to the story of Moses and Zipporah and the word: obedience.
If we go back to the call of Abraham, we find God chose special people in order for them to be a conduit of His love to others. God’s request for “obedience” wasn’t arbitrary – it was protective. God’s children were bordered by a hedge of obedience. For when God’s children listened to Him with an understanding heart, they were kept from harm and heartache. When Jesus said in Matthew, “nothing should ever get in the way of your obedience or listening,” He was talking about the hedge of protection that keeps us in God’s will. No one can break that hedge. Not even father or mother. And Moses could not let Zipporah stop him from fulfilling God’s request.
Often in relationships we find it easy to let someone impede God’s purpose for another’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting running rough-shod over your mate and then telling them, “God impressed me to do what I did.” This is not heavenly obedience, it’s self-willed tyranny.
In a relationship, coming together to be of one-mind in the Lord means that no person tries to dominate the others. It means there is harmonious discussion rather than demands to be met.
I laugh when I think about a marriage ceremony saying “love and obey.” It sounds so old-fashioned. But what if, instead of “love and obey,” in our relationships we learned to “love, listen, and understand.” I believe heavenly harmony would be present and our homes would be shelters from the storms of life. Obedience – a lesson in listening that understands.
“Lord, make me according to Thy heart.”
“God of mercy, God of grace, teach me to hold my will attentive in the liberty Thou gavest me, that I may will with Thee to do Thy will as Thou doest show it me, draw me to respond to Thee in each separate occasion of the passing time that when the vanities of earth are passed I may remain forever in the loving rhythm of Thy everlasting peace.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus