God’s People, part 24: Zipporah

Read Exodus 4:18-28

“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman.” (Numbers 12:1 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

ZipporahPart 24: Zipporah. There are some truly strange and unique stories found in the Bible. Usually, these stories make little sense and often draw God’s character into question. For instance, you might be puzzled at the main Scripture reading today, provided you read it. If you didn’t, I highly recommend to you that you pause here, and read it. I bet you didn’t know that God almost killed Moses prior to him even being able to pull off what God asked him to do.

Why would God do that? Seriously, I am asking that question. Why would God send Moses on a task to liberate the Hebrew slaves in Egypt and decide along the way to slay him? What’s even more dubious is that it seems to be over a technicality, over the fact that seemingly neither Moses or his son was circumcised. Surely, God would have known that was the case from the outset, and nowhere do we see God so much as asking him to get that done! It is hard to make sense of God’s character in stories like these.

So, rather than try and explain what sort of theology of God is going on here in this story, we can look toward the heroine in the story. Zipporah, the wife of Moses, intercedes on her husband’s behalf and her heroic actions save the day. Literally. There are all sorts of possible reasons for the author writing the story the way they did; however, it is in this Cushite (aka non-Jewish) woman that we see what true love and faithfulness is all about. What’s more, it is kind of comical, and certainly poignant, that the wife is the one who pays attention to the details and saves her husband from running into quite a bit of trouble. Married men of the world, take note!

So, who is this Zipporah? She was one of Jethro’s seven daughters who Moses received as his wife after he saved all seven sisters and their flock of sheep from other competing shepherds. Moses, of course, was an Egyptian fugitive, having just fled Egypt for his life after killing an Egyptian slave master.  So, there with his wife Moses stayed, raised children and tended to Jethro’s sheep.

Zipporah bore Moses two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. For most women, that would be pretty much where the story began and ended in the ancient world. One was to get married, have children, raise children, become a grandparent and die; however, Zipporah’s life did not to go as planned. Her husband, following having children with her, went up onto a mountain deemed holy by her people, and quite literally “found God.” When he came back down, he was not the same man he had been when he went up.

Once he came down from that mountain, Moses was resolute about going back to Egypt. Most of the stories have him doing so alone, with him eventually meeting up with his brother Aaron; however, the Bible makes it clear that his wife Zipporah, and their children, went with him. I would like you to pause and think about that scenario for a moment. It is one thing for Moses to travel across desert and wilderness to head back into the country he fled for his life from. Sure, that would probably result in his death one way or the other, but at least his family would be safe. As can be seen, his family did come with him and that meant that their lives were in jeopardy as well.

Who knows if Zipporah resisted the move or not, what we do know is that she did go with Moses and it was her who saved him when God was about to kill him. How did she do that, you might ask? By circumcising her children and laying the foreskin at the feet of Moses. She then pleaded with God to spare Moses, and God did so.

We need not believe that God was literally trying to kill Moses to understand the overarching point. Sometimes as “insiders” think we know God so much that we fail to listen to God’s direction, all the while “outsiders” clearly see God, and choose to follow. Praise God for “outsiders” for they give us a fresh look at who we actually are, versus who we think we are. Amen? Let us be open to the faith of other people, for one never knows when he or she might encounter a Zepporah in their own lives and be blessed for it.

“You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius

Lord, keep my heart open to learning your ways, especially if it is through the hearts of others. Amen.

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