Bible lessons Spiritual leadership

In Exodus 4:24, why was God going to kill Moses? A lesson for parents and pastors

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After God appeared to Moses in the land of Midian, God instructed Moses to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from bondage. So, Moses took his family and headed to Egypt. “And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, 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 Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!” – because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26 NKJV). 

Why was the Lord about to kill Moses that night, when it was the Lord himself who sent Moses back to Egypt?

For 80 years, the Lord had protected and prepared Moses for the very purpose of leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt. God interceded and saved Moses, when he was an infant, from the Pharaoh’s  order to kill the newborn Hebrew male babies.

Through God’s divine orchestration, instead of Moses being murdered by the hand of Pharoah, Moses was raised in the Pharaooh’s palace, and trained in the ways and knowledge of Egypt. Moses’ background, training, and skills were unique among the Hebrews. God had fashioned all of it!

And yet, as Moses traveled to Egypt, the Lord’s anger was so roused against him, the Lord considered killing him. What had Moses done, or failed to do, that so angered the Lord?

Moses had neglected (disobeyed) an imperative covenant commandment that God had given to all Hebrew parents. That was: Moses hadn’t had his son(s) circumcised.

Given through Abraham, this was God’s covenant commandment to the people:

“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcied, every male child . . . and My convenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting convenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:10-14)

The Midianites, although they were also descendants from Abraham, apparently hadn’t kept God’s commandment to circumcise their sons. Still, a group’s neglience doesn’t excuse its individual members. So, Moses should’ve had his sons circumcised when they were eight days old. Moses knew it, but He didn’t do it.

Having failed to have his sons circumsised when they were infants, Moses definitely should’ve cirucumstised them before he started back to Egypt to become a leader of the Israelites, God’s chosen people.

It was Moses’ responsibility as a Hebrew father to have his sons circumcised. Instead, Moses adapted to the ways of the Midianites, over the commandment of the Lord. Although Moses knew the Lord’s covenant commandment, He forsook it. And that was a grave offense in the Lord’s eyes.

Fathers are called to be spiritual leaders in their households. They have God-given responsibilities to teach and train their family in obedience to God’s Word. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

The Lord said to the Israelites, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deut. 6:6-7). For parents to neglect this responsibility is a serious thing to the Lord.

Further, if a man is negligent in upholding God’s instructions in his role as spiritual leader of his household, he isn’t ready for ministry over God’s people. “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God” (1 Tim. 3:5).

When Moses started back to Egypt, he still hadn’t met his spiritual leadership obligation for his own sons. That is why the Lord considered killing him.

Moses set out to take on a religious leadership role for the people of Israel (God’s people), yet he remained negligent in his responsibility as spiritual leader of his own household. That disobedience was so serious to God that if Zipporah, Moses’ wife, hadn’t stepped up, Moses would’ve died there, without God allowing him to return to Egypt.

That is difficult for us to understand because we know how the Lord had prepared and called Moses for this role. And, we know the man who Moses would become after this. Yet, what we know about Moses from looking back, the Lord knew about Moses in foresight.

Even so, God was angry enough that he considered removing Moses and calling someone else to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. As difficult as this is for us to understand, it should emphasize to us how important it is to God that a man first meet his role as spiritual leader over his family. It magnifies the significance that God holds to a father’s responsibility for upholding God’s instructions within his household and before his children.

God holds parents accountable for training their children in God’s ways and instructions. That is an important lesson for all parents who are believers—and even more so for men called to church leadership positions.

The role as a spiritual leader over God’s people must begin at home, as a husband and father. If a man is negligent in that, the Lord will not settle him into a leadership role inside a church until he actively strives to care for his responsibilities at home. God can, and will, at any time revoke a man’s calling and call another up if a man neglects his spiritual role at home. That’s how important the role of a father (and mother) is to the Lord.

This account further gives us a picture of being saved from death—after being touched by blood. For when Zipporah touched Moses with the foreskin cut from their son’s body, it would’ve had their son’s blood on it. So, in essence, Moses’ life was redeemed by the shedding of blood (and the faith of Zipporah).

Zipporah then used a phrase “You are a husband of blood.” This is a foreshadowing of our position in Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. And He purchased His Church by His blood. “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). In Christ, we are saved from everlasting death by His shed blood. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Another thing we know from this passage is that Moses had been circumcised by his parents because Zipporah would’ve otherwise had to circumcise Moses at that time as well. So, Moses’ parents, Amram and Jochebed, had been faithful to the Lord’s commandment and had him circumcised on the 8th day of his life.

That was done even though it could have cost them their lives because Pharaoh had commanded that all newborn Hebrew boys were to be thrown into the Nile River. Disobedience to that command could mean death. However, Amram and Jochebed were more “fearful” of remaining in obedience to the Lord’s command, than they were in fear of Pharaoh.

They obeyed God, over the fear of man. They had Moses circumcised on the 8th day of his life, which was well before he was laid in a basket and placed among the reeds along the banks of the Nile River. Moses wasn’t placed in the basket until several months after he was born (cf. Exod. 2:1-3).

In the movie, “The Ten Commandments,” it portrays Moses learning that he was Hebrew after discovering a piece of Hebrew woven cloth, that’s not scriptural. However, the truth is that Moses knew he was Hebrew because he was circumcised. Hebrew males were circumcised, while the Egyptian males were not. So, Moses would’ve figured out he was Hebrew as he grew up because the evidence of his heritage was marked on his body.

Moses knew of his heritage because of the obedience of his Hebrew parents when he was an infant. We, as Christian parents, have a responsibility to impress and imprint God’s commandments and ways to our children. For that is both God’s command and expectations for us as parents, and the highest heritage that we should desire for our children.

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