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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

March 29, 2017

Exodus  4:18-31

  1. Verse 18. Clutching his staff, Moses set out to ask Jethro’s permission to leave, along with his wife and two sons. It would seem that such permission was required (cf. Gen. 31, esp. vss. 26-30). Moses’ request was evasive, even deceptive: “Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive” (Exod. 4:18). Moses avoids telling Jethro of God’s appearance in the burning bush and of the commission he had been given. We can assume that Moses knows that his father in law might not agree to let his daughter and grandchildren go if he knew the real reason. Moses may have well not been all that sure himself about the journey. How would he explain a burning bush talking to him? Avoiding the true (or the whole) purpose of his return was one thing, but Moses went beyond this. He told Jethro that he wanted to learn if any of his people were still alive. It is possible that Moses meant that he wanted to see if his mother and father were still alive. Moses might not have kept in contact with any of his family and may not have known if any were alive, except for the fact that God said his people were still alive and suffering.

  2. Verses l9-20. Moses had no reason to fear, God assured him, for the Pharaoh who had sought to take his life was dead. But it almost seems as though Moses rearranged the facts God had given, so as to suggest that Moses needed to see if his own people were, in fact, alive and well. Did Moses inadvertently confuse the facts, or did he deceptively rearrange the facts so as to gain the permission of Jethro to take his family to Egypt? We do not know. Jethro, who seems to be a wise and gracious man, grants Moses’ request, wishing him well (v. 18). And so it was that Moses set out on his way back to Egypt, taking along his wife and two sons. Moses, we are told, took the “staff of God” in his hand (v. 20). How he must have studied that stick, which he had carried so long, and which now was an instrument of God.

  3. Verses 2l-26. God had instructed Moses to perform all the wonders he was empowered to do before Pharaoh. This was not in the hope of convincing or converting Pharaoh, however, for his heart would be hardened by God. We are also told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Here, for the first time, the nation of Israel is referred to as the firstborn son of God (Exod. 4:22-23). Because Pharaoh would not release Israel, God’s firstborn son, to worship Him in the desert, God would have Moses tell Pharaoh that He will kill his firstborn. What is the significance here of this statement about Pharaoh’s firstborn son? It would seem that it is intended to serve as a backdrop for the strange, almost bizarre, incident described in verses 24-26. Here Moses, Zipporah, and their two sons are on their way to Egypt (v. 24) via Mt. Sinai it would appear (cf. 4:27). The Lord met Moses at their lodging place and seemed intent to kill him. Moses’ life was spared by the quick action taken by his wife, Zipporah. She took a flint knife, circumcised her son, and touched Moses with the foreskin, with the rebuke, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” Because of her actions, God let Moses alone. This event is the key to the entire chapter, explaining Moses’ deeply rooted resistance to obeying the call of God to return to Egypt to rescue the Israelites. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant, an evidence of the parents’ faith in the promise of God to Abraham that through his seed blessings would come to Israel and to the whole world (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). As a testimony of the parents’ faith in God’s covenant promise, every male in Israel was to be circumcised (Gen. 17:9-l4). The basis of Israel’s salvation (as pictured by the bush that didn’t bum up) was the covenant made with Abraham. Moses was to go to Egypt and tell the Israelites that God was about to fulfill His promises, based upon His covenant. And yet Moses had not yet circumcised his son. And if this son is his firstborn, he has had many years in which to do so. If God takes the “hardness of Pharaoh’s heart” so seriously as to kill his firstborn son (Exod. 4:21-23), then He must likewise deal with the sin of Moses who by not circumcising his own son has endangered him greatly. According to the word of the Lord recorded in Genesis 17, his son should have been “cut off from his people.” The holiness of God is clearly manifested in the near fatal illness of Moses. God does not look lightly on any sin. Moses’ wife rightly perceived the problem and spared the life of her husband by her prompt action. The great man Moses was saved by his wife’s keen perception and decisive measures. Her rebuke was well deserved, and Moses was man enough to record it for posterity. Would that we husbands had the integrity to be so honest. This verse for me, highlights that Moses wife and his in laws were keenly aware of the Lord and his ways. I see too many people want to think that Moses and the Hebrews were the only ones who knew God, this is a big mistake. Moses wife, raised by Jethro, knew God’s requirements.

  4. Verses 27-31. By divine revelation God instructed Aaron to meet Moses in the wilderness (4:27). They met on the holy mountain of God. What a happy reunion that must have been. Many years would seem to have passed since they had seen each other, maybe even the entire 40 years had passed, we don’t know for sure. Most of all, Moses had to share the most recent events of his life, especially his encounter with God at the burning bush, the commission he had been given to deliver Israel, and the part which Aaron was to play in it all. One can only surmise what Aaron’s response to this might have been. Together Moses and Aaron went back to Egypt and met with the elders of the Israelites, telling them all that God had said to Moses and performing all the signs which God had given Moses (4:29-30). Both the elders of Israel and the people believed Moses and bowed down to worship the God of their fathers (4:31). This brief account of Israel’s belief and worship underscores the fact that all of Moses’ fears were unfounded.

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