Crossfunction: March 2007

Friday, March 09, 2007

Exodus 4: Why God almost killed Moses

Exodus 4:24. And when he [Moses] was in his journey, in the inn, the Lord met him, and would have killed him.

4:25. Immediately Sephora took a very sharp stone, and circumcised the foreskin of her son, and touched his feet, and said: A bloody spouse art thou to me.

4:26. And he let him go after she had said: A bloody spouse art thou to me, because of the circumcision.

God set out to kill Moses evidently because Moses had neglected to circumcise his son as God had commanded. Genesis 17 says of males that circumcision grants entry into the old covenant, and failure to be circumcised results in breaking the covenant and being “cut off” from God’s people. Circumcision was efficacious, and its efficacy was founded upon and guaranteed by God’s Word.

In the present case God holds Moses, not the son, responsible for ignoring this solemn command. Perhaps the son was not yet old enough to understand or ask for circumcision. In any case God’s anger falls upon Moses. Moses is to blame not for failing to be circumcised, but for failing to bless his son with the visible and efficacious rite commanded by God. He neglected to mediate to his son the benefits which God promised to those who were circumcised.

Moses’ sin of omission is so grave that God is prepared to punish him with death. Not only has Moses failed to obey God, he has also failed in his responsibility as a father to protect and bless his son: the life and covenantal status of his son hang in the balance.

But why does this incident occur now, on the way to Egypt? Moses is about to deliver God’s command that Pharoah free the Israelites from their bondage so they may worship the true God. The life of Pharoah’s son –and ultimately of Pharoah- depends upon his father’s obedience to God’s command. Yet Moses, God’s messenger, stands convicted by that very message: he has failed to obey God, and failed to liberate his own son –through circumcision- in order that both Moses and his son may be counted among God’s people.

Remarkably, God’s anger relents not as a result of Moses repenting of his sin, but upon Sephora’s wise and decisive action in circumcising her son. She did what Moses had failed to do, and by blood and decree associated Moses with the obedience of her righteous act, as far as she was able. Sephora’s action is truly remarkable, and evidently was acceptable to God. In a single moment she supplied what her son vitally needed, rescued her husband from condemnation and death, and placed herself in a position of humble, loving, and profound obedience to God’s will. If Sephora had not circumcised Moses’ son, Moses would have remained unfit to carry out his mission, and would not even have survived the trip to Egypt.