Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and wondered, "How in the world is this relevant to my life? Why is it even in the Bible?" I experienced it this morning while reading Exodus 4:24-26. Here it is:
"At a lodging place on the way [to Egypt], the LORD met Moses (or Moses' son) and was about to kill him. But Zipporah (Moses' wife) took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it. 'Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,' she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said 'bridegroom of blood,' referring to circumcision).
Well, that's a doozy! This peculiar passage pops up without warning. It seems so strange. Yet, I believe even this text can lead me down a path ... to Jesus. But first...
I ascribe to the adage: "The Bible is not about me and what I must do; it is about God and what he did for me." What exactly is it that God did? He created mankind, watched him rebel, then promised a Rescue. From Adam and Eve to the last chapter of Revelation, the Bible's overarching story is God's plan to rescue sinners by sending His Son. His name is Jesus.
This is why my favorite Pastor-Theologian from the 1800's is Charles Spurgeon. He understood the Bible was not primarily about us and what we must do, but about God and what He has done. And Spurgeon had a magnificent way with words! While counseling young pastors in sermon prep, he offered this brilliant advice (edited for clarity):
"Don't you know, young man, that from every town and village and little hamlet in England ... there is a road that leads to London? So, from every text of Scripture there is a road to Christ. My dear brother, your business is ... when you get to a text, to ask: now what is the road to Christ? I have never found a Biblical text that had no road to Christ in it, and if ever I do find one, I will go over hedge and ditch – but I will get at my Master, for a sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it."
A Shared Fallen Condition
So, as I read the story of Moses and Zipporah, how can I jump "hedge and ditch" to get at my Master, the Lord Jesus? How can I find Him in these cryptic verses from Exodus 4?
First, I was struck by the apparent passivity of Moses, neglecting to circumcise his son. Circumcision was a clear command given by God to every Israelite – surely Moses knew of this sign of the Covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ... but which Moses shirked in his own family. There is no way to pretty this up: Moses faceplanted in his derilicition of obedience to God.
Like Moses, I possess a sinful tendency toward passivity ... or call it what it is: delayed obedience to God's benevolent commands. This is my fallen condition. And it is yours, as well. It is a faceplant before our Holy God.
A Promised Solution in Jesus
How does Exodus 4:24-26 lead me to Jesus? While I admit some speculation in filling in the gaps of this story, I smell a scent of Jesus in the actions of Zipporah. What do I mean?
Zipporah sacrificially steps into a gritty and uncomfortable situation, prompted by the sinful passivity and delayed obedience of her husband. She takes Moses' place and executes obedience to God on his behalf, circumcising their son (probably their firstborn, Gershom). Depending upon Gershom's age (I suspect he's no longer a baby or toddler, since Moses is rather old at this point), there might be even greater shame in her substitutionary act of obedience on behalf of her husband.
Jesus, the Better Zipporah
If I'm right, then Zipporah is a type (picture) of Jesus Christ. Jesus bore our shame in our place. He willing experienced the ultimate shame, taking our sin upon Himself. He was stripped naked and ripped open, then lifted up on a pole for everyone to gawk at. He volunteered for this event. He stepped in to pay for our disobedience.
Zipporah becomes a path that leads us to Jesus. Who is the better Zipporah? Jesus.
Extra Credit: Other interpretations/speculations about this passage do not make Zipporah look like a type of Christ. For example ...
- Zipporah's upbringing would have taught her not to circumcise her sons... and Moses dodged obedience to God in this matter because of Zipporah's antipathy toward circumcision.
- The message Moses was bringing to Pharoah – "Let my son (Israel) go, so he may worship Me ... but if you refuse to let him go, I will kill your firstborn son" – this message got through to Zipporah. Her firstborn would also die (along with Pharoah's), if not aligned with God's people via circumcision. She now felt compelled to circumcise their firstborn, in obedience to God's covenant call, that her son would belong to the God of Israel.
- Presumably, Moses' life hung in the balance in this story, and Zipporah's action saved both Moses and Gershom.
- Another Interpretation: Commentary by Robert Jamieson: [Moses] was either overwhelmed with mental distress or overtaken by a sudden and dangerous malady. The narrative is obscure, but the meaning seems to be that, led during his illness to a strict self-examination, he was deeply pained and grieved at the thought of having, to please his wife, postponed or neglected the circumcision of one of his sons, probably the younger. To dishonor that sign and seal of the covenant was criminal in any Hebrew, peculiarly so in one destined to be the leader and deliverer of the Hebrews; and he seems to have felt his sickness as a merited chastisement for his sinful omission. Concerned for her husband's safety, Zipporah overcomes her maternal feelings of aversion to the painful rite, performs herself, by means of one of the sharp flints with which that part of the desert abounds, an operation which her husband, on whom the duty devolved, was unable to do, and having brought the bloody evidence, exclaimed in the painful excitement of her feelings that from love to him she had risked the life of her child [see Calvin, Bullinger, Rosenmuller].
If nothing else is clear, this passage lends itself to abundant speculation and interpretation!