Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Moses and Zipporah: Relating With Relations

How does one write about one of the most intimate friends of God, of whom God said “Not so with My servant Moses ... I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings ...” (Num. 12:7, 8)? How does one write about the only one that the Bible says God buried (Deut. 34:6), and at the end of his life God would say, “but since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face (34:10). Clearly the Lord, the covenant-keeping God, loved Moses and “spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (33:11). What a privilege to study Moses, Zipporah, and her father Jethro. Here’s a story replete with the message presented in 1888.

Moses was a man preserved from birth by God and called to His service. He was a man full of compassion and truly touched by the oppression of his fellow Israelites. A man likely not slow to anger, which resulted in a need to flee to Midian where during 40 years he became “Moses the man of God,” friend of God with a burning desire to see the covenant promises of God fulfilled (see Psalm 90). While there he married Zipporah (a believer in the true God), daughter of Jethro whom the Bible implies worshipped other gods. God heard the groanings of his people Israel and “remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob ... and looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” (Ex. 2:24, 25).

Moses was keeping the flock one day and had a divine appointment with the Angel of the Lord, Yahweh, who appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The bush not being consumed by the fire was of interest to Moses, and he turned aside to see this spectacle. God noticed and called to him from the bush and asked him to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground! What a call! God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6). The God of the covenant was calling Moses to action. God relates His plans for His people and immediately we see why Moses became such an intimate friend of God, a man of whom God would say, “since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Moses says to God, OK, after I tell your people all the things You told me “and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” (vs. 13).

Amazing! God gives him the answer and Moses says, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’” (4:1). The chapter proceeds with God giving Moses tangible evidences of His power, and then Moses says, “Send someone else” (vs. 13)! But God knew the heart of Moses and saw there a man of faith who He would speak to “face to face, as a man speaks to a friend.” The life of Moses will be marked by these tremendous conversations with God. What 1888 concepts can we see in the life of Moses and his relatives? Here are just a few.

1. The Cross of Christ is not merely provisional but effective for the whole world. Moses married Zipporah a Midianite, likely an Ethiopian. Ellen G. White tells us she was a worshipper of the true God (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 383). Numbers12:1 says, “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” Mrs. White says that jealousy sparked the dispute (ibid., p. 384). Galatians 3:8 says, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’” Paul goes on to describe the curse of God and concludes, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus” (vss.13, 14). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free ...” (vs. 28).
2. The Everlasting Covenant. Three incidents are significant. First, Moses’ sons had not been circumcised, and after God called Moses He “sought to kill him” (Ex. 4:24). Zipporah, recognizing the reason immediately, got a sharp stone “and cut off the foreskin of her son.” Second, Numbers10:29-32 relates a story of Moses inviting Hobab, Jethro’s son, to go with them to the promised land, thus inviting him, a Gentile, to share in the promised blessing to Israel. The third incident brings the first two together and occurs in Exodus 6:2-8 where God repeats the everlasting covenant to Moses and asks him to tell it to the Israelites. We notice first of all that the covenant always from the beginning was God’s one-sided promise to accomplish all for His people. So in Genesis 17, circumcision became the sign of the covenant, a cutting away of dependence on the flesh and living by the word of God only. Zipporah understood that Moses’ mission would depend not on his might or power, but only on God’s faithfulness and His Spirit, so she courageously performed the rite of circumcision. We also see a promise of four things in the covenant in Exodus 6 as in all other covenants—sanctification, reconciliation, evangelism (a heart to spread the gospel to others), and justification (compare with Jer. 31:31-34 and Heb, 8:10-12). When we appreciate the great and precious promises of God and the good news of the gospel we cannot keep silent. We will tell our friends, family, neighbors, and the world as Moses told Hobab. “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord ... even them I will bring to My holy mountain ... their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa. 56:6, 7; see also Rom. 11:11-19).
3. The Faith of Jesus. After God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, Jethro brought Moses’ family to be reunited with him in the wilderness. “Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them” (Ex. 18:8). Jethro rejoiced at the news and said, “Blessed be the Lord ... now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods ...” (18:9-11). The record says that Jethro “took a burnt offering and sacrifices to God.” Following the sacrifice Jethro gave Moses divinely inspired advice. This episode has much to say about the message for the last days.

In 1888 a message was given to this church that was to bring God’s people into unity:

“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elder’s Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour ... It presented justification through faith in the Surety: it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ ...” (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92).

”The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth” (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 363). “Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, ‘It is the third angel’s message in verity’” (Review and Herald, April 1,1890).

“Justification from the faith,” “the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer.” We are justified by the faith of Jesus. This fact is born out in much of Paul’s writings. The proclamation of the gospel message of the faith of Jesus, the sin-pardoning Redeemer, calls forth from us an answering faith. The faith of Jesus looked not on the present reality (while we were sinners, ungodly, enemies, etc.), but saw in wretched mankind what might become by redeeming love, a pearl of great price, and He emptied Himself for us. Faith sees the things that are, not as though they were but as they might become. When we receive justification by the faith of Jesus we extend this same faith to others. Moses treated his father-in-law with the “as though” principle (Rom. 4:17) and his father-in-law responded and sacrificed to the creator God. The gospel of justification from the faith lived out in the life of the believer will lighten this earth with the glory of the third angel. Moses summarizes the truth of the gospel brought to light and life in 1888 that tells us that God is agape. He has been in pursuit of mankind since creation, has extended the everlasting covenant to us, and has justified mankind from the faith of Jesus that enabled Him to step down and take upon Himself a nature that was not His by native right, become the sin-pardoning Redeemer, join Himself to humanity, and die the death of the cross. He asks us to respond with a faith that extends that same attitude to others.

Moses never lost sight of the God he came to know intimately. A God he could talk to face to face, a God he reminded on more than one occasion that the Egyptians and the nations were still out there and that killing His people was not a good idea. He reminded God that He was a God abounding in “hesed”—the covenant term par excellence. Hesed is steadfast covenant love, best said in the hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”! That’s God’s hesed. “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Praise God!

—Lyndi Schwartz

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