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Timely Lessons from a Troubling Story

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1. Be warned about the seriousness of sin (vs. 24) 2. Be willing to stand in the gap (vs. 25) 3. Trust God's way of salvation (vs. 25-26) 4. Give worship to our Savior (vs. 27-31)

Notes & Transcripts

Old Testament Encounters with Christ

Part 17: Timely Lessons from a Troubling Story

Exodus 4:18-31

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 28, 2012

BACKGROUND:

*We are looking at the Old Testament appearances of Christ. In Exodus 3 and 4, the Lord miraculously appeared to Moses in a burning bush that did not burn up. There God called Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

*Then in Exodus 4:18-20, Moses began to carry out the Lord's mission:

18. So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive.'' And Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace.''

19. And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return to Egypt; for all the men are dead who sought your life.''

20. Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

*Moses was on the way, and everything looked fine, but starting in vs. 24, the unexpected happened. Let's read vs. 24-31 tonight, looking for timely lessons from a troubling story:

24. And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him.

25. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, "Surely you are a husband of blood to me!''

26. So He let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!'' because of the circumcision.

27. And the Lord said to Aaron, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.'' So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him.

28. So Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him.

29. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.

30. And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.

31. So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.

INTRODUCTION:

*That all seems kind of strange and weird to us. Right on the heels of God's great call to Moses from the burning bush, right after God promised to be with Moses, right after the Lord revealed Himself to Moses as the great "I AM," right after He gave Moses miraculous signs to persuade the people, and right after Moses began to carry out the Lord's mission, the Lord met Moses on the way and tried to kill him. What? -- That was the last thing we would expect. But God had some important lessons for Moses and for us tonight.

1. First: Be warned about the seriousness of sin.

*This is the lesson of vs. 24, where, "It came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met (Moses) and sought to kill him." Why in the world did the Lord almost kill Moses? It was because of Moses' sin.

*Moses had neglected to circumcise his younger son, and that seems like a small sin to us. But the sign of circumcision was to recognize the great covenant the Lord had made with Abraham. And God put this story into His Word as a great warning against sin in our own lives. Moses is a good example to us in several key ways.

*First: Moses is an example to us that the Lord God is not some fluffy bunny. Sin is always a serious matter with God. Any sin and every sin nailed Jesus to the cross, and this means that Jesus died for our tiniest sins too. Moses is also an example to us that being saved, and even trying to serve God does not make us exempt from the Lord's discipline.

*And Moses is an example to us that the Lord cares about us fulfilling ALL of our obligations to Him. We tend to think of our sins as the wrong things we do and stop there. God cares just as much about the good things left undone, the duties we neglect.

*Moses is also an example to us that God's chastening Hand can come down hard and heavy on us. We are also reminded of this truth every time we take the Lord's Supper and hear Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:28-32.

*There Paul said:

28. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.

29. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

30. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

31. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

32. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

*Now we have to be careful making assumptions about the Lord's chastening. Remember the man in John 9 who was born blind.

2. (Jesus') disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?''

3. Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

*We have to be very careful about judging someone's sickness. Paul's good friend in Philippians 2 was "sick almost unto death" before the Lord healed him. And in Philippians 2:29-30, Paul said:

29. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;

30. because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

*That dedicated believer was not sick due to some sin in his life. He was sick because he was working so hard to serve the Lord. So we have to be careful not to judge other people. But at the same time we must know that God's Hand can be heavy on us for our sins.

*We tend to ask, "Why did the Lord almost kill Moses?" But the better question might be, "Why in the world hasn't the Lord struck me down?" Church: It is only because of God's amazing grace.

*We need to be warned about the seriousness of sin.

2. And we need to be willing to stand in the gap for others.

*This is the second lesson for us tonight: We need to be willing to stand in the gap for others. And we see this lesson in vs. 25, where Moses' wife "Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, 'Surely you are a husband of blood to me!'"

*Several Bible commentaries blame Moses' wife for his negligence here, because she was a Midianite. And of course she could have objected to circumcision, but the Bible does not say that. Also notice that it wasn't Zipporah who got struck down by the Lord, it was Moses.

*On top of that, Zipporah surely seems to have come from a godly family. Zipporah's father was Jethro, the priest of Midian. He kindly took Moses in when he was running for his life away from Egypt. In Exodus 4:18, Jethro blessed Moses' mission back to Egypt. Later in Exodus Chapter 18, Jethro came to visit Moses in the wilderness. And Exodus 18:9 says: "Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians." It was Jethro who offered the burnt offering and other sacrifices to the Lord that day. And while he was there, Jethro also gave Moses great wisdom about how to lead the people.

*That was the spiritual atmosphere in Zipporah's household. But whether she was opposed to the circumcision or not, the fact of the matter is that she did perform the circumcision on her infant son.

*Zipporah stood in the gap for her husband, Moses. Normally, it was the man's responsibility to perform the circumcision. But Moses was either so sick from the disease that hit him, or so terrified by the Lord's appearance that he could not perform the ritual himself. Zipporah realized the cause of the Lord's displeasure against her husband, and when she saw that Moses was not able to do it, she did the job herself.

*Thank God for people who will stand in the gap for us! That's the kind of people God wants us to be. We need to be willing to stand in the gap for others.

3. And we need to trust in God's way of salvation.

*This is the third lesson we see tonight: We need to trust in God's way of salvation. This is the vital lesson we see in vs. 25-26:

25. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, "Surely you are a husband of blood to me!''

26. So He (that is the Lord) let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!'' because of the circumcision.

*Now in English it almost looks like she is angrily fussing at Moses because she had to circumcise their son. But John Gill explained that these words were "spoken not in an angry upbraiding way, as if he was a bloody cruel man to oblige her to do such an action. . ." Rather, they were spoken "in a congratulatory way, as being thankful and rejoicing, that by this means, through the blood of the circumcision, she had saved her husband's life . . .

*Otherwise it would have been all over with Moses. But now to her great joy he was delivered from the threatened destruction, and restored to her. So two of the ancient Aramaic translations paraphrase vs. 26 with these words: "Then Zipporah gave praise, and said, how amiable is the blood of circumcision, which has delivered my husband from the hand of the destroying angel." (1)

*The circumcision of that baby saved Moses from physical death. And this is important to us because it points us to the only way of eternal salvation. But of course, eternal salvation is not through the blood of circumcision. Salvation is by God's grace through faith in God's promise and the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

*Remember that circumcision was given as a sign of the great promises God gave to Abraham. John Phillips tells us that these promises are "known as the Abrahamic Covenant. And it is one of the most important utterances in human language. The Abrahamic Covenant left its mark on all later history. Even now, it rules the future with an iron hand. And it is the basis for all the blessings God has for mankind.

*Circumcision was a sign of God's covenant with Abraham, and a symbol of the cross of Jesus Christ. For Abraham circumcision was a sharp, unforgettable, painful, admission that he was unable to produce by his own natural means what he needed and wanted the most. Circumcision was an agonizing admission that real fruit in life can only come through the promise of Christ. (2)

*Abraham and Moses were saved by grace through faith in the promise of the coming Messiah Jesus Christ. And Jesus did come to die for our sins and rise again. Trusting in the Risen Savior and the blood of His cross is the only way of salvation! Jesus is the only way. As He said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

*James Merritt explained that Jesus was saying "the path to heaven is a person, not a principle, not a practice, not a precept, not a philosophy. Jesus was saying, 'You can take the golden rule, the Ten Commandments, the church, religion, Bible study, prayer, charity, clean living, and put all of them together, and not one of them would pave one brick on the road to heaven.'

*There is no other way to Heaven but Jesus. Peter confirmed it in Acts 4:12, where he said: 'Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.' Jesus is the way. If you're going any other way, you're going the wrong way. (3)

*A lot of misguided people are like the man who said that getting to Heaven was like getting to Boston. There are a lot of roads that will get you there. But a wise Christian told him, "No, getting to Heaven is much more like flying into the Boston airport. The pilot has to land that plane on just the right runway, at just the right speed, at just the right time, and at just the right angle." (4)

*There is only one way to land that plane. And there is only one way to Heaven: Jesus Christ! Have you trusted in God's way of salvation? Everybody needs to trust God's way of salvation.

4. And we all need to worship our Savior.

*This is the fourth lesson from God's Word tonight: We all need to worship our Savior. And we find this lesson in vs. 27-31, after the Lord let Moses go:

27. And the Lord said to Aaron, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.'' So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him.

28. So Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him.

29. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.

30. And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.

31. So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.

*There are 3 very important things to notice about the Children of Israel's worship in vs. 31.

[1] First, their worship overflowed with faith.

*Those people were worshiping the Lord, because they trusted in Him. As vs. 31 says, "The people believed." Do we have any reasons to trust in the Lord? Yes! We have countless reasons to trust in the Lord! God has proved His goodness to us over and over again. And if He had never done any of that, we would still have the cross.

[2] So God wants our worship to overflow with faith. But also notice that the Children of Israel's worship must have overflowed with gratitude.

*We know this because in vs. 31, the people "heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction." What about our gratitude? Do we have any reasons to be grateful to the Lord? Again the answer is "Yes!"

*About ten years ago, Cavett Roberts was strongly reminded of this truth. It happened at a convention in Boston. Cavett was in a bad mood because he thought he had a three-day reservation at the hotel, but he got kicked out after two.

*Cavett later said, "As the elevator came down it stopped at the seventh floor, but nothing happened. I was irritated and in a hurry to catch an early plane and said, 'Come on in.' Nothing happened. Again I said firmly, 'Come in; let's get the show on the road.' Still nothing happened. Finally, in a loud voice, I said, 'Come on in -- let's go. I'll be late.'

*At that moment a fine looking man with a white cane, completely blind, stepped in cautiously, feeling his way along. I felt awful. I had to say something, so I cleared my throat and said, 'How are you today?'

*He smiled and said, 'Grateful, my friend, grateful.' I couldn't say a thing -- I was choked up. Any impatience or worry I had simply shriveled into nothingness. He was a man blessing the darkness while I was cursing the light. I couldn't have cared less whether I caught that plane. I found myself that night in my prayers asking that someday I might see as well as that man." (5)

[3] God wants our worship to overflow with gratitude. But also notice that the Children of Israel's worship overflowed with humility.

*We see their humility in vs. 31, where "they bowed their heads and worshiped." The word picture for the word "worship" in the Old Testament is to bow down or even fall down flat before someone else.

*Do we have any reasons to humble ourselves before the Lord? Again, the answer is "Yes!" He is the holy, holy, holy Almighty God, and at our best, we are sinners saved by grace. So let's worship the Lord with an overflow of faith, gratitude and humility. That's what God deserves, and that's what He desires from all of us.

CONCLUSION:

*This Old Testament encounter with the Lord is a lot more relevant to our lives that I would have ever expected. It gives us four great lessons we all need to learn:

1. We all need to be warned about the seriousness of sin.

2. We all need to be willing to stand in the gap for others.

3. We all need to trust in God's way of salvation: The cross of Jesus Christ.

4. And we all need to worship our Savior, because of who He is, and what He has done for us!

*Let's do that right now as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - Exodus 4:25-26

(2) Adapted from "Exploring Genesis" by John Phillips - p. 142-143; 146

(3) Adapted from Sermons.com sermon "What Are Your Chances of Going to Heaven" by James Merritt - John 14: 6

(4) Original source unknown

(5) Testimony from motivational speaker Cavett Roberts - Source: sermons.com email 12072003

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