Choose Obedience?

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Obedience to God is essential.

Exodus(35) (Part of the Rescued(34) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on October 22, 2023 (Sunday Morning(343))

Confession(14), Obedience(34), Worship(26)


Choose Obedience?

(Exodus 4:18-31)



“When Anne Graham Lotz and her husband, Denny, attend football games at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, thousands of people cram in the parking lots, and she can't see where she's going. However, her husband, a head taller at 6'7", can look over the crowd, so he takes her hand and leads them to their seats.


‘The way I get from the car to my seat is just by holding his hand and following him closely through the crowd,’ Lotz says.


She follows the same procedure with the Lord. ‘I just try to faithfully follow the Lord step by step and day by day,’ she says. ‘Ten years from now, I just want to look back and know that to the best of my ability I have been obedient to God's call on my life.’”


Source: Randy Bishop, "Just Give Me Jesus," Christian Reader (September/October 2000), p.25.





  • ME

    • Injured as a child

        • Department store

          • I don’t remember how old I was, but I was a child at the time

          • My Mom was shopping in some department store and I was busy being a boy

          • I don’t really remember how it happened, but I’m sure I was not being careful

          • Long story, short, I fell on one of the glass edges of an endcap and it broke, cutting my rear-end pretty badly

          • I probably wasn’t obeying my Mom when it happened

        • Church

          • When I was probably a little bit older, my brother and I were running in the fellowship hall at church and sliding on the tile floor

          • I slid into one of the old wooden chairs and hit my forehead on a nail that was sticking out

          • I got several stitches as a result

          • My parents had already told my brother and me, countless times, not to run in the church

    • There were consequences for my disobedience

    • I have also experienced the blessings of obedience


  • WE

    • How about us?

        • Have there been times when we have suffered the consequences of disobedience?

        • What blessings have we enjoyed because we have been obedient?


Moses’ excuses were done. ​​ He left the mountain of God and returned to Midian. ​​ He was going to have to obey the Lord, so God’s plan could be accomplished. ​​ His wife, brother, the Israelites, and Pharaoh were also going to have to choose to either obey or disobey the Lord. ​​ There would be consequences for not obeying and blessings for obeying. ​​ All of the individuals we will learn about today learned that . . .


BIG IDEA – Obedience to God is essential.


Let’s pray


We are going to see throughout this section of verses that there was obedience in five ways – to a custom, a command, a covenant, a call, and a commitment


  • GOD (Exodus 4:18-31)

    • Custom (v. 18)

        • Moses’ went back to Midian

          • This ends the burning bush narrative in the region of Horeb (Mt. Sinai)

          • Jethro was still living in Midian, so Moses took the flock and headed east again

        • Moses’ request

          • He asked his father-in-law for permission to return to Egypt to see if any of his people (the Israelites) were still alive

            • We are not told if Moses shared his divine encounter with his father-in-law

            • Moses was 80 years old at this point, but he still sought permission to leave

              • Jethro had given him employment as a shepherd for 40 years

              • Jethro had given his daughter, Zipporah, to him as a wife

            • Moses was obedient to the custom of the day and sought permission to return to his people

            • Jacob and Laban

              • Things were different with Jacob and his father-in-law Laban

                • Laban had given Jacob a job as a shepherd

                • Laban had given his daughters, Leah and Rachel, to Jacob as his wives

              • If you remember from Genesis 31, Jacob gathered up his wives, children, flocks, and herds and left Laban’s service while Laban was far away shearing his sheep

              • When Laban found out, he pursued Jacob and confronted him

              • Genesis 31:26-28, Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? ​​ You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. ​​ Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? ​​ Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? ​​ You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-by. ​​ You have done a foolish thing.”

          • We see that things were different with how Moses handled his departure

        • Jethro’s blessing

          • Jethro tells Moses to go and wishes him well

          • “Jethro in fact uses an eastern idiom, ‘Go with peace’ (shalom).” ​​ [Mackay, Exodus: A Mentor Commentary, 98]

        • Moses was obedient to God and the custom of his day by seeking permission from his father-in-law to leave Midian and return to Egypt

        • Obedience to God is essential.

    • Command (vv. 19-23)

        • The Lord’s command

          • After Jethro gave Moses his blessing, he began making preparations to return to Egypt

          • While he was preparing to leave, the Lord spoke to him again in Midian

            • The Lord reassured him that it was safe to return to Egypt, because all the men who wanted to kill him were dead

            • The men that the Lord was talking about were probably the Pharaoh that was in power when Moses killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12) and perhaps any of his relatives who had the legal right to pursue justice

          • After being reassured by the Lord, Moses obeyed

        • Moses’ obedience

          • Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and began his journey back to Egypt

            • We learned in Exodus 2:22 that Moses and his wife had a son, named Gershom (gay-resh-ome’/geresh-ome’)

            • Now we learn that he had at least one more son, because of the use of the plural “sons”

            • This second son’s birth is not mentioned, but his name is given in Exodus 18:4 – Eliezer (el-ee-eh’-zer) which means, “God is help”

          • Moses also took the staff of God in his hand

          • Moses no longer had any objections or excuses, he just obeyed

          • Obedience to God is essential.

          • The Lord not only reassured Moses that it was safe to return to Egypt, but He also gave him further instructions when he arrived

        • The Lord’s instructions

          • God’s instructions

            • I have given you power to perform some wonders

              • The three that are mentioned earlier in chapter 4 are the staff into a snake, a leprous hand, and water into blood

              • The Lord had given Moses power to do those three to prove to the Israelites that God had appeared to him and sent him to deliver them

            • Make sure to perform them before Pharaoh

              • Now we see that Moses is perform those wonders in front of Pharaoh also

              • We know that Pharaoh sees two of the three – the staff turn into a snake and back into a staff and water turned to blood

              • It is not mentioned that Moses uses the leprous hand wonder with Pharaoh

              • Pharaoh experiences even more wonders than just the two mentioned, as we will see in chapters 7-11 in Exodus (the ten plagues)

            • These wonders would not phase Pharaoh, because of God’s sovereign hand at work

          • God’s sovereignty

            • The Lord tells Moses that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will not let the Israelites go

              • We have to understand what the Lord is saying here

              • God is aware of how Pharaoh is going to react to being told to release the Israelites – it will not be favorable [Mackay, 99]

              • “Whereas the English concept of a ‘hard heart’ implies a lack of compassion, a ‘strengthened heart’ in Hebr. conveys a sense of determination or resolve (McAffee 2010: 333-337). ​​ In this context the concept of being ‘hard-hearted’ does not mean cruel, but rather indicates an unwillingness to change one’s will, which may be interpreted either positively as being determined/resolute or negatively as being obstinate/stubborn.” ​​ [Alexander, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, Volume 2, Exodus, 105]

            • Attributes of God

              • God is omniscient (all-knowing)

              • God is eternal (knows the beginning from the end)

              • God is sovereign (he rules rightly in our lives)

              • God is omnipotent (all-powerful) – “For now, just notice that God, in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, is able to fully showcase His power over the enemies of His people.” ​​ [Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Exodus, 31]

              • We can rejoice in the fact that God’s attributes have never changed – He is still all-knowing, eternal, sovereign, and all-powerful

            • Since God is all of those things and much more, He is able to forewarn Moses about what was going to happen to Pharaoh and the Egyptians

          • God’s forewarning through Moses

            • When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, Moses was to share this message from the Lord

              • Israel is my firstborn son

                • The status of firstborn son in the ancient world was very important

                  • They were specially favored

                  • They received a double portion of their father’s inheritance

                  • They were also responsible to lead the family when the father died

                  • They “served” their father until they were given leadership of the family

                • “Israel is not simply one nation among others; rather, Israel is God’s firstborn son. ​​ Israel has a privileged status among the nations.” ​​ [Enns, The NIV Application Commentary, Exodus, 132]

                  • This privileged status has not changed for Israel

                  • They are still God’s chosen people, even today

                  • Anti Semitism, in our culture, makes no sense apart from the fact that Israel still holds this privileged status with the Lord

                  • Satan is still trying to hurt and eliminate the Jews, because they are God’s chosen people

                  • Radical Islam’s push to kill all Jews and Christians is motivated by a desire to usher in the coming of their messiah

                  • Hatred for God and an unwillingness to submit to His authority has not changed from generation to generation

                  • Every one of us knows that God exists and requires obedience to His commands and submission to His plan for salvation through His Son Jesus Christ

                  • Ephesians 6:12, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

                  • No group or country will be able to eliminate the Jews and Jerusalem, because they are God’s firstborn son with a privileged status

                  • Zechariah 12:2-3, “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. ​​ Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. ​​ On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. ​​ All who try to move it will injure themselves.”

                  • The tribes of Israel are featured in the end times with 12,000 Israelites from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, equaling 144,000 Christ followers (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-5)

                  • Rest assured that what is happening in Israel right now will not thwart God’s plan and purposes – we can trust Him and not be anxious or afraid!

                • The Lord wanted the Israelites to be released so they could worship Him

                  • The NIV translates the Hebrew word ʿābad (aw-bad’/aw-vad’) as “worship” while most other modern translations have it as “serve”

                  • “The Israelites had been serving Pharaoh; now God told Pharaoh that the Israelites were going to serve him. ​​ Their liberation came not in being freed from having to work but in being freed from working for the wrong master.” [Stuart, The New American Commentary, Volume 2, Exodus, 146]

                  • I want to caution us today about the modern liberation theology that is being taught, because they are teaching that the Bible needs to be read from the perspective of the oppressed

                  • I would counter that idea by saying that we need to read the Bible from the perspective of Jesus, because He is the central theme of the entire Bible

                  • The Bible outlines God’s redemption plan from Genesis to Revelation – it is the Gospel, the Good News!

                  • We are certainly commanded in the Old and New Testaments to take care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan

                  • But we have to understand that liberating certain groups is not just for liberations sake

                  • The book of Exodus outlines God’s plan to rescue the Israelites from slavery, so they can serve Him

                  • The Gospel frees us from slavery to sin, so we can serve the Lord as our Master and Savior

                • There would be consequences for not obeying the Lord

              • I will kill your firstborn son

                • The Lord allowed Moses to see the end game

                • The killing of every firstborn son in Egypt would be the tenth and final plague

                • This plague is the one that broke through Pharaoh’s hard heart

            • God used Moses to forewarn Pharaoh and the Egyptians about the consequences of not obeying Him

          • Obedience to God is essential.

        • Moses was obedient to the Lord’s command to go and then to share His message with Pharaoh

    • Covenant (vv. 24-26)

        • In a short number of verses Moses went from the mountain of God to Midian and now to a lodging place on the way back to Egypt

          • We are not told where this lodging place was, but we can assume that it was somewhere between Midian and the mountain of God

          • In verse 27 we see that Aaron met Moses at the mountain of God

        • Consequence of disobedience

          • Most translations do not use Moses’ name in verses 24 & 25

            • In the NIV they put Moses’ name in brackets with a footnote

            • Most translations use the pronoun “him”

            • In the Hebrew, the pronoun is not separate, but combined with the verb

            • This has created all kinds of ambiguity about who is being referenced here

              • Some scholars believe that Moses is in danger of being killed

              • Other scholars believe that Gershom (gay-resh-ome’/geresh-ome’), Moses’ firstborn son is the one who would be killed

              • Figuring out which person is in danger is not the central concern of these three verses

              • We know that because of disobedience to the circumcision command, someone is in danger of losing their life

            • Zipporah recognized what was happening and took action

          • Zipporah circumcised her son

            • It was probably Gershom (gay-resh-ome’/geresh-ome’) her firstborn

              • Zipporah would have been familiar with the circumcision rite, especially as the daughter of a Midianite priest

              • “Many people groups in the ancient world practiced circumcision, including, the Midianites; it was hardly unknown outside of Israelite circles.” ​​ [Stuart, 153]

            • Why did Zipporah perform the circumcision and not Moses?

              • There is a lot of ambiguity about this

              • Most of the answers surrounding this question are mere speculation or educated guesses

              • If Moses was the one who was going to be killed, perhaps the Lord inflicted him with some illness or seizure that made it nearly impossible for him to perform the rite

              • We simply do not know from this text

            • Touching of the feet with the foreskin

              • Feet

                • “‘Feet’ is one of several Hebrew euphemisms for ‘genitals’ (cf. Isa 6:2; 7:20; Ezek 16:25; Deut 28:57; others include ‘hand,’ ‘knee,’ ‘stones [see comments on 1:16’]).” ​​ [Stuart, 154]

                • So, it is more likely that Zipporah touched or threw the foreskin at Moses’ genitals, which would make sense when talking about the rite of circumcision

              • Once again most translations use the pronoun “him” instead of Moses’ name

                • I believe it was probably Moses’ who got touched by the foreskin, because it was his responsibility as the spiritual leader of the household to make sure it was done

                • It would not make sense to touch the genitals with the foreskin of the person who just had it removed and you certainly wouldn’t throw the foreskin at them

              • Zipporah’s statement

                • Her statement about someone being a bridegroom of blood to her, leads me to believe that she is talking about Moses, her husband

                • It would not make sense to call her son a bridegroom to her

            • Because of Zipporah’s actions, God relented

          • God let him [Moses] alone

        • Application

          • Obedience to God is essential.

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – “God often relents if people repent.” [Stuart, 156]

            • We see that God did not kill either Moses or his son, but let them alone

              • Zipporah’s quick action appeased God’s wrath

              • Read Genesis 17:10-14

              • “. . . Moses . . . had been guilty of a capital crime, which God could not pass over in the case of one whom He had chosen to be His messenger, to establish His covenant with Israel.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 298-99]

              • “At stake that night was Moses’ fitness to be the Lord’s representative.” ​​ [Mackay, 101]

            • We see throughout Scripture God’s grace and mercy in relenting when His people repent

            • The same is true for us

              • There are always consequences for our decisions

                • When we choose to do certain things, there can be physical consequences for that decision (drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, etc.)

                • Speeding or driving recklessly could result in an accident that injures, disables, or kills you or someone else

              • Disobeying God’s commands, statutes, and instructions in His Word can result in His discipline of us as His children

                • Do you feel like the Lord is disciplining you?

                • Is there any unconfessed sin in your life, whether known, unknown, intentional, or unintentional?

                • Is there an habitual sin that you are struggling with

                • The Holy Spirit that lives within each follower of Jesus Christ convicts us of sin

                • John 16:7-8, But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. ​​ Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ​​ When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.

                • “This is why disobedience is such a serious matter: it is acting as if we had no need of God, his grace and his pledges. ​​ In other words, it is nothing short of a sort of enacted atheism.” ​​ [Motyer, The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Exodus, 81]

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess my sin to the Lord and turn from it, so He will relent from disciplining me.

            • We are God’s ambassadors, so we need to make sure we are fit to be His messenger to the world

        • Zipporah’s obedience to God’s covenant was essential to saving her husband or son’s life

        • Obedience to God’s covenant is essential for us also

        • As we have seen, Moses and Zipporah were obedient to the Lord and Aaron would be also

        • NOTE – “Since from this point on in the narrative neither Zipporah nor Moses’ sons are mentioned until their reuniting in 18:2-6, it is likely that they did not travel further than this camping place (mālōn, v. 24) and, after Gershom had healed, returned to Midian.” ​​ [Stuart, 155]

    • Call (vv. 27-28)

        • Aaron received a call from the Lord to leave Egypt and go into the desert to meet Moses

          • We are not told if the Lord gave Aaron any specific directions or just the general direction – the desert

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – God directs our steps.

              • However the Lord did it, He directed Aaron’s steps so he could be reunited with his brother, Moses

              • The Lord does the same thing for us – He directs our steps when he calls us to do something

              • He will not call us and then leave us wondering where we are supposed to go

              • What has God called you to do?

              • How is He directing your steps right now?

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Be obedient to God’s calling and follow Him as He directs my steps.

        • Reunited

          • We know that Aaron found Moses at the mountain of God

          • Moses knew from his time at the burning bush that Aaron was already on his way to meet him

        • Moses shared everything with Aaron

          • He told him everything the Lord had said

          • He also told him about the miraculous signs the Lord had commanded him to perform

        • Moses had moved from a lodging place on the way to the mountain of God to meet Aaron and together they returned to Egypt

    • Commitment (vv. 29-31)

        • Moses and Aaron are back in Egypt at this point

        • Meeting with the elders

          • Moses and Aaron obediently gather all the elders of the Israelites together, so they can encourage them with the Lord’s message

          • Obedience to God is essential.

          • Aaron’s role as Moses’ mouthpiece has begun

          • It appears as though Aaron’s call from the Lord also included the ability to perform the miraculous signs that Moses had practiced at the mountain of God

          • The message from the Lord and the miraculous signs convinced the Israelite leaders – they believed!

            • This is exactly what the Lord told Moses in Exodus 3:18

            • His word had come true

            • The Lord was aware of everything that was happening to them and He was responding to their cries for help

            • Conversion evidenced through worship

              • The Israelites are excited that the Lord is concerned about them

              • “Verse 31 describes the Israelites’ conversion to faith in Yahweh, evidenced by the posture of bowing before God (not Moses) as the people’s sign that they believed in and accepted the demands of his words and promises for them.” ​​ [Stuart, 158]

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – Our proper response to God’s concern for us is worship.

            • Have you experienced God’s concern for you?

            • Has He responded to your cries for help?

            • Have you taken time to worship Him?

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Bow down and worship the Lord for answering my prayers and coming to my rescue.


  • YOU

    • Are you ready to confess your sin to the Lord and turn from it, so He will relent from disciplining you?

    • Are you ready to be obedient to God’s calling and follow Him as He directs your steps?

    • Are you ready to bow down and worship the Lord for answering your prayers and coming to your rescue?

  • WE

    • We need to confess our sins to the Lord and turn from them, so He will relent from disciplining us.

    • We need to be obedient to God’s calling and follow Him as He directs our steps.

    • We need to bow down and worship the Lord for answering our prayers and coming to our rescue.



Obedience Is The Very Best Way

Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe,
Doing exactly what the Lord commands
Doing it happily.
Action is the key … do it immediately,
The joy you will receive!
Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe.
Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe.