Listening to the Voice of God
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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