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Moses: Listening to the Voice of God
James R. Davis

Exodus 4:24-26
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

Moses is on his way to Egypt in the midst of obeying God in one facet of his life when God's hand of chastisement falls upon him.  He had deliberately disobeyed God in a very critical area of his life.

Moses' family had stopped to camp for the night. Then suddenly Moses was struck by the hand of God and was about to die. Here Moses' was surrendering to God's call to go and proclaim the gracious message of redemption to the slaves in Egypt, yet God meets him and seeks to take his life. What could Moses be doing that was so bad? What was it that he was not surrendering to God, that he was holding back and refusing to correct?

Moses married Jethro's daughter who was a Midianite. To the Midianites circumcision was a barbarous act. There is no doubt that Moses and Zipporah had a conflict about circumcising their son. She bitterly rejected circumcision. She caused so much strife that Moses gave in to her. Moses submitted to his wife's wishes rather than God's command. Moses chose to avoid the fussing and arguing of his wife instead of obeying God.  No doubt he thought it would be easier to deal with God on this issue than it would be to live with a woman that was adamantly opposed to it. We don't like to make waves on the home front and many times this becomes more important than pleasing God and not making waves in heaven.

God commanded circumcision when Abraham circumcised Ishmael. God said, "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." (Genesis 17:13-14) Normally the one left uncircumcised would be the cut off from God, but in this case the child was not responsible, the parent was responsible for following through on God's command.

This incident made plenty of waves in heaven because the Lord met Moses in judgment and sought to kill him for his disobedience. So Zipporah seeing the urgency of the matter circumcised the child herself. Most believe that in some way God had incapacitated Moses so that he could not circumcise his son. So his wife circumcised the boy and threw his bloody foreskin at Moses feet in disdain saying, "A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision."

There is no doubt that Moses was as good as dead until his wife circumcised their son and redeemed Moses by the blood of their son from the judgment of God. The Hebrew text carries with it the idea that Moses wife said, "Now you are a bloody bridegroom to me."

Zipporah only circumcised one son at this point the elder son was probably already circumcised. That incident may have made so many waves that Moses refused to make waves like that again by circumcising their second child.

Moses Learns Another Lesson in Obedience

It doesn't matter whether you are saved or unsaved there is never a time nor a place where obedience is not required. Later in the wilderness wanderings we see Moses in another disobedient moment. Moses had given up the pleasures of palace living. (Hebrews 11:25-26) He had led the children across the Red Sea. He had watched as God fed the children of Israel with manna from heaven and he had previously  struck a rock to water the Israelites. Yet he needed to learn more about obedience.

Numbers 20:7-12
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Obedience is absolutely essential. It makes no difference who we are or how God intends to use us in his cause or that he has called us personally do a certain task. God does not tolerate willful disobedience. Some believe that obedience negates the grace of God. But it is willful disobedience that negates the grace of God. It is by grace through faith that we are saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9) But it is a working faith that saves and a faith that does not strive to do what God asks leaves us dead. (James 2:14-26) James tells us that if one knows to do good and does not do it to him sin is imputed. (James 4:17)

There is no doubt in our minds that if Moses' son had not been circumcised God would have taken Moses' life. There is certainly no doubt in our minds that Moses was refused entrance into the Promised Land of Canaan because of his disobedience when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. It may seem strange but God wants us to understand the nature of obedience. This point is especially crucial to those who are in leadership positions. Leaders set the tone and example for service for all those who are watching. Woe to those leaders who seek to build up God's people around their own personal whims and wishes while disregarding the clear teaching of the Word of God.

Obedience Is Required Regardless of Our Position

We think that our ministry or service to God or our position is the all-important thing. God had appeared to Moses telling him to lead the Israelites out of bondage and Moses obeyed. He was on his way but God appears to him and lets him know that even though he is on his way to do what he has been ask to do he has not obeyed God. There was a facet of his life that he was refusing to bring to God. God let him know in no uncertain terms that he would not tolerate this kind of half-hearted obedience.

Sometimes we get so busy doing the Lord's work that we don't have time to listen to the voice of God. But in the midst of our complex and hectic lives, nothing is more urgent, nothing more necessary, nothing more rewarding than hearing what God has to say. Never forget that God speaks to us just as powerful today as he did to Moses and the prophets. His voice wants to be heard. When we listen to it we are launched into the greatest and most exciting adventure we could ever imagine.

God wants to speak to us because first of all he loves us. God wants to speak to us today because we need his definite and deliberate direction for our lives. And God wants to speak to us today because he knows we need the comfort and assurance of his Word in difficult times just as much as Moses did. God continues to speak to us today through the lives of men such as Moses because he wants us to know him. And if I fail to listen to the voice of God, I will never truly come to know him.

God's act of judgment against Moses is an act of grace as well. God is telling Moses in no uncertain terms, "You must follow me." This is an essential fact that we must learn as we seek God. There is no way to discover God if we refuse to follow him. There are literally thousands of voices that Moses will hear when he goes to Egypt. He will hear the cries of his own people and the cries of the Egyptians but he must learn from the very outset that it is the voice of God to which he must give his full attention. This is essential for without this God will not be able to give the Israelites directions that will lead them out of slavery. This has been an important issue from Eden. So before Moses enters into the arena, God teaches him the importance of listening to the voice of God.

How could Moses lead the people unless he himself obeyed God?
How could Moses teach the covenant to the people if he refused to circumcise his own son?
How could Moses teach people to love and obey God unless he loved and obeyed God?
How could Moses teach people to put God first if he put his wife first?
How could Moses be the servant and messenger of God if he was unwilling to obey God in the very basic sign of God's great covenant?

I want to warn against extremism when we talk about obedience. First of all no one can render perfect obedience. We have thorns in our flesh. We have shortcomings that we will wrestle with all our lives. But with these sorts of things we are striving, desiring, and praying that we might bring our lives into harmony with God's will. We have seen in the last two lessons on Moses that he was struggling to understand, he was struggling to believe and obey God in spite of all his inadequacies. God is very patient. God works with Moses. God teaches him. God gives him the proof he needed. But in the circumcision of his son Moses has decided to go contrary to a clear commandment of God. This is something that he clearly understands. This is something that he is fully capable of performing. Yet he refuses to obey. James says for a person that knows to do good and who is fully capable of doing what has been ask of him by God and yet refuses, to this man sin is imputed. (James 4:17)

Listening to the Voice of Others

If we choose to enter the arena for God, we will hear many voices. Each will have his or her opinion as to what we should do. In our unwillingness to feel insecure and to please others we may want to choose to follow the other voices. There may be many voices to which we are tempted to listen.

The fear of what others may be thinking about us can play an important role in the way we act. The American Indians recognized this and used scorn and ridicule to promote social order.  For instance, when a child of the Fox tribe was taught the do's and don'ts of Indian life, his elders didn't hold over his head an abstract rule of morality.  Nor did they threaten him with punishment now or in the hereafter.  Instead, they said to him, "The people of the village may say things about you."

Scripture also recognizes the power of social restraint but not as a motivation for right conduct.  Whereas the Indians used it to induce good behavior, the Lord warned His people Israel that the reproach of men could be their downfall.  Their concern with what others said about them could cause them to seek unholy human alliances and cause them to make compromises.  Instead, they were called upon to trust the Lord and seek only His approval.

The expression "crowd control" not only applies to a concern of law enforcement agencies; it also describes the ability of a crowd to control an individual.  The desire for acceptance is so strong that some people do strange things to gain the approval of others.  For example, an old carnival headliner nicknamed "Cannonball," in his younger days, was blasted out of a cannon 1200 times, drove nails in his nose in sideshow extras, and pulled a 90 pound weight across a table with his eyelids.  When asked why he did such bizarre stunts, he replied, "Do you know what it's like to feel the applause of 60,000 people?  That's why I did it over and over."

We may hear the voice of compromise. I believe that Moses heard this voice when he failed to circumcise his son. Moses' fear of making waves with his wife became more important than obeying God. He no doubt compromised with his wife for the sake of peace. When I speak of compromise, I am not talking about the healthy give and take that must go on to live in harmony with one another. How well we love harmony, peace and tranquillity but it cannot be had at the expense of compromising the expressed will of God. We are talking about compromising with wrong by allowing evil to lead us away from God's purpose for our lives. Compromise can be slow and imperceptible as one rationalization leads to another.

In the early part of this century, an American ship was wrecked off the Scilly Isles near the coast of England.  The sea had been calm and the weather clear, but the vessel was caught in a treacherous current that slowly lured it off its course.  Before the captain and the crew realized what had happened, the ship had crashed into the rocks.   In life, too, powerful currents of compromise can catch the soul and carry to shipwreck. Spiritual drifting is usually a slow and imperceptible process.  We know it has occurred when we have lost the strong resistance to evil and the passionate desire for truth that we once knew.

We may listen to the voice of discouragement.  The voice of discouragement easily leads to anger. As we read the following verses we sense that Moses is angry. "And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." (Numbers 20:7-12) Moses' anger wasn't an impulsive anger that developed in a moment but rather it was an anger that had been building as he endeavored to lead these "rebels" to the Promised Land.

No doubt over the years Moses had begun to wonder "What's the use, what am I accomplishing." It seemed as though he had to drag them through the wilderness for forty years to get them to the Promised Land. These are certainly the words of discouragement. How his outlook must have changed when he appeared at the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus Christ.

A chaplain who was ministering to a seriously wounded soldier was requested by the dying man to write a letter to his former Sunday school teacher.  "Tell her I died a Christian because of what she taught me in that class in church.  The memory of her earnest pleas and the warmth of her love as she asked us to accept Jesus have stayed with me.  Tell her I'll meet her in Heaven."  The message was sent, and some time later the chaplain received this reply:  "May God forgive me.  Just last month I resigned my position and abandoned my Sunday school pupils because I felt my work had been fruitless.  How I regret my impatience and lack of faith!  I shall ask my preacher to let me go back to teaching.  I have learned that when one sows for God, the reaping is both sure and blessed!"

If we could only see this we would cease from our anger and bitterness of feeling that we are not accomplishing anything.

Often we hear the voice of deception. In reality the voice of compromise and discouragement are the voices of deception. The more we listen to the voices of deception the less distinct the voice of God becomes. The voices of deception drown out the voice of God and our mental perception becomes distorted and unbalanced. The person who listens to God is mentally sharper than the person who does not.

A young man, shortly after becoming a Christian, went out with some of his buddies for their usual "Friday Night Mayhem."  This was back in the days when they foolishly believed that alcohol and gasoline were a safe mixture.  As soon as the young Christian piled into the car along with the other guys, one of his friends offered him a beer.   He said, "No thanks, man.  I don't drink anymore.  I'm a Christian now." His friends insisted saying,  "Come on.  What's one drink going to hurt?  God's not going to send you to hell for taking one drink, is He?" "Well, no, I don't think so," he replied.  He relented and took the beer, self-righteously announcing as he chugged a big swig, "Okay, but only this one."   "Sure, sure," one of his buddies replied, "Who cares?"  In their minds, the point had been proven. For all his "Jesus talk," no real transformation had taken place in his life. He was still "one of the guys."  That one beer was the equalizer, their common denominator.

Darryl Strawberry says, "If you have to compromise and rationalize your values in order to be accepted, you haven't won a thing, but you've lost a lot."

We may hear the deceptive voice of indifference. Some say that it doesn't make any difference what you believe as long as you are honest and sincere. Circumcision in the Old Testament was the New Testament equivalent of baptism. That circumcision was to be the indicator of a deeper change of the heart. Moses said, "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." (Deuteronomy 10:16) Paul said, In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12) Moses refusing to circumcise his son is the same as many rejecting baptism. Our disobedience reveals the problems of an uncircumcised heart.

It is one thing to be struggling toward obedience in an effort to understand what God is asking you to do and it is quite another to become indifferent toward what God says. We become indifferent when we say, "I know that is what the Scriptures teach but I really don't think it makes any difference whether I obey or not. As long as I do what I feel is right in my own heart."

We Must Listen to the Voice of God

The other voices leave the impression that we do not have to submit to the will of God. These voices express the belief that one can accept Christ without ever allowing Christ to confront the sin in one's life. Our world has a tendency to believe that salvation is a gift of God, which doesn't necessarily translate into a need to listen to the voice of God. But as we look at Moses, God impresses upon Moses and us the importance of obeying his voice.

We must follow the Lord. We may be ridiculed and others may think that we are crazy but resisting the will of God has more consequences than resisting the voice of others. When we listen to the voice of others we quench the Spirit of God and become dead in sin. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

God was endeavoring to lead the children of Abraham out of Egyptian slavery through the leadership of Moses. It was absolutely essential that Moses follow God's direction. When God's grace appears to us today, it appears for the express purpose of leading us out of the bondage of sin. It is impossible for God's grace to do this if we stop our ears to the voice of God.

Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Matthew 7:21-23
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Our ears must be in tune to God's voice. The world speaks a different language than God speaks. The world marches to a different drumbeat than the one God marches to. God wants to give us divine directions and he has our best interest at heart. When we cease listening to God we began to listen to our pride, our fleshly desires and our own excuses.

If We Fail to Obey We Will Suffer the Discipline of God


One thing that we have seen in the life of Moses is the importance of obedience. Moses could not plea-bargain away his disobedience because of his inadequacies. Moses said, "I am not an eloquent speaker." God in essence said, "You must obey me and I will provide for your inadequacies." Moses tried to rationalize his behavior because of the rejection and disdain of his wife, God said, "If you fail it will cost your life." Moses struck the rock because the people had been rebels. God said, "You will not go to the land of promise."

We must obey God in all areas of our lives. We must not hold anything back; we must surrender everything we are and have to God. If not, then God has no choice but to punish us. Obedience will save us a lot of pain. Disobedience brings us pain and usually ends up hurting those around us. You see listening to God brings the very best he has to offer into our lives and the lives of others.


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