Here at Exodus chapter 4 and through the opening of chapter 7, we get a front-row seat to watch what happens next in the life of Moses.
Moses is finally going to Egypt! But Moses knows that Pharaoh isn’t going to be throwing him a welcome-home party, especially when Moses shows up with an ultimatum from God. And for several days now, as Moses travels from Midian toward Egypt, he’s had a lot of time to think it over.
He has spent forty years in safety in the land of Midian. He has married one of the seven daughters of a priest named Jethro. Her name is Zipporah, and they have a son named Gershom. Now Jethro and Zipporah are Midianites; but even though they’re not a part of the nation of Israel, they are followers of God.
We know from history the Midianites practiced circumcision but only on grown males prior to marriage. But God had ordained circumcision as a sign of the covenant through Abraham, and the Israelite males were to be circumcised as infants to show the faith and obedience of their parents to this special covenant sign. Circumcision symbolized the cutting away of sin and separation unto God.
Moses evidently hadn’t followed through on this with his own son, and we read here in chapter 4 and verse 24 about a rather surprising event that takes place: “At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him [Moses] and sought to put him to death.” This may have been a life-threatening illness, but it is obviously God’s discipline. And it becomes known that it has to do with Moses’ not circumcising his son in obedience to God.
So here in verse 25, Moses’ wife, Zipporah, takes a flint and performs circumcision on their son. Then she says to Moses, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”
She doesn’t seem to be very happy with the bloodshed of this ceremony; and even though she knows it has saved the life of her husband, she seems rather disgusted with the whole thing. In fact, Exodus chapter 18 indicates that she evidently returned home for some period of time.
Moses had compromised by not taking the word of God seriously. And let me tell you, this is going to be a great reminder for Moses as he heads to Egypt that above everything else, he needs to obey—and deliver—the word of God.
Here in chapter 5, Moses and Aaron arrive in Egypt and announce to Pharaoh in verse 1: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go.’” “Thus says the Lord” is a clear declaration that this isn’t the word of Moses but the word of God.
And Pharaoh responds just as clearly by basically saying, “Not in a million years.” And with that, Pharaoh makes the lives of the Israelites even more difficult. As we read in verses 7 and 8, he orders that the straw the Egyptians have been providing for the making of bricks be withheld from them. Now they will have to find their own straw, but the quota for bricks they are being forced to make remains the same.
As you can imagine, the Israelites turn on Moses and Aaron, saying in verse 21, “You have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Their attitude is, “Life was hard enough before you came along; now we’re all going to die.”
Moses is absolutely stunned by what’s just happened. He goes to God and says, in verse 22, “O Lord, why have you done [allowed this] evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?”
I would be asking the same thing. Maybe you’re doing your best to follow God. Perhaps you’re even a ministry leader, but it has turned everything upside down, and everybody is mad at you—and all you’re trying to do is obey God.
I read somewhere that a good leader is someone who is able to keep people who hate him away from all the other people who are still undecided. Well, everybody hates Moses now.
Chapter 6 opens with God reassuring Moses. In fact, five times here in Exodus 6, you’re going to hear God tell Moses, “I am the Lord . . . I am the Lord. ”
He’s encouraging Moses, saying in effect, “Even though you want to throw in the towel and quit, I want you and all Israel to remember that I am the Lord.” He doesn’t say, “I was” or “I used to be,” but “I am the Lord of Lords.”
Indeed, five times in this chapter, God reminds Moses of who He is. But the Lord also goes on to say, seven different times in this chapter what He will do. God isn’t just the “I am”; He’s also the “I will.”
Beginning in verse 6, God makes this incredible promise:
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” (verses 6-8)
Moses goes back to the people of Israel with this message from God, but unfortunately the people respond to God’s declaration of “I am” and “I will” by effectively saying, “Yeah, but we won’t.”
Verse 9 says, “They did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit.” Let’s not be too hard on them. You could translate this phrase “broken spirit” as “gasping for breath.” God is patient with them; He knows they have experienced incredibly difficult and painful lives, and they are convinced there is no way out.
Maybe you can identify with them; you see no evidence that God is at work on your behalf. You look around, and there’s nothing to celebrate. But God keeps pressing you in the work He’s given you to do.
God tells Moses to go back again into the court of Pharaoh and repeat the demand to let His people go.
But here in chapter 7 the conversation between God and Moses might seem a bit odd to you. Note what the Lord says to Moses in verse 1: “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.”
You need to understand that in Egypt Pharaoh was considered the divine offspring of the sun god—a physical representation of the deity on earth. So, God is telling Moses, “I’m putting you on equal terms with Pharaoh. You’re going to be my physical representation on earth.” And when Pharaoh loses, everybody will know that the false god was defeated by the true and living God.
You might be serving the Lord right now under difficult and painful conditions; maybe there isn’t much evidence God is at work in and through your life. Don’t quit. Don’t respond to His “I am” and “I will” with disobedience. Cling to Him, serve Him, in spite of how you feel or what it looks like around you.
In fact, what you have to cling to is the same thing Moses clung to—the Word of God, which declares who He is and what He has promised to do.