Has God ever done something that simply makes no sense to you? In our lives, much that happens to us, or even around us, is inexplicable. And, in Scripture, every now and then, we stumble onto an instance where the actions of our Creator and Savior make little sense to us. There is one of those in Exodus 4.
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.Exodus 4:24-26 NASB
This happens immediately following a side comment by God to Moses as Moses is preparing to head back to Egypt. There God explains why He intends to eventually kill the firstborn of Egypt. This will eventually be the final “plague”, and later, it will not have this explanation. The verses above pickup the account of Moses as he is on the way back to Egypt.
Like most commentators admit, there is no certainty about why God meets Moses along the way to kill (literally, cause someone to die). In fact, it’s not certain that God meets Moses specifically, but, rather, “him”. It’s the third person singular male pronoun rather than a specific person. The pronoun isn’t emphasized, but is the suffix of the verb “to meet”. That’s not truly helpful though. The problem is that grammatically, it makes more sense to understand that the pronoun has Moses as its antecedent than someone else. That may be confusing but there were other males with Moses, two specifically.
We’re told later that Moses has a second son, Eliezer. And the previous reference to Moses leaving his father-in-law says that he put his “sons” on a donkey, not just one. While his firstborn son, Gershom, we already know of, Eliezer hasn’t been mentioned yet. In fact, Exodus isn’t very forthcoming about Moses family-by-marriage. So, the third-person singular male pronoun could be either one of Moses’ sons, the one Moses’ wife, Zipporah, circumcises. But that’s not as clear as we’d like. It makes a certain amount of sense, though.
Circumcision is a practice of both the sons of Israel and Egyptians. Uncircumcised males were ostracized by both groups (Genesis 17:14). But the penalty for uncircumcision wasn’t death. So, even so, this seems peculiar behavior for the One having sent Moses back to Egypt to deliver the sons of Israel.
So, what does this reveal to us about the One calling us to His purposes, to His plans, and what He deems important? For one thing, He takes His callings and invitations to us very seriously. This seems to be a matter of life and death to God. For another, He is a serious God. Our Creator doesn’t take His relationship with us lightly, nor should we take it lightly. Our relationship with our Creator is life and death business. Think of this statement by Paul:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.Philippians 3:7 — 11 (NASB)
It’s easy to ignore the clear uncertainty in Paul’s wording in verse 11, but maybe we shouldn’t. Perhaps Paul senses something in his relationship with Jesus that we miss or conveniently ignore. Maybe, for Paul, his relationship with Jesus is a matter of life and death. Look what he says immediately following:
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12 — 14 (NASB)
Notice Paul repeats his view that he hasn’t obtained the resurrection yet. It could be that Paul is pointing out the obvious, that Jesus hasn’t returned yet. But isn’t it more realistic that Paul is pointing out that He does not consider himself qualified for the resurrection? Review the context again, does it sound like he is referring to Jesus appearing? Or have we assumed it’s a reference to Jesus’ return because the alternative is so unsettling? Maybe this One with Whom we have to do is more serious than we think. It seems Paul took Him very seriously.
Perhaps you think Paul is a bit overly fanatical for your tastes. Perhaps you prefer to rely on Jesus’ teaching, as if you will find solace there for this topic. Check out how Luke records the words of Jesus regarding discipleship:
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.Luke 14:26 NASB
Or perhaps you prefer Matthew:
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.Matthew 10:37-39 NASB
Sounds like life and death for Jesus as well. Yahweh seeks to bring death into a family where there is disobedience along the path of obedience. Paul strives as if his life depends on his effort to reach Jesus. Jesus calls his disciples, who have already left home and occupation for Him, to hate every other relationship other than Him, or they are not worthy (Matthew) of Him. It’s serious. God is serious. The relationship we have with Jesus is serious, and it seems like God seeks serious people to relate to. It seems as if this “salvation” in which we live is a matter of life and death now, not just in the future, at a judgement, comfortably far off in the future.
And keep in mind, Moses was on his way, albeit reluctantly, to obey God when he was confronted with death from God. Whatever else it may mean, for whatever other reason may have been present, the inescapable fact is that God sought to cause death within Moses’ family. That was His intent, and He relents when Moses’ wife circumcises their son. They escaped divine disaster by the foreskin of their son.
If this feels creepy, good. If you find this unsettling, that’s probably an indicator you’re finally understanding God better. If you are wondering if you really signed up for the right program, then you are finally getting gist of Luke’s depiction of the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33). It’s supposed to be unsettling. Yet, on the other hand, we’re supposed to be focused on making disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20). So, yes, it’s expensive, but, we’re supposed to pony up the cost.
In other words, this unsettling, kind of creepy, Creator of the universe relating to us, not only sacrificed His only Son for this relationship, but expects no less of us. To a bratty selfish entitled culture, that sounds harsh. To so many others around this globe, it makes a lot of sense. For many among the most populous nations of the earth, any expression of faith in Jesus costs them everything. It never occurs to them to take their relationship with Jesus any less serious than He takes it. Maybe it’s time for us to put on a pair of “grown-up-disciple-pants”, lest we too are met along the path of obedience by our Master seeking to cause death.