Exodus Day Fourteen
July 20, 2020, 5:00 AM

A Bridegroom of Blood

Exodus 4:21-26

The LORD said to Moses,
“When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh
all the wonders which 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 son, My firstborn.
So I said to you, Let My son go that he may serve Me;
but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”
Now it came about at the lodging place on the way
that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.
Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and threw it at Moses' feet,
and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.’
So He let him alone.
At that time she said, ‘You are a bridegroom of blood’—
because of the circumcision.”

This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. I don’t think anyone really knows quite how to handle it. God has called Moses to go to Egypt on a mission to announce deliverance. The next thing you know, God is trying to kill Moses along the way. And then, his wife, Zipporah, takes out a knife and does emergency surgery along the way— under the cover of night. And she doesn’t seem too happy after the deed is done.

I think a key to understanding this strange exchange comes in verse 22— where Israel is described as “my firstborn son.” Back in Genesis 17, when God is establishing his covenant with Abraham, he says, “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised… Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (17:10, 14).

Even though this is something we must infer from the text, I think it’s plausible that between the time Moses was called at the burning bush, to the time he gathers himself to make the journey to Egypt, God must have been preparing him. “This is your history, Moses.” “This is how your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked before me.” “This is what it means to be my sons and daughters.” And then, Moses doesn’t get it. He fails to have his own two sons circumcised. (Exodus 4:20 mentions “sons” – 18:3-4 reveals the name of the other son, Eliezer.)

How can Moses lead God’s people when he doesn’t know how to be a good follower? His wife, Zipporah, obviously privy to the education Moses has been receiving from God, joins a long list of faithful women in the OT who understand God’s purposes and ways better than the men who are called to lead!

Yesterday, I spoke of the missteps and lack of follow through from Moses, and the people. Moses here, along the way, neglecting to bring his own two sons within the covenant, with the covenant sign. And then, failing to communicate the message and signs God gave him in the initial meeting with Pharaoh. “Mr. Pharaoh, sir, could you possibly see your way to please let me and my people go?” “Pretty please?” The subsequent obstinance and cruelty of Pharaoh, which ironically drives the people to seek relief and aid from their oppressor. “We are your people.” “Please hear the cries of your people.” To Pharaoh. Not to God. Sad. Disappointing. Painful disobedience and consequences to follow!

Moses and the people do not look good, initially. Perhaps this is not a very good omen of what’s to come. Maybe we’re getting a hint the people are going to need a detour out of Egypt. Oh, say a forty-year around about in the wilderness?

However! However painful this episode is to read, it is absolutely amazing how gracious God is in response. (6:1-2, 5-8 paraphrased)
God spoke, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh…”
God spoke,
“I am the LORD
…I have heard the groaning…
…I have remembered.
God spoke, I am the LORD.
I will bring you out.
I will deliver you.
I will redeem you.
I will take you.
You will be my people,
and I will be your God.
God spoke, I am the LORD your God,
who has brought you out.
I will bring you into the land.
I am the LORD.

I still marvel that this is the God we know in Jesus.
Israel is us. We are Israel.
God finds us making bricks, too.
And sometimes, we’re not too happy because we have to get our own straw.

I saw a meme a few weeks ago that captures the essence of the Gospel: “When God saved you, all the stupid stuff [you’ve done] was factored into the decision.” Stupid stuff = your sin; your failings; your repeated, pet failings; your faith-less-ness; etc. etc. etc.

There are a couple of great, iconic reminders from the apostle Paul, that capture the Good News, despite ourselves:

“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-6)

“You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

Hope that your Monday is off to a great start. Remember today, how faithful God is, even when we are not.


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