Missing in Action
I know I’ve read it dozens of times, but for some reason it didn’t hit me until this morning.
Moses sent his wife, Zipporah, and their two sons back to her father’s house in Midian before the exodus from Egypt.
Are you serious?
Now, I’m sure he justified that decision; one of those reasons might have been:
1. Things might not work out too well in the confrontation with Pharaoh and Moses and his family might be arrested.
2. By any measure, the days leading up to the exodus were going to be rough, and Moses wanted to spare his family hardship.
3. The exodus itself would likely involve upheaval and stress, and Moses didn’t want his wife and family to have to go through it.
4. The entire venture was filled with uncertainty, and Moses wanted a future for his family they could count on.
Obviously I wasn’t in his shoes, so the reasons above are totally conjecture. Maybe Zipporah put her foot down and refused to stay through the exodus, although the text does say, “he sent her home” (Exodus 18:2).
As a father of two daughters and now a grandfather of three precious girls and one grandson, here is what grabbed me in the first two verses of Exodus 18:
Look at all Moses’ wife and sons missed!!
• They never saw their father and uncle trusting God with their very lives, going into Pharaoh’s court to demand God’s people be freed from slavery.
• They missed the fearful sight of the plagues and the lifting of the plagues on Egypt at God’s command.
• They missed the mounting excitement in Goshen that any day God would deliver them from oppression.
• They missed the ceremony in each household, that later became the Passover, and missed helping paint the blood of the lamb over their doorpost.
• They missed the miracle of seeing their Egyptian neighbors giving their gold and jewelry to the Israelites as a going away present.
• They missed the frightening judgment of God on Egypt for refusing to let God’s people go.
• They missed the rush of adrenaline on the morning everyone headed out of bondage with their livestock and all they owned on wagons.
• They missed the cloud that led by day and the pillar of fire by night.
• They missed water out of a rock satisfying the thirst of over a million people and livestock.
• They missed the terror of being pursued by a force much greater than they, but being protected by the glory of God.
• They missed facing an impassable obstacle in front of them and an irresistible force behind them…only to see God part the waters and drown the enemy.
Sure, Moses could recount all of the above for his family when his father-in-law brought them to join the Israelites at Sinai.
But it’s not the same as being there!
What was Moses thinking?
Every one of those encounters with God, that Moses’ wife and sons missed, was a missed opportunity to establish a God-marker in their lives that would have lasted their lifetime.
I recently read a book by a Princeton trained theologian and philosopher, James E. Loder, The Transforming Moment. In it, he describes the life-altering transformation that comes from encountering God, like Saul did on the road to Damascus.
That’s what I wanted for my daughters as they grew up. It was how Rita and I pastored the family.
It was the way I was raised.
I remember not being crazy about it at the time, but my parents made sure I was with them in every Sunday service, every water baptism, every communion service, every Sunday School activity, every prayer meeting, every week of special meetings with a guest speaker, every church picnic, every week of prayer and fasting, every camp meeting.
In fact, the normal conversation in our home was about all that God was doing in our lives. Our home was always filled with the sounds of worship. We wore out several record players…if you even know what they are!
And along the way, at times least expected, I saw people saved, baptized, delivered, healed, overwhelmed in the presence of God, and generally caught up in the glory and experience of God.
Those miraculous kinds of things didn’t happen all the time.
But when they did, I was there.
And those times marked me.
They set the trajectory of my life.
The alternative is that video games, the TV, the internet, social media, and the surrounding culture will parent your family. And, like Zipporah and Moses’ boys, they will miss those defining moments when God turns slaves into the people of God.