Tag Archives: Hosea

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 3)

Standard

Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it

Something you must know about the prophets is that many times their prophecies are not placed in chronological order. In addition to this, it is highly unlikely that each oracle they preach came one right after the other. You can expect that they would have had both long and short periods of time in between each prophecy.

So we have no idea when this next passage occurs, but we know it happens! Hosea 3:1 says, The Lord said to me,

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (NIV)

Hosea had made a marriage covenant/vow with Gomer. Gomer had broken her vows and had gone after other lovers, had been an adulteress. Yet God tells His prophet, go get her back! How many times must we forgive, Lord? 70 times 7. How many times must I go back for my unfaithful wife, Lord? Again and again and again.

God is telling Hosea, as many times as she leaves, you go back to get her, because that’s what I would do. Israel had forsaken the covenant with their Husband. They had broken their vows, yet the Lord still loved them.

When one of my sheep wanders from the fold, I leave the 99 to go and get her. Because SHE’S MINE. And I LOVE Her.

Oh and by the way, Hosea, it’s going to cost you, just like it cost me. Hosea 3:2-3

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

Gomer has wandered so far that Hosea now has to purchase her for a price! Remember 30 shekels was the price for a slave! The price he pays is debated but here are the notes I found on the amounts.

My ESV footnote says, “A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams; a homer was about 6 bushels or 220 liters; a lethech was about 3 bushels or 110 liters.” The NIV footnote says a homer and a lethek together possibly weighed 430 pounds. A homer was valued at 50 shekels of silver according to Lev 27:16.

Regardless of whether or not this was a low or high price, the point is Hosea had to purchase back his wayward wife, Gomer. She’s been redeemed. Bought back.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary says to redeem meant: 1) To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage. 2) To repurchase what has been sold; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor. 3) To rescue; to recover; to deliver from.

Gomer would hopefully know her worth after being redeemed from her life of sin. We have no idea if she stayed with Hosea because after chapter 3, her name is not mentioned again. But Hosea would send a clear message to his bride – I have purchased you at a great price. You are mine.

He wanted her to be sealed as his bride forever. She would be sealed up, marked as Hosea’s bride, and secured from danger. To seal also has the connotation of being closed, fulfilled, complete.

Do you remember what Gomer’s name meant? COMPLETE.

Did she finally find her worth in God? Could she truly be called complete?

To be sealed meant having your heart imprinted by the One you belong to. Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it.

Jesus secured our redemption. (Eph 1:7-8) He purchased us with His blood. (1 Pet 1:18-19) He redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). And He set His seal over our hearts, the Holy Spirit, as a promise of what is to come! (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13-14)

To Him be the glory forever!

Hosea finishes God’s message in v. 4-5

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

God again reveals the parallel between Hosea’s marriage and God’s marriage to His people because God would do the same to Israel that Hosea had done to Gomer. Just like Gomer who was in “captivity” to her sinful lifestyle and selling her body to her “lovers”, God would send away His people in captivity to a foreign nation.

Verse 4 is simply referring yet again to the exile when they will be without their king, without their way of false worship, and without their false idols. They would leave their promised land and be captives in Assyria. YET the Lord would bring them back. In fact He uses the phrase they shall return and seek the Lord.

The word for return in the Hebrew is Shuwb (shoob) and meant to turn back. Hosea uses this word 21 times throughout his prophecy! He uses it not only of Israel but of the Lord, turning back to Israel or away from His wrath.

In fact in Hosea 14:1-2a, 3a-4 he says,

1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take with you words
and return to the Lord…

Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands…”

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.

I love the picture God gives us here of what to do. Return or turn back. In other words: Repent! And when you turn back, take with you words. Repentance involves admitting and agreeing with God about your sins and then turning from them.

He wanted His people to admit their sins, be specific about what they’d done. Tell God, we know Assyria can’t save us, those idols can’t save us, only You, God, can save us.

Then God tells them, I will heal your abandonment of me. I will love you voluntarily. I will not execute my fierce anger against you.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be healed from your inclination to wander? This sin in us is a disease that we need to be healed from! It’s a thorn in our flesh. We are in desperate need of treatment to remove the disease, to have the thorn removed. God is going to heal our apostasy, our inclination to sin against Him.

Did God heal Gomer’s unfaithful heart? I don’t know.

Not only will He heal, but He’s also going to love us with an everlasting, unconditional love. His anger will be turned away from us. And it will be placed on His Son. (Rom 5:9 we are saved from God’s wrath through Him!)

I hear the old hymn:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

Jesus, the holy God, became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (so that our apostasy would be healed) 2 Cor 5:21.

Jesus came in flesh so that sin could be condemned in the flesh (Rom 8:3).

The thorns found their place on Christ as well, piercing His head in the twisted crown.

Praise God He is coming!

Finally, Hosea mentions David again in this last verse of chapter 3. The children of God would return, seek the Lord, and David their king. They would come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness.

Jeremiah 23:5 tells us,

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

That’s my Jesus. He is the Righteous Branch in David’s family tree. Do you see why the people in Jesus’ time would have been so zealous for a king? They had experienced the trial of exile, knowing it had been their turning away from the Lord that had put them there.

They wanted to be a nation that sought the Lord, that feared Him. This is why we see the rise of the Pharisees and all those religious leaders. They truly wanted to know God’s laws so that they never ended up in exile again. But they missed their Messiah. They missed the Righteous Branch.

Even those who knew Jesus and followed Him didn’t understand the kind of King He came to be. He would reign as king and deal wisely. He would execute justice and righteousness in the land. But He did so much more!

He saved them from their spiritual disease, not just their Roman oppressors. He took away their sin problem, not just their political, economic, and social problems! And He brought down the barrier wall, dividing the Jew and Gentile. Thanks be to God, we can be called Children of the Living God.

You must know today that God Loves You and says You are worth His pursuit!

Here are the words from Come Thou Fount:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
mount of God’s redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
hither by Thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for Thy courts above.

 

To view the video, click here.

Advertisements

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 2)

Standard

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Perhaps some time has passed between his last oracle and the next one. Hosea 2:2 stands out as a very stark picture concerning Gomer:

2Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.

Ezekiel 16:15 also says quite bluntly to Israel:

But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.

And again in Hosea 4:12,

My people inquire of a piece of wood,
and their walking staff gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray,
and they have left their God to play the whore.

How many times did Hosea have to plead with Gomer? How many times did she leave, wander away?

We know that tradition calls Jeremiah the weeping prophet, but I have to wonder how terribly sorrowful Hosea must have been. He didn’t just SPEAK God’s message, He LIVED it. If Israel was going to play the whore, Hosea was to play the husband to the whore. He was becoming very acquainted with God’s heart for His people, and it HURT.

You can hear the note of agony in his voice as he’s ready to do just about anything to bring her back. Strip her naked? Make her like the wilderness? Kill her with thirst? In other words, put her in a place of need so she can learn dependence on the One who loves her.

Bind her wandering heart to him.

God continues His tone of judgement for their sins in v.9-13. Gomer and Israel believed their lovers had given them the grain and wool and drink and gold so God would take it all away. He says in v. 9-11,

Therefore I will take back
my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season,
and I will take away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
10 Now I will uncover her lewdness
in the sight of her lovers,
and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
11 And I will put an end to all her mirth,
her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths,
and all her appointed feasts.

Isaiah also speaks to their feasts in 1:13-14

13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
    I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.

Hosea 2:12-13 continues,

12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
of which she said,
These are my wages,
which my lovers have given me.’
I will make them a forest,
and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals
when she burned offerings to them
and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry,
and went after her lovers
    and forgot me, declares the Lord.

Micah 1:7 says of the harlot’s wages,

All her carved images shall be beaten to pieces,
all her wages shall be burned with fire,
and all her idols I will lay waste,
for from the fee of a prostitute she gathered them,
and to the fee of a prostitute they shall return.

God says His people, Israel, had gone after her lovers. They forgot God. The word forgot in Hebrew is shakach (shaw-kakh’) and means to forget, ignore, wither, to cease to care.

God had already forewarned them all the way back in Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17-19

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”

Hosea, wanting to put a stop to Gomer’s adulterous lifestyle says in Hosea 2:6-7,

6Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.’

It’s like he’s resolved to the fact that she is going to wander and continue to pursue those other men, but he still holds out hope that she will return to him. That she would bind her wandering heart to her husband.

He hopes she’ll realize that she really was better off with Hosea than with pursuing her passions. For God, His hope was that His bride would return to Him: Isaiah 54:5-6

5For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
    like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.

Hear His words with all the anguish dripping from them. You have deserted me. You have forgotten your first love.

One of my favorite images is this one about the Hedge. One of my mentors, Jamy Fisher, wrote a Bible study on Hosea called Chains Falling. In it she writes about the hedge.

In Hosea this hedge is translated in NIV as “thorn bushes”. Its purpose was to keep Gomer from pursuing her sinful desires. It was placed as a boundary.

Elsewhere in Scripture, a hedge is used for protection. In Job 1:10 Satan tells God,

Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.”

It was protection from harm, poverty, etc.  and was a blessing on his work and possessions. However, here’s how Job saw the hedge – as a barrier, keeping something good hidden from him. He didn’t see the purpose of the hedge in Job 3:23

“Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, / whom God has hedged in?”

Sometimes those hedges God builds up for us that look thorny and seem to hide good things from our view, are really meant to protect us and to keep us from stumbling like Gomer.

Jesus Sought Me When a Stranger, Wand’ring from the Fold of God

If you don’t see God as a romantic, just read the next verses in Hosea. Hosea 2:14 says,

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.

The word allure in Hebrew is Pathah (paw-thaw’) and carries with it a note of deception and persuasion. To entice, even seduce.

The phrase “speak tenderly” is that same phrase used in Ruth of Boaz who “spoke kindly” to her (Ruth 2:13) and of David who spoke to Abigail to be his wife (1 Sam 25).

I wonder if Hosea tried to speak tenderly to Gomer, urging her to come home. Did he go out to find her, catch her in a shameful act, and respond with this gentle tenderness? How would her heart respond to him?

Poor Gomer maybe never knew (before Hosea) how a woman was to be treated. Did she know what it meant to be a wife? To be treasured and not abused? To be seen as beautiful and for that to be celebrated and not used for another’s pleasure? Did she know what it meant for a man to treat her with kindness, expecting nothing in return?

Even beyond this, could she have known that as much as Hosea loved her, the God who made her also delighted in her and desired to pour out His love on her? Did she know He had created her for much greater purposes than how she was currently living?

I imagine this picture of God bending down, stooping to whisper in His bride’s ear Come back to Me, My love.

He pursues His bride but in this case it is with romance and tenderness. It’s Your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance. (Rom 2:4)

However, recall the kind of bride Israel has been to her Groom. This bride has been unfaithful. Like Gomer, she has forsaken, forgotten, left her husband. And God’s response is KINDNESS?

His kindness makes absolutely no sense! His pursuit of His unfaithful bride is absurd!

Let me ask you this. How many times either in your relationship with a family member or in your relationship to God have you been forgiven or loved even though you didn’t deserve it? In fact, you probably deserved punishment or scorn?

How many times have you expected someone or God to really rip into you about something you did wrong and give you a good tongue lashing only to have just the opposite happen? God certainly brought judgement on His people and gives them plenty of reprimands and corrections. However, He responds in this passage with kindness.

How much more did you love that person or how much more did you love God in that moment when He gives you love and not discipline? In fact maybe you would have preferred the tongue lashing, knowing you deserved it, and felt like you had it coming? Doesn’t your heart melt with the deepest affection, knowing you deserved the punishment and yet He withholds it AND then pours on Love and Mercy?

She who has been forgiven much, loves much. (Luke 7 the Sinful Woman Forgiven)

As Hosea continues this image of hope, he writes in v. 15,

 And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

Hosea speaks of the Valley of Achor in this prophecy. Achor meant “trouble”. God promises to make the Valley of Trouble a Door of Hope. But what’s the Valley of Achor? And why is it trouble?

Gomer valley_of_achor

It comes from Joshua 7 when Achan had kept some of the devoted items for himself which incurred God’s wrath and resulted in Israel’s military defeat against the city of Ai. Verses 24-26 tells us,

24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

God’s promise was to bring Hope out of Trouble. Beauty from Ashes.

Next, (v. 15) God gives us this image of Israel as a young bride “in the days of her youth” when she had loved her God wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 2:2 words it this way:

Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.

He had caused them to wander in the wilderness so they could learn devotion and dependence to/on the One who chose them and provided for them.

But now, He tells them how He wishes they were like that blushing bride again, having a pure devotion and love for their God again.

Poor Hosea maybe never knew this devotion from his wife.

As we read of God’s bride responding to Him, Hosea says in v. 16-17:

16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

My Baal meant my Master. It was a generic word for “lord”. The people were using this common term for their holy God. The people had mixed up their worship of the One True God with man-made, hand-carved idols.

The worship of Baal had become so common that God speaks of a time when that word will be removed from their mouths. Instead of the people forgetting their God, they would be forgetting the name of Baal.

Was Gomer accustomed to calling Hosea her master instead of her husband? Does this reveal her lack of relationship with her husband?

Do you call Him Lord because you think you have to? Or do you call Him My Love because you value that relationship with Him?

Is He too familiar? Too common to you? This is God in His holy place. He is not your master who lords His power over you. He is your Husband who pours out His love over you. (Rom 5:5 through the Spirit in us)

Hosea (God) goes on to speak of “that day” like He’s in a perfect day dream in v. 18-20:

18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

I am very fascinated by all the marriage language in Hosea. Here, He writes about betrothing Israel to Himself forever. Remember how He had previously said, “You are not My people”? (1:9) And “…she is not my wife, and I am not her husband”? (2:2)

Was Hosea saying, even though you, Gomer, have left me for your lovers, I will betroth you to me forever? And Gomer, you will know the Lord!

Is God saying He will take them as His wife to love them in righteousness, justice, love, mercy, faithfulness. To be all these things to Him? I take you as My wife forever. In sickness and in health. In righteousness and in sinfulness. In justice and in perversion of justice. In love and in rejection. In mercy and in judgment. In faithfulness and unfaithfulness.

OR is He saying I will put a heart in YOU to be righteous, just, loving, merciful, faithful to ME? You’ve forgotten the Lord, but THEN you will know the Lord. You aren’t faithful now, but you will be faithful then.

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

Hosea 2:21-23 says,

21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord,
I will answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel,
23     and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

Remember earlier in Hosea 1 Jezreel meant “God scatters”, but the word can also mean “God sows” which is the image we see here in Hosea 2. Whereas He had previously promised to punish them for the sin of Jehu there at Jezreel, He would (in that day) bring Israel back and “sow” her in the land. They would be removed for a time from the promised land (with the exile) and would be planted back in their land “in that day”.

In that day God would make this covenant to show mercy on those who had no mercy. To call those who were not His people, My people. In Jeremiah 31:33 the prophet writes,

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We can look to Jesus, knowing He made it possible for us to know the Father. He writes His law on our hearts. He gives us the Spirit which sanctifies us and transforms us into the image of the Son. And through His Spirit we cry “Abba, Father”! (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6)

In Romans 9, Paul writes about the Gentiles becoming a part of God’s people and he references Hosea! In v. 25-26 he says those who were not My people will be called My people.

There is such hope for us. We look to that ultimate fulfillment where Jesus will come and gather His people together to be with Him forever in peace and in the presence of God. In. That. Day.

Gomer: A Heart Unfaithful (Part 1)

Standard

Gomer. With a name like that, there’s bound to be a story. Her name meant “complete” or “completion”. How tragically ironic for a woman who found her sole purpose in the giving of her body. She was a woman broken to pieces, far from being complete.

Imagine her surprise when the man of God, Hosea, took her by the hand to enter into his life as his wife. Her very private life suddenly became very public. In fact God told Hosea that He would use their marriage to cry out against His own people, the unfaithful wife, Israel.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

But did she love Hosea? Did she even love God?

She was prone to wander. Just like Israel, she would be unfaithful to her husband. Where did she go wrong? Where did Israel go wrong?

Prone to Wander

The northern kingdom, Israel, was in dire straits. God had sent Elijah and Elisha and then Amos after them to prophecy against His people. He was calling them to remember their covenant with Him and to say, if you don’t remember your promise, those curses I swore about will come to pass. I promised.

Hosea then comes on the scene as a prophet around 750 B.C. This is only 180 years after the nation split into two kingdoms. 180 years after Solomon.

If you take a look at the Kings, you’ll find that EVERY king in the northern kingdom was a BAD king.

Gomer kings-prophets timeline

You could say that Hosea had his work cut out for him.

To summarize the Israelite (northern kingdom) kings is rather easy. They were evil!

Jeroboam I – he set up his own worship centers to keep the north from going south to Jerusalem. He made calves to be the likeness of God and set up new priests to serve at the centers. (1 Kings 12) OMG.

Nadab – did evil in God’s sight

Baasha – killed the previous king to be king; caused the people to sin just like Jeroboam

Elah – evil

Zimri – killed the previous king to be king; burned himself in the king’s house to escape Omri

Omri – appointed king by the people at the same time as Zimri; went up against Zimri; did more evil than all before him

Ahab – even more evil than all the others; erected altars to Baal and Asherah; also sacrificed two of his own sons! (1 Kings 16)

Ahaziah – did evil, worshiped the baal

Joram – evil, killed by the next king

Jehu – kills Ahab’s evil son, Joram, also killed Jezebel (evil wife of Ahab) and 70 of Ahab’s family members; killed all the prophets of Baal, burned the pillars and house of Baal; YET he sinned by worshipping the golden calves at Bethel and Dan (which Jeroboam had set up) (2 Kings 10)

Jehoahaz – did evil (13)

Jehoash – did evil

Jeroboam II – though he did great things for Israel (restoring borders), he did evil in God’s sight (14)

All the rest of the kings reigned anywhere from one month to 10 years. Needless to say, their time as a nation was coming to a fast close. The kings were dropping like flies and they were about to be invaded by Assyria. (722 B.C.)

It is under these conditions that God calls Hosea in Hosea 1:1, but it was an unlikely, even appalling kind of call. Hosea 1:2 :

Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.

If I were Hosea, my answer might sound something like: Um, yes Sir. But do I have to?

But Hosea is obedient and in Hosea 1:3 it says,

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

None of the other prophets ever had this kind of assignment. Wasn’t the man of God supposed to be, well, godly? Wasn’t it considered a major sin to sleep with a prostitute?

God wanted to make a statement to His people. I’d say His message came loud and clear.

Gomer’s first son is said to be by Hosea. His name? Jezreel. It meant “God scatters”. Hosea 1:4-5 says:

…Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.

Where is this Valley of Jezreel?

Gomer Valley jezreel

Here is a map, showing that it is just south of Galilee, actually in the region of Samaria.

Here is an aerial view of the land:

Gomer aeriel view jezreel-valley

Perhaps you have read what happened in the Valley of Jezreel. The evil King Ahab killed a righteous man in cold blood to be able to have that man’s land (which happened to be in the Jezreel Valley). But did you know that God judged Ahab several kings later when he appointed Jehu as king of Israel? Jehu murders MANY people, all of them connected to Ahab’s house. He sounds like a fairly terrible king. HOWEVER, God had appointed him to carry out the task of killing all of Ahab’s house.

The problem for Jehu was that, even though he had gotten rid of the evil Ahab and his family, he didn’t get rid of all the Baals. This judgment comes on him with the birth of Hosea’s son, Jezreel.

God would “break the bow” of Israel, indicating a military defeat in the region of Samaria. This prophecy comes true exactly as God said: Assyria would invade through the north, entering into Samaria and taking the city and the people of Israel. It came in two waves. First we read in 2 Kings 15:29,

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

Then in 2 Kings 17:6

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The next verse (17:7, 12) says,

7And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God,…12 and they served idols.

Hosea receives this prophecy around 750 B.C. and the captivity happens in 722, less than 30 years later.

Right in the midst of all of this lies Gomer. A heart prone to wander.

Prone to Leave the One She Loves

Hosea 1:6 says,

She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.”

Gomer conceives again but this time it does say not she bore him a daughter. This daughter’s name is Lo-Ruhamah. No mercy. Or Not loved.

Ouch. That girl must have had a complex!

We find out later in Hosea 2:4-5 that this daughter and the next son are both illegitimate children. They don’t belong to Hosea! He writes,

Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
    she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Her mother was out playing the harlot, making love to any man who came by, but she, the daughter, receives no love. Her mother went out after her lovers, acting shamefully, but Lo-Ruhamah would be the one shamed.

A footnote (ESV study bible) for verse 5 says, “The Canaanite people believed that they owed all the products of the soil to the Baals…. All fertilization was a result of the power of the Baals. Having intercourse with sacred prostitutes was thought to contribute to the agricultural prosperity of the land. The harlot’s pay came from the harvest (v. 12).”

Gomer believes her lovers have paid her with the grains, oils, and drinks from the harvest. Israel believed their fruitful crops came from these gods. They played the harlot, going after these idols.

Hosea continues in 2:8,

And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal.

Does your heart break for Hosea? For God? She did not know it was I who gave these gifts to her. I gave her the silver and gold. But what does she do? Uses it for the idols.

Idols! You saw what happened with the kings of Israel. Idolatry. They were believing and worshipping a lie. These were counterfeit gods. Israel was whoring around with other “gods” or lovers.

The Old Testament speaks to the folly of idolatry. It is folly because they worshipped something that was not God, something they created with their own hands and which ultimately cannot do any good for them.

Isaiah 44:9-20 addresses the folly of idolatry. In v. 20 Isaiah writes,

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

As for Israel, how could they even stand if God removes His love from them? If He chooses not to extend His mercy to them any longer?

Perhaps they had taken the words of the Psalmist for granted:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4)

Their time had run out. He would no longer forgive them. Their sins would now be counted against them. They will not be able to stand up under this judgement. Assyria was coming.

Hosea writes in 1:7

But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.

So even though God would not have mercy on Israel, God indicates that He will save Judah (southern kingdom) because they at least were still following in His ways. In 2 Kings 19:32-36 Isaiah the prophet, speaking to Hezekiah, king over Judah says,

32 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: “He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” 35 And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.

God didn’t use bow, sword, war, horse or horsemen. He used His great might and struck down Judah’s enemies.

Now back to Israel (the northern kingdom), the text continues in Hosea 1:8-9

When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

Gomer conceives a third time, possibly by another man, and this time it’s another son. The Lord tells Hosea to call him Lo-ammi. Was this son NOT Hosea’s? Not God’s people?

Can you reach into Hosea’s heart and take a peek at the agony he must have experienced because of this calling on his life? The man of God with the wayward wife. She was prone to leave the one who loved her.

This can be seen as a reversal of the Mosaic covenant. The I Am is no longer their I Am. God tells His people, you are not My people; I am not your God. He rejects the people He had chosen. I. Am. Not. Yours.

It’s like He’s telling them, you have acted in a way that reveals to Me that you care nothing for Me. You have shown Me that you want nothing to do with Me. If that’s how you want it, you’ve got it.

But then, God says in Hosea 1:10-11 and 2:1

10Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

I love the redemption story we see unfolding in Hosea’s story. This is what Jamy Fisher calls the Godly Yet (Chains Falling). God always gives hope even in the midst of His judgment! He tells them though I’ve called you, Lo-ammi, you will be called Ammi. I’ve called you Lo-ruhamah, you will be called Ruhamah. He redeems their names. Those children received new identities.

You’ve determined in your heart to reject your calling as My people but I call you My people, I call you Loved. You belong to me, the Living God.

What name do you most often live under? Do you live under a lie? Not loved? Not chosen? Not belonging to God? What has God called you? Loved. Chosen. Holy. Belonging to Him.

He then prophecies that even though they will be exiled, both Judah and Israel will be gathered together and become one nation again. He even tells them that Jezreel will no longer be a place of judgement but one of great joy.

Four other prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah) also prophesy about God bringing both Judah and Israel back to their land. In fact Ezekiel 34:23 says

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.

Are you tired of hearing those hoof beats yet? I hope not. This is a very clear prophecy about Christ, the descendant of David, the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps Hosea bends down to speak to his wayward wife, I know you’re prone to wander, to leave me, but look what God says to His people. They have left Him, but still He pursues her because they belong to Him, just like you belong to me. Stay…Gomer…

Zipporah (A Heart of Sacrifice) Part 2

Standard

Exodus 3-4

As we read through the Exodus narrative, we come to the famous burning bush passage found in chapters 3-4.

Zipporah mt sinai

This is an image of a present day map showing where scholars believe Mt. Sinai (or Mt. Horeb) was located. The land of Midian is just to the east of that body of water, so this would mean that Moses would have shepherded Reuel’s flocks even beyond the traditional Midian borders. This is the place where Moses meets God for the first time and where God promises Moses that He will meet him when they leave Egypt.

Here is a picture (from Google maps!) looking out from one of the mountains in this region:

Zipporah Sinai

Remember the issue of polytheism? I believe that as we read these chapters, we can understand Moses’ response to God more accurately when read in light of his polytheistic culture and background.

Moses grew up in Egypt and would have been taught in the Egyptian ways. The Egyptian way was polytheistic (I’m thinking of at least four Egyptian gods as I’m typing this, and there were lots more!). He and Zipporah likely had a similar upbringing due to the polytheistic tendencies of the two nations. It is very possible that Moses knew NOTHING about the God of Israel, just as Zipporah knew nothing of YHWH.

You may have noticed in Ex. 3-4 that when God spoke to Moses, he wanted to know what name he would give to the people to let them know which god was coming to their rescue BECAUSE THERE WERE SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM! I almost sympathize with him being hesitant because this seems to be Moses’ first encounter with the God of Israel.

Fred Blumenthal writes, “To have been so conditioned, and yet to see, hear and accept the revelation at the Burning Bush was an accomplishment probably unequaled in the history of mankind.

God tells Moses, (Exodus 2:23-25) I’ve heard the cries of His people. And I’m sending you, Moses, to deliver them.

Ernest Neufeld writes about the irony of God choosing Moses for this mission:

How ironic that a Hebrew child, the adopted grandson of Pharaoh, brought up in the Egyptian way of life in the royal court, was the one whom the God of Israel chose as His instrument to deliver His people from the hands of the god-king of Egypt!

God could have chosen any other Israelite, including Aaron! He could have found someone who was not so hesitant or who felt more qualified for the job. The irony is in the transformation that takes place in this all-but-assimilated Hebrew into an uncompromising champion and defender of God’s chosen people. Thus did God redeem Moses from his bondage for the redemption of the Israelites from theirs. (From The Redemption of Moses by Ernest Neufeld in Judaism)

Can you imagine how the conversation went when Moses goes home to Zipporah: (after Exodus 3:1-4:17)

“Honey, you’re never going to guess what just happened to me!” with a hint of smoke on his clothing.

“I saw a bush on fire that didn’t burn up!”

“I know, it doesn’t make sense!” “And then the bush spoke to me.”

“I swear! I’m not making this up!”

“But that’s not even the craziest part.”

“So the bush, I mean, God, He wants me to go lead His people out of slavery in Egypt.”

“No, I have no idea how that’s going to work.”

“No, I don’t know why He asked me to do it. I’m telling you, I TRIED to get out of it!”

“So do you feel like going on a trip with me? I really think this is going to be a BIG deal!”

Again, we have no such conversation recorded in the Bible, so it’s hard to know what Zipporah’s reaction would have been.

If we could recap, we’ve gotten a glimpse of who Zipporah is and some of the roles she plays. She’s a Midianite, a shepherdess, a daughter, a sister, wife, and mother. But do you get any sense of her relationship to the God of Israel?

Not really.

We just barely get a sense of Moses’ relationship with God after this encounter.

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” 24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death25 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!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. Exodus 4:18-26

IDENTITY: Sojourner

After Moses returns he goes to Jethro in 4:18 (yes, his name has changed. He was called Reuel in Ex. 2) and asks permission to leave so he can complete the mission God Himself has called him to do. And why would he do this?

Moses had been in Midian for FORTY years (Acts 7:29-30). That’s half of a lifetime! He was 80 years old at this point in time! Also note that Moses probably realized that he would be leaving this place of refuge, his father-in-law’s home, for good, never to return. He was still the foreigner, a sojourner in the Midianite land, returning to Egypt, the foreign land in order to bring them out to the Promised Land. It was likely out of gratitude for Jethro’s hospitality in taking him in as his son-in-law that Moses returns to take leave of his father-in-law’s household. He wanted to show him HONOR.

Isn’t it interesting that Moses gives Jethro no details concerning why he was to go back to Egypt. He just had this amazing encounter with God and says absolutely nothing about it to his father-in-law. In fact, he kind of lies about it by saying: “I’m just going to check and see if they’re alive.” !!

What is more startling is the way in which Jethro responds to Moses’ request. “Go in peace.” I’m guessing Moses breathed a sigh of relief that his father-in-law was not like Laban!

Are you surprised to read anew in verse 20 that Moses took his wife and sons with him to Egypt? By the way, he does have 2 sons but we haven’t heard about the other son, Eliezer, yet! He doesn’t show up formally until Gen 18:4 (which I’ll get to in a few paragraphs).

Regardless of how this happened, I had always pictured Moses and Aaron in Egypt, by themselves. But now we must picture Moses heading out with his family.

What kind of thoughts went through Zipporah’s mind as she trudged along beside her husband, the God-appointed champion for the Israelites?

She didn’t have the experience of the burning bush. She couldn’t see herself as an Israelite like her husband. Did she even care about them? Was she angry about leaving her home country? Or feel privilege about having Moses as a husband? Did she wish she could have talked with God like her husband did? Did her religious experiences as a daughter to a priest serve to prepare her heart for what she would encounter on her way to Egypt before the one true God? As far as we know, she had no knowledge of the God of Israel.

Is this perhaps why Moses brings her and their sons along with him, to be able to allow them to see firsthand what the God of Israel was like? How He had chosen the Israelites to be His special possession over all the people of the earth?

The only thing we know is that she went. She followed her husband as an act of submission to his leadership. She became a Sojourner too. I’ll go wherever you go. Your people my people.

Have you ever been there before? Maybe God called you to obedience in some area of life. Or maybe, like Zipporah, God called your husband to obedience and you got to go along for the ride because you are one flesh after all, so his story is your story.

My best example of this my current circumstance! How ironic! About 4 years ago Eric felt God pressing his heart to follow in obedience to seminary and beyond. As his wife, I was not a fan of this decision. I felt like God hadn’t told me anything! It was a difficult and long process for me to come to terms with seminary as a reality for our family. It would mean long hours of my husband studying in an office and not time spent with our family. It would mean fewer opportunities to get out and do outings with friends or family because that precious little time would need to be spent with our family. It would mean I might feel like a single mom at times because he would not be available to help. (I’m really not looking for anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m truly throwing a tantrum.)

To top it all off, getting to go back to school has been a dream of mine for years. I could be a professional student for the rest of my life and be completely happy with that arrangement. But it would not be me sitting in those classrooms and reading those books or writing those papers. (Some of you are thinking, “who would really want to do this anyway?!”) No, it would be my husband, the one who had no desire to sit in classrooms or read books much less write those papers.

But I saw God work in ways that made no sense in order for Eric to be able to go back to school. He showed Himself as the sovereign God over our circumstances and dreams. I became a sojourner on a journey which was communicated not to me but to my husband.

Thank you God, for this story about Zipporah. I can relate.

IDENTITY: Heroine

Then verse 24 completely throws us off our guard. What in the world is going on? First Moses is exiled, then he’s married, before you know it, he’s talking to God who gives him an important mission, and now God wants to kill him? Did I miss something here?

The phrase in v. 24 “sought to put him to death” is the same phrase used of Moses in Ex. 2:14 when he killed the Egyptian and of Pharaoh who “sought to kill Moses” in Ex. 2:15.

Victor Hamilton makes a great point that God left room for mediation, allowing time for Zipporah. We see Zipporah spring to action as if she knew exactly what needed to be done! But how could Zipporah have known what to do or that what she was doing would work? Did she know about the covenant that God had made with Abraham about the circumcision?

Douglas Stuart writes that the many people groups in the ancient world practiced circumcision, including the Midianites. So Zipporah would have grown up understanding how circumcision was done and what its significance was. (NAC on Exodus)

He also writes that when she said “bridegroom of blood” (v. 25) or “relative of blood”, this phrase very well could have been the official phrase used when performing the rite of circumcision. This would have legitimized the deed. (It would be similar to the phrases we use when performing a baptism: “In the name of the Father…, buried with Christ…raised to walk…”)

If we take a step back and look at these THREE verses as a whole (v. 24-26), we find even more questions: The original text does not specify who is being referred to in these verses. The only names in the verses are God and Zipporah. Whatever translation you’re reading has already taken the liberty of deciding these factors. So there’s the confusion about who God sought to kill and who was being circumcised and who was the bridegroom of blood.

It is no wonder that David Penchansky says “Biblical scholars love this passage because it is totally incomprehensible.” (From Hamilton Exodus)

Here are the two major theories of interpretation:

  1. God was seeking to kill Gershom because he was not a part of the covenantal people yet (being uncircumcised). This theory is tied into the dialogue between God and Moses about God planning to kill the first-born son in verses 22-23. God seeking to kill Gershom would be symbolic of God seeking to kill the firstborn of Egypt.

The reason this is important is that, “If Moses [was going to] plead for God’s firstborn, if he [would] represent God at all, then his own first-born must be an Israelite. Otherwise his non-Israelite first-born will perish, as will all first-borns not protected by the blood of the Covenant. Gershom [had to] enter the Covenant in order to escape the coming [Angel of Death].” (Howell)

Also, remember the phrase about the bridegroom of blood? Howell writes that once Gershom is circumcised, he is a bridegroom (relative) by means of blood both to YHWH and to Zipporah. He states, Zipporah’s identity with the covenant community was wrapped up in her marriage to Moses. Moses was a blood relative because of genealogy and circumcision. Because Zipporah obviously could not be circumcised … her identity with Israel existed through her identity with Moses. Zipporah was considered a member of the people of Israel because of her marriage to a circumcised Israelite. Now that Gershom was circumcised, he too was a member of the people of Israel. Therefore, it is reasonable that Zipporah would say, ‘You are a relative by means of blood to me. (From Firstborn Son of Moses by Terry John in The Journal for the Study of the Old Testament in ATLAS)

  1. Another view indicates that God sought to kill Moses because he failed to circumcise his son. John Calvin’s commentary on these verses is in line with this view.

However this view also raises some serious questions. For one, did Moses even know about the covenant God had made with Abraham (since he was raised in Egypt) AND if he didn’t know, how could God punish him in his ignorance? In addition to this, why would God choose to punish him now instead of correcting him in their earlier conversations?

The suddenness of the attack might be explained if it were the case that Zipporah was pregnant with Eliezer as they traveled, then gave birth, and after the 8 days commanded by God for the act of circumcision they chose not to do it, thus incurring God’s wrath.

However, many question whether death was an appropriate punishment for remaining uncircumcised. The covenant made to Abraham is in Genesis 17:14:

14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

Some scholars believe that to be “cut off” meant only to be “excluded from the covenant” or dismissed from the nation.

Robinson explains that, “The omission of the rite of circumcision seems to me to provide an inadequate motive for the attack for the following reasons. The command to circumcise had indeed already been given, to Abraham (Gen. xvii), but the punishment for remaining uncircumcised was stated to be exclusion from the covenant (Gen. xvii 14), not death.” (p. 11 Robinson)

Still other scholars believe that when someone was “cut off” they were killed. If you look up the word “cut off” (occurs 283 times!) and visit all of the cross references, some (but not all) seem to indicate death as in the Ex 31 passage:

Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Exodus 31:14

So your view about what it meant to be “cut off” from the nation will determine whether or not you believe death was an appropriate punishment for remaining uncircumcised.

Other scholars who discard the circumcision argument give other reasons for God seeking to kill Moses but quite frankly, they are a bit of a stretch!

One of these views claims that Moses was the object of the divine wrath due to his lack of enthusiasm and willingness to obey God’s word. And it was by the blood of his son’s circumcision that Moses’ sin is atoned for.

Still another view comes from scholar, William Propp, who explains the reason God sought to kill Moses was because of his sin of murdering the Egyptian. If you take on this view, you must read something into the text that isn’t obviously there, trying to explain a difficult passage with ideas that aren’t directly apparent in the text itself.

Regardless of which view you believe is most plausible, I want to direct your thoughts to Zipporah and her role in this narrative. Zipporah is portrayed here as the heroine (v. 26), and Jewish folklore praises her as a heroine, not just here, but in their traditions concerning her. (In fact, one tradition taught that when Moses fled to Midian, Jethro feared the wrath of pharaoh, and had Moses thrown into a hole. Zipporah tended to him for 10 years after which point Jethro found him still surviving and Zipporah then demanded that he be taken out and given to her as her husband.) (From Encyclopedia of Jewish folklore and traditions by Raphael Patai; Hayah Bar-Yitshak)

Zipporah is the one who saved Moses (or her son) from the divine wrath. In fact Hamilton writes that we might find a parallel between the women in Exodus 1-2 who saved Moses from the wrath of Pharaoh, and Zipporah who saves Moses from the wrath of the Lord. Another parallel could be the shedding of blood via the act of circumcision averted divine wrath just as “touching” the blood to the Hebrews’ houses in Egypt turned away God’s wrath from them in the night of the first Passover (Hamilton).

This is Zipporah’s first “encounter” with the God of Israel (that we know of). So this first encounter would appear to be, well, not so pleasant! What kinds of images must have come to mind as Zipporah tried to wrap her mind around the God of Israel? Did she see Him as a vindictive, scary god, out to destroy her and her family? Did it occur to her that Yahweh was not just some obscure deity that she was accustomed to worshipping? That this God was personal and had created her and loved her? Did she realize that He was the One True God?

In my Dictionary of the Pentateuch, under family relationships, I read that while blood kinship played a key role in determining your personal identity, it was in fact the issue of covenant that truly determined your status or membership in a group of people. Zipporah had no chance of being an Israelite unless she fell under the covenant of her husband (because after all, she couldn’t be circumcised).

As we think about her encounter with God, consider the customs of her time. A woman in the ancient Near East would worship the god of her father, and then, once her marriage contract had been arranged and she officially joined the new household of her husband, she would transfer her allegiance and her worship to the god of her husband.  (Dictionary of Pentateuch)

Up to this point, Zipporah and Moses were still under Jethro’s authority. Now that they have left her father’s household, she had a decision to make concerning her allegiance to God. We can’t really know for certain what truly happened in her heart, but it would make sense that this terrifying encounter could serve as a catalyst for determining her heart’s loyalty. Think about it, if you had every possible god to choose from in your worldview, and then you encountered the God of Israel in this way, wouldn’t you determine then and there that no other god could possibly be the one you would commit to follow? You might believe and know He was and is sovereign over ALL.

Here is where I see the real issue surface for this story. What was Zipporah’s experience with the gods? You perform the sacrifices, you appease the gods. When you make them angry, and they don’t give you any rain for a season or they give you destructive locusts that destroy your crops, you must offer them something to turn away their wrath. OR you offer sacrifices with hopes that you can manipulate your god into doing something for you – fertile crops, fertile wombs, better rains, etc. OR you do all these “religious” things, perform these sacrifices, to be seen as a good daughter, mother, wife, etc. But what does God say?

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. Psalm 51:16

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 1 Sam 15:22

Perhaps this night was God’s way of clarifying any misconceptions about who He, the One True God, was. He was not like those other gods and would not be treated as such. He desired love and obedience and a true knowledge of who He was. He didn’t want His people to simply offer a sacrifice while their hearts were far from Him. He wanted them to obey. To LISTEN to His Voice.

This woman with a heart of sacrifice would learn quickly that a heart of obedience is better.

Before Zipporah could see Him as the God coming to rescue His people, she first needed to see Him as the Almighty God, just in all His ways, and terrifying in His holiness.

God is fierce. He inspires awe and fear.

One of my favorite quotations is from C. S. Lewis, Mr. Beaver speaking of Aslan says, “’Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (ch. 8, The Lion, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).” After Aslan leaves, Mr. Beaver tells the children, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion. “ (ch. 17, The Lion, Witch, Wardrobe)

Can you imagine Moses meeting with God that first time on the mountain, and God presents Himself as a tame, fluffy bunny? No way! He revealed Himself as a Consuming Fire in a bush!

And how did the Egyptians feel about God when they were the recipients of His judgment? I’m certain they were filled with fear, even terror, at the mention of His name.

How did God appear to the Israelites as they wandered and camped in the wilderness? Not as a golden calf or a bronze snake or any other metallic or wooden object but as a Pillar of Fire and of Cloud (more like Smoke). These were not objects that could be conjured up with human hands, the Fire and the Cloud symbolized His very presence and it was terrifying.

And when God gave the people His Law on the mountain, He spoke and it sounded like THUNDER and that mountain QUAKED and SMOKED and appeared as though it would BURN UP because God. Was. There.

He is not safe, but He is good. The people were terrified of God and begged for Him not to speak to them but to have Moses speak on His behalf.

And just because God took on flesh and revealed Himself through His Son doesn’t make Him tame. The fierceness of His character did not diminish.

Jesus is portrayed in Revelation as having eyes that were like a flame of fire, His voice like the roaring waters, with a sword coming out of His mouth and riding on a horse like a victorious and yet fierce King against His enemies. (Rev. 1, 19)

Do you hear the hoof beats? They thunder and strike fear in the heart of the enemy.

Even as He walked on earth, He was anything but tame. He cut through people’s hearts with His words and confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He drove out the money changers. He calmed the storms. He drove out demons. (And you better believe those demons feared Him!) He expelled sickness. He raised the dead! And He died on the cross, defeating our worst enemies, sin and death.

Who else but our fierce, fearless, terrifying God could do any of that?!

Our God is terrifying and we stand in awe and wonder fully knowing what He can do and yet aware that He stays His hand, showing mercy because of the sacrifice of His Son.

HE is no less terrifying in Moses’ time than He was when He came in flesh than He is now.

And just because we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 10:19-22) does not mean that He is not to be feared. It just means the encounter with Him is that much more awesome because we aren’t consumed.

His mercy that much greater because we aren’t destroyed.

His hand that much more powerful because we know He uses such great restraint.

His love that much more meaningful because of what it cost Him.

So yes, we can approach God with confidence but ONLY because of the sacrifice of the Son for by it alone are we given access to Him. The penalty paid to the only Holy God. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence because He FIRST entered the inner place behind the curtain, going as a forerunner on OUR BEHALF (Heb 6:19). He always goes before us to ensure our way. He is the guarantor of a better covenant (Heb 7:22), our Great High Priest forever (Heb 6:20).

The fear of God truly is the beginning of wisdom. Because it takes a wise person to know where she stands and where HE stands. And who stands in her place.

This God can be feared and yet stir affection in our hearts for He is also perfect in love. He is terrifying and yet full of love and affection for His people. It is next to impossible for us to fathom this balance because we are incapable of being perfectly loving (though I’m sure we can be perfectly terrifying in our anger!).

While God delivered judgment after judgment on Egypt, He also displayed His perfect love for Israel, His first-born Son, by rescuing them from Egypt. At Mt. Sinai He displayed His awesome power, striking fear in their hearts while still showing love to Israel by choosing them as the nation He would bless. Terror and Love mingling together in perfect harmony.

Zipporah learned the fear of God that night. He would not be mistaken as a tame, easily-manipulated god like those she was accustomed to serving. Neither was He reckless or malevolent.

He is not SAFE, but He is GOOD.

The errand, the great mission, which God sent Moses to do was a serious matter, not to be taken lightly. He would show His great power over Egypt and show His saving hand to the Israelites. But neither nation would mistake Him as a man-made god. And Zipporah and Moses needed to know this before they arrived. They needed to know who they were dealing with, and that He wasn’t messing around.

Because what happens next is the terrifying judgment on Egypt. Exodus 5-17 details all that occurred to the Egyptians. We do not know whether or not Zipporah was there to see what God did because the text never mentions her in these chapters. There is no explanation of when Zipporah left to return to Midian, but we know she did based on Exodus 18. Scholars are again divided over her whereabouts. Some believe she was in Egypt for a time until Moses sent her home for safety reasons, while still others believe she was sent home right after their terrifying encounter with God. I’d like to go with the view that she went to Egypt, at least for a time. So following in Exodus 4-17:

Ex 4:27-31 The Lord tells Aaron to go to Moses and they form their plan. Then they go to the elders of Israel and the people believed.

What did Zipporah see as she waited in Egypt?

Ex. 8 God sends frogs

God sends a plague of gnats

Ex. 9 Pestilence on the livestock

God sends a plague of boils/sores

God sends a plague of hail (flashing fire) “Um, Moses, can I go home now?!”

Ex. 10 God sends a plague of locusts

God sends the plague of darkness

Ex. 11 Plague of the death of the firstborn son

Ex. 14 God divides the Red Sea

Ex 16 God gave them manna from heaven and quail to eat.

{Stay tuned for Part 3 – Exodus 18}