Along the journey of Moses’ life, tucked into the narrative, is a very strange incident:
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
The story just continues after this, as though nothing had happened. If one excises these three verses from the book of Exodus, the story seems to lose nothing; the narrative makes perfect sense. But God’s Word is not like other stories:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Think of the life of Moses, already related in the opening chapters of Exodus: God had already preserved his life as an infant, allowing Pharaoh’s daughter to rescue him from the reeds when Pharaoh had ordered Hebrew babies to be slaughtered. God had already spoken to him from the burning bush, and had called him into his service to the huge task for which he is remembered.
And yet we have this odd scene at a remote lodging-place, where the Lord confronts him. Despite all the preparation, all the groundwork that had been laid for Moses’ life purpose, he was about to perish and be forgotten (most likely) because of one area of disobedience: He had not circumcised his son, to identify him as a Hebrew and not an Egyptian or a Midianite. (At least, this is the customary interpretation.)
Think of all the ways in which Moses was being made ready, and yet this one thing was holding him back from the purpose of God. The Lord was willing to end his life right there in the tavern, to throw it all away (and perhaps start over with someone else) for this one sin of omission.
This ought to be a bit scary to the disciple. It means that in our lives we may someday come to a “Zipporah moment” — a time when the Lord is delivering an ultimatum, that His patience will tolerate no more disobedience in one area. Perhaps that area will seem irrelevant to us, or unrelated to the mission He is giving to us. That is not ours to judge. He knows us fully, and His ways are perfect.
Moses can be thankful that he had with him Zipporah and her flint knife (and her evidently strong stomach!). May we also have such people in our lives, courageous people who will be unsparing and direct in dealing with hidden sins that we ourselves refuse to see. May we likewise be aware that God may bring us suddenly to a “Zipporah Moment,” when we must, right then, deal with an issue before His purpose can continue.