One of the strangest passages in the Bible is Exodus 4:24-26. A quick summary: Moses was just commissioned by God to save the Israelites, so naturally, God meets Moses at an inn and “seeks to kill him.” Upon seeing her husband’s plight, Moses’ wife Zipporah does what we would all do: grabs a flint knife, circumcises their son and touches Moses feet with the bloody foreskin. Duh. Problem solved, and the story moves on.
Despite being absurdly straightforward, this passage has baffled readers for millennium. Of course I’m kidding – this is a very strange passage! But tucked in this bizarre exchange is a vital parenting reality that needs to govern our mission daily: we cannot faithfully live out God’s commands in our life if we haven’t embraced our identity with God’s people – and extended that to our children. We can’t skirt the fences of Christ-like living in our home if we’re to raise men and women faithfully following God.
The heart of Exodus 4 is God’s desire that Moses claim who he is: an Israelite, called to live under covenant with God. That covenant, given to Abraham in Genesis 17, required the circumcision of the males. But Moses hadn’t circumcised his son, probably because his wife Zipporah was a Midianite and was disgusted by the practice. Instead, Moses had allowed his wife’s preferences to overwhelm his faithfulness to God’s commands. After being commissioned, God forced him to choose.
If God had wished Moses dead at the inn, Moses would have died. Instead, it says God, “sought to kill Moses.” The reading brings to mind Jacob’s wrestling with God in Genesis 32 – finding one’s identity by grappling with the Almighty. At long last, Zipporah gives in and commits the act, all while sharing her palpable disgust: “A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision,” she says. We hear very little about Zipporah in the rest of Moses’ life.
But the point stands: God would not allow Moses into full-time ministry without committing his family to faithfulness. God wouldn’t allow Moses to tiptoe the edges of faithfulness.
This expectation of radical familial commitment can be a wake-up-call for the modern parent – there are far too many avenues for compromise to slip into our homes. This isn’t a call to legalism or authoritarianism, but the very real necessity of helping our children faithfully follow a jealous and holy God. We must evaluate what we tolerate based on faithfulness, not ‘keeping the peace.’
The heart of the parent must be judicious – rightfully judging between right and wrong. But our children (and our spouse and our own heart) will try to force our hand. Should we watch this movie? Allow this music? What about this outfit, or dance, or friend, or video game, or turn of phrase, or conceptual understanding?
Scripture teaches that in many gray areas of discernment, different Christians might land in different places (Romans 15). But an overriding theme remains: “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning” (Romans 14:23). Allowing anything into our family life that we believe is wrong isn’t going to keep the peace or avoid conflict, but rather move us toward disqualification in service to God.
As parents, we must judiciously choose faithfulness over allowance, even if it means difficulty.