There are two stories in Exodus chapter four that grab our attention.
The first is the one folks usually teach. God called Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt. Moses, however, has lost his confidence. Forty years earlier, in the prime of his life, he could slay dragons. There was nothing he couldn’t do – so he thought. Believing that surely, if he killed an Egyptian, all Israel would make him their leader and follow him to the promised land, he committed murder.
No one followed.
Now, at age eighty, Moses is so insecure he has to ask permission from his father-in-law to leave town. When God calls, Moses offers a multitude of excuses. God listens patiently, then says “do what I tell you!”
Moses learned, as Jonah would centuries later, that when God bids you do a thing, it is easier to do it than to refuse.
Not a bad lesson for our own time.
The second story gets nearly no play in Bible class. Moses had not circumcised his boys, and for that failure, God determined to kill him.
However you feel about circumcision, it was a divinely appointed mark to identify God’s people, required at a specific time for all the male descendants of Abraham. Moses had lived so long among the pagans that not even the most basic mark of his family was upon them.
Why would God kill Moses for this?
Because when God requires something, God is serious about the requirement. It really doesn’t matter how humans feel about it; their feelings do not negate the requirements of God. neither does their understanding – or lack of it.
I think the point of both stories is the same: When God bids us to do something, obedience is not optional, an important point at the beginning of the Exodus story.