Wednesday, September 01, 2021

2021.09.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 4:18–26

Read Exodus 4:18–26

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom did Moses go in Exodus 4:18? What did he ask to do? What does Jethro say? What does Yahweh say to Moses in Exodus 4:19 (cf. Matthew 2:20)? Whom does Moses take, how (Exodus 4:20)? Where do they go? What does Moses take in his hand? What does Yahweh remind him to do in Exodus 4:21? What does He remind Moses that Pharaoh will do? What is Moses to say then (Exodus 4:22)? What does He claim about Israel? What does He threaten against Pharaoh if he withholds the Yahweh’s son (Exodus 4:23)? But what does Yahweh do in Exodus 4:24? Who saves the day in Exodus 4:25? How? What does she now call Moses (Exodus 4:25-26)?

Moses takes his leave from his father-in-law and takes his wife and his sons with him. The Spirit reminds us at the end of Exodus 4:20 not only of God’s power, but of what occurred with the rod earlier in the chapter.

It’s not until now that the Lord adds the message of Exodus 4:22-23 to His earlier instructions, summarized in Exodus 4:21. It seems that the Lord waits until now to call Israel, “My son, My firstborn” to highlight how serious of an offense it was for Moses to “withhold” his own son from the Lord by failing to put the covenant sign upon him. The penalty for Pharaoh doing this with respect to Israel is the death of his firstborn son (end of Exodus 4:23), and it may well be that the same is imminent for Moses in Exodus 4:24.

There is some uncertainty in the text about who the “him” is that Yahweh sought to kill. Despite some translations’ insertions, Moses’s name does not actually appear in our passage after Exodus 4:21, and the word translated “husband” in Exodus 4:25-26 refers to any covenant relation. After the threat against Pharaoh’s firstborn son, it may well be that it is Gershom, Moses’s firstborn, who is nearly executed at this point, who is circumcised, and who has the bloody foreskin touched to his feet.

If it is Moses who nearly dies, this would heighten the seriousness of the action taken, since the Lord has made such an emphatic point of specifically requiring Moses to be the one who confronts Pharaoh.

What is very clear is that the Lord takes the sign of circumcision very seriously. He was about to publicly own every member of Israel as “His firstborn son.” And He was about to demand that Pharaoh recognize this fact. But Moses and Zipporah had not properly recognized this fact about their own child. And God is deadly serious about His requirement that His sign be put upon the children of His people (cf. also Genesis 17:14). 

Now, this has an obvious application for those who recognize that baptism is a covenant sign—with water now, not blood, since the blood of Christ has been shed once for all. The Lord takes His signs seriously not only because they are indicators that point to Christ and His now-finished work, but also because they are seals by which His covenantal ownership of us is acknowledged. Our children are not merely biological relations or legal relations to us. They are covenantal relations to us.

When Zipporah yields to the Lord’s mechanism for acknowledging this—that the blood of the covenant is a stronger bond even than her own blood—the Lord lets him go. Gershom is not thus eternally saved; he still must come to faith in the promised Savior. But, his circumcision is a necessary means by which God’s special propriety in him is acknowledged and responded to.

Now, if we understand that the same is required of us with God, that we receive His sign upon ourselves and upon our children, it must not stop with the sign. For, those who are His owe Him worship, obedience, and service. And we must submit to His means and His ways for all of these, and for the spiritual life and holiness required to walk with Him in it. Our own baptism, or our child’s baptism, is not the end of our covenant responsibility but its beginning. And we look to Him to make all of it effectual by His grace from start to finish.

How does the covenant ownership of God shown in your baptism also show up in your daily and weekly activities? How can it comfort you, when you’re about to face the opposition of the world?

Sample prayer:  Lord, for whatever You send us to do, You Yourself are our only hope. You are all our strength, and Your covenant faithfulness is perfect. Thank You for setting us apart to Yourself in Christ and for giving us a sign and seal of that in baptism. By the grace that You have promised, give us the love and obedience and service that we owe to You, which we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP50A “God, Most Supreme in Might” or TPH190 “Thus Saith the Mercy of the Lord”


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