A House Divided
Robert Wurtz II
Moses’ wife Zipporah was a Midianite, and apparently refused to allow her son to be circumcised. The Midianites already had a history with the people of God at this juncture. You will remember that it was the Midianites that sold Joseph into Egypt in the first place. (Genesis 37:36) Understand that time did not change these people. In the centuries to come they will serve as Israel’s enemies.
It was the Midianites, along with Moab, that hired the prophet Balaam to curse Israel. (Numbers 22:4-7) When Moab gave up, Balaam, a man who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:15), hung around with the Midianites as an adviser for evil. (Numbers 31:16) This is the same man that tried to curse Israel against the counsel of God and met at angel in the doorway to waiting to kill him too. This is relentless evil. Peter comments on this incessant wickedness when he writes, “but he (Balaam) was rebuked for his own lawlessness: a dumb donkey speaking with the voice of a man restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Peter 2:16) The Lord Jesus in Revelation 2:14 tells us that Balaam taught the people to commit idolatry and fornication. Historically we know that this combination idolatry/fornication was of a terrible sort. His point was that there were people doing this very same thing in the church at Pergamos. Peter tells us that these are the type of men that promise freedom, but are themselves servants of corruption. The darkness of hell has been reserved for such. (2 Peter 2:17) This was the Midianite way.
“If Moses was to carry out the divine commission with success, he must first of all prove himself to be a faithful servant of Jehovah in his own house.” (Keil Delitzsch) The key words here, “…in his own house.” Moses had two sons and only the older one had been circumcised. Obviously Zipporah did not like the practice and it was an area of strong contention in the home. The apparent attitude was, “We circumcised my firstborn; were not doing that to this son!” The penalty for not circumcising was death, but since this was a child the responsibility fell to the father. Moses, as the head of the household, was responsible before God to follow the commandment. He defied God by obeying the voice of his wife. We have a comment centuries later when Paul gave commandment concerning elders in the churches; One that leads well his own house, having his children in subjection with all submission; (For if a man know not how to manage his own house, how shall he maintain the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
What happened? And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Some might say, “You mean God was really going to kill Moses.” That’s right. But what about his calling? What about the plans to lead the people out? I am convinced that had Moses not followed through with circumcising his son — God would have killed him and replaced him. Why? Because God is going to be glorified in our lives one way or the other. He will either be glorified by our obedience or he will be glorified by the demonstration of the consequences of our disobedience. God cannot use a person that obeys others in front of Him. Fortunately, Zipporah recognized that God meant business and had the good sense to change her mind; though she did it reluctantly and grudgingly.
When God got ready to speak to Moses He introduced Himself saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. (Acts 7:33) They had followed a pattern of life in circumcising their sons in each generation. If Moses, as the leader of Israel, did not maintain continuity with the past he would have been starting a new religion. It would have been false. He was expected to walk in the steps of the faith and obedience of his forefathers. God does not change. Moses was to serve God according to the revelation given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This means that God had given Moses the same commandment concerning circumcision that He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was the sign of the covenant. He was expected to maintain the same level of obedience that they had exhibited.
Moses was expected to utterly obey God. Here is a man that in the years to come will speak “thus saith the LORD” and over a million people will hear and obey. As this great leader he had to utterly obey God. Long before Jezebel and Ahab ever existed that same spirit was trying to work in Moses’ own home. He had to come to terms with the fact that the enemy of obedience was in his own household.
We all have to deal with the voice of the Midianites in our lives. There will always be someone used of the Devil to get us to disobey God. They will have an excuse for everything. Nevertheless, better to hear a thousand snide comments like “a bloody husband art thou to me” than to compromise our faithfulness to God.