Sermon on Exodus 4:18-31 – “Moses’s Meetings”

Sermon for Sunday, February 14th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Exo 4:18-31 ESV] 18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'” 24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. 27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

New Testament reading:

[2Th 2:9-15 ESV] 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

Gospel reading:

[Mat 2:19-23 ESV] 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

INTRODUCTION

What are the final preparations you take before leaving on a big trip?

You pack all your clothes and electronics. You turn off the coffee maker. And you lock up the house.

Maybe you get the approval from your boss for the time off, you gather up the family into the Subaru, and you make sure you’ve got your hiking poles.

I. Meeting with Jethro

If you’re Moses your final preparation includes getting the permission of your father-in-law, gathering up the family to ride on the donkey, and making sure you have your staff.

And, remember, that staff is more than just an aid to walking. It is by the staff that God has promised to perform one of three miracles to convince the Israelites to follow Moses as a prophet of God. The staff, you will recall from last week, becomes a snake when thrown on the ground, but when Moses grabs the tail of the snake it becomes a staff again.

Moses meets with his father-in-law Jethro. And Jethro gives permission for Moses to depart. He says “Go in peace.”

So Moses heads out to Egypt with his wife (Zipporah) and their sons. So far we know of the son named Gershom. But now it is plural “sons.” Moses and Zipporah have had a second son. And his name is Eliezer, but we don’t find that name specifically mentioned until Exodus 18:4.

Well, off they go.

II. Meeting with God

Moses has met with Jethro. Now he meets with God.

First, in Midian, God says to Moses “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.”

God is giving Moses that assurance – that he will be safe back in Egypt. It has been forty years and no one there is any longer anyone seeking to kill him.

This might remind us of Joseph and Mary coming back from Egypt to the land of Israel with Jesus only AFTER Herod the Great has died. With Herod’s death no one is seeking to kill the infant males in Bethlehem. They are safe to return.

We find in verse 21 of our text that God says to Moses “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power.”

This is interesting, because up till now this signs were for the people of ISRAEL. They were to convince them to follow Moses.

But now the purpose of the miracles changes. Or is added to. They are to show God’s power to Pharaoh. Yet, Pharaoh will not believe. Why does he not believe? Because, as God says, “I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.”

This “hardening of Pharaoh’s heart” has been much discussed in theology. Some people are uncomfortable with these passages. They want the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to be Pharaoh’s own work. And it is indeed. But it is also the Lord’s work. The Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh hardens Pharaoh’s heart. These are both true.

In this meeting of Moses with God, God explains to Moses that he is to say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”

And God gives this threat to Pharaoh through Moses: “If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'”

All of this could be said to be the first of 2 meetings here between God and Moses. This first meeting is in Midian, and God is giving Moses directions of what to say. But God and Moses soon meet again “at a lodging place on the way.” That is, on the way to Egypt.

And this meeting is more frightening than friendly.

There, the Scripture says “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.”

WHAT?

Wasn’t God just threatening Pharaoh? Why has the threat now come upon Moses?

What is going on here? Why is God suddenly seeking to put Moses to death?

The commentators Keil and Delitzsch explain: “This hostile attitude on the part of God was occasioned by his [Moses’s] neglect to circumcise his son; for, as soon as Zipporah cut off the foreskin of her son with a stone, Jehovah let him go.”

25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

See, circumcision had been enjoined upon Abraham by God as a covenant sign for all his descendants; and the sentence of death was pronounced upon any neglect of it, as being a breach of the covenant.

We read of this in Genesis chapter 17. God says to Abraham:

[Gen 17:10-14 ESV] 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Circumcision – the sign and seal of the covenant – is not something that God wants his people to postpone or withhold.

Moses had not circumcised his son, and this is a sin.

The reason that Moses had not circumcised his son is thought be because his Midianite wife (and/or father-in-law) was opposed to it or repulsed by it. When she finally does the circumcision herself she casts the foreskin upon Moses’s feet. That the way the King James translates it – casts. In our ESV it merely says she touched Moses’s feet with it. But that doesn’t give the sense of disgust or anger that she has. She throws it at Moses’s feet.

It is as if she says, “Here, now it is done.”

And with this Zipporah has saved Moses from the wrath of God. She has purchased Moses’s life by the blood of her child.

Zipporah calls Moses a “blood-bridegroom” “because she had been compelled, as it were, to acquire and purchase him anew as a husband by shedding the blood of her son.”

From this episode we are to learn the following application:

Application: Do not delay in doing that which God has commanded. [REPEAT: Do not delay in doing that which God has commanded.]

Matthew Henry says: “When God discovers to us what is amiss in our lives, we must give all diligence to amend it speedily.”

If you owe someone money, pay it as soon as you can.

If you are not praying to God regularly, set aside a time of regular prayer.

If you owe someone forgiveness, forgive them. It is about time, isn’t it. How long have you held back. One of your parents, a sibling, a friend. “Amend it speedily.” Forgive your debtors.

And we have from this episode another application:

Application: Be careful not to neglect God when obeying man. [REPEAT: Be careful not to neglect God when obeying man.]

John Calvin well summarizes this whole scene:

“Vengeance was declared against Moses for his negligence, which was connected with still heavier sins; for he had not omitted his son’s circumcision from forgetfulness, or ignorance, or carelessness only, but because he was aware that tit was disagreeable either to his wife or to his father-in-law. Therefore, lest his wife should quarrel with him, or his father-in-law trouble him, he preferred to gratify them than to give occasion for divisions, or enmity, or disturbance. In the meantime, however, for the sake of the favour of men he neglected to obey God.”

How often this happens today.

My heart goes out to all of you who have mixed family of believers and unbelievers. Especially come Sunday. Perhaps you are pressured to sleep in with the rest of the family, or to watch a football game, or do something else; anything other than going to church. You try to keep peace in the family. But do not neglect the Lord. We are commanded to remember the Sabbath day; not sometimes, but always. Each week. Remember EVERY sabbath day.

Be careful not to neglect God when obeying man.

III. Meeting with Aaron

So Moses has met with Jethro, and he has met with God. Now he meets with Aaron.

First God speaks to Aaron telling him “Go into the wilderness and meet Moses.”

So it is not only Moses who God speaks to, but Aaron as well.

And I like these directions: “Go into the wilderness and meet Moses.”

That seems to me about the last place you’d ever go if you were trying to meet someone. The wilderness is vast. How are you going to meet someone there?! God will direct it in this case. But in our case, I recommend saying “I’ll meet you at Terminal C, Gate 21” or something specific like this.

But maybe the directions God gave Aaron were a bit more specific. He not only goes into the Wilderness, but meets Moses at “the mountain of God.” That’s more specific, even though a mountain is yet a pretty big place. Well, God is a big God. And he brings Aaron and Moses to meet one another in the wilderness at the mountain of God.

This is Mt. Horeb or Mt. Sinai where God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush. It is the mountain of God because He spoke to Moses there.

At the mountain Moses and Aaron have a meeting, and Moses tells Aaron “all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak and all the signs that he had commanded him to do.”

They are now ready to go on their went to Egypt. And off they went.

IV. Meeting with the Israelites

Having met with Jethro, and met with God, and met with Aaron, Moses now meets with the people of Israel.

Once in Egypt they gathered the elders of the people of Israel and Aaron “spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people.”

And the people believed. And they worshipped God.

Mission accomplished. Or at least the first mission is accomplished. The great mission of the Exodus itself is yet to be accomplished, but this stage is complete. The people of Israel are now convinced that Moses and Aaron are prophets of God and they must listen to them, and they must leave Egypt under their leadership.

And the people believed. God’s will was done. God’s will IS always done. No one frustrates the will of God.

Just as God will harden Pharaoh’s heart, we can say God “softens” the hearts of the Israelites. God works in them that they may believe. And the miracles Moses performed in their sight helped to soften their hearts.

And the people believed.

You can imagine their joy when it is said “they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction.” And the response to the joy is “they bowed their heads and worshipped.”

Today we are still called to believe the Word of God. Miracles do not attest to it, but we have the fulfillment of prophecy from the Scriptures.

Even more can we say “the Lord has visited us” for Jesus Christ came in the flesh to our very world.

It is through his blood that we are redeemed; that we have forgiveness of sins.

Because of Jesus we have true joy.

And the response to that joy should be that we bow our heads and worship.

Here WE meet with God. He is present. And in His Word we hear from Him whenever and wherever we read it.

And the people believed. I pray that we to believe in the Lord who met with Moses and who meets with us. For He does great things, and great is He. Praise be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.