And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision. Exodus 4:24-26.
One of our readers has asked a question concerning this very interesting and unusual passage in God's Word: "Why did the Lord seek to kill Moses?"
Moses was returning to Egypt at the command of God after 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai where he tended Jethro's sheep. While with Jethro he had married Jethro's daughter, Zipporah, and had had two sons with her. But Moses had failed to circumcise his sons.
The text strongly suggests that Zipporah was opposed to the circumcision of her sons; and that may very well have been the reason Moses had neglected to do this. Nevertheless, this was sinful on Moses' part, and this sin was the reason why God sought to kill him. The ferocity of God's anger indicates what a serious sin this was.
It was a serious sin because it was simply disobedience to God. God had given the rite of circumcision to Abraham, and had commanded Abraham and all his generations to circumcise their male children. Failure to do this was disobedience.
Disobedience to God's express commands is always a serious sin. One is reminded of Samuel's words to Saul: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (I Sam. 15:22, 23). There is never an excuse for disobedience.
But the sin of failing to circumcise his sons was made more serious by the fact that God specifically gave circumcision to Abraham as his generations as a sign and seal of His covenant. It signified and sealed for Abraham and his generations that God had established His covenant with them (in distinction from all the nations of the earth), had chosen to make them His covenant people, had promised to save them and their children; and had indicated, through circumcision, that He had graciously imputed to them the righteousness which is by faith.
By failing to circumcise his children, Moses was being inexcusably careless with God's covenant, and indicating by his disobedience that God's covenant meant very little to him. It is true that Zipporah was not born in the line of the covenant and that she did not appreciate fully the significance of the rite. She apparently could not understand the importance of such a bloody sign and seal. But that does not mean that Moses is to be excused. He was the head of the family; he was covenant head within the family; he was responsible for seeing to it that his children received the sign and seal of the covenant.
His failure to do so actually disqualified him from being Israel's leader, for Israel was God's covenant people. Thus God sought to kill him. The sin of Moses was worthy of death.
How exactly God sought to kill him is not indicated in the text; but it was evident to Moses that he was about to die, and that the reason was that he had failed to circumcise his boys. God used this chastisement to bring Moses to repentance for his sin. The fact that Zipporah threw the foreskin of her son at Moses feet might indicate that Moses was very ill, for he may not have been able to do himself what had to be done.
God surely would not have killed Moses. God had chosen Moses and prepared him for the special task of leading Israel from Egypt, and God loved His servant Moses greatly. But God used this severe chastisement to show Moses how great his sin was and how important it was that he obey the Lord. It is the Lord's way of teaching His children.
The Lord has replaced the sign and seal of circumcision with baptism which is the sign and seal of the covenant in this dispensation (Col. 2:11, 12). When believers fail to baptize their children, they demonstrate a careless disregard for God's covenant and a spiritual disinterest in their children's salvation. They fail to lay hold on God's promise that He will be the God of both believers and their seed. This is a great sin.
God's people are a covenant-conscious people. And their faith in God's promise manifests itself in their obedience to God's command to baptize their children.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 12
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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