The Baptism of Our Lord – January 14, 2018
Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand. 24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (Exodus 4:19-20,24-26)
Moses may have had the most eventful life of any man in the Old Testament. Born to a slave family in Egypt, his mother and father hid him from their Egyptian masters in order to save his life. When he became too old to hide, Moses’ mother placed him in a basket and floated him down the Nile River, where none other than the Pharaoh’s daughter herself found him! From then on, Moses was raised in the Pharaoh’s palace by perhaps the wisest teachers on earth. What more could a family hope for with their son?
Then, as a young man, Moses saw the slavery of his people and fought against it. He killed an Egyptian slave-driver and hid the body in the sand. The murder was discovered and Moses fled his Egyptian home. He traveled far away to the land of Midian where he became a shepherd and married a woman named Zipporah. Moses must have been happy to be out of the spotlight, away from the troubles of Egypt and the Israelites.
Then one day he noticed a bush on fire, but the bush did not burn up. Approaching the strange sight, Moses then heard the voice of God himself calling him. Removing his sandals, Moses heard this command from the Lord: “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” After some convincing, Moses finally agreed.
Had that been the entirety of Moses’ life, he still would have been one of the most interesting people in Scripture. But it was only the beginning. Moses would go on to stand before Pharaoh, perform ten plagues, lead God’s people for 40 years through the wilderness, and write down all of God’s laws and commands.
But before all of that comes a little-known account in Moses’ life. It might just be the most dangerous situation Moses ever found himself in. Something he overlooked nearly cost him his life, and the lives of his family, too.
“Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt.” Moses was walking back home to Egypt with his wife, Zipporah. She was leaving her home. They had their two boys in tow. The trip seemed to be going well. Then, all of a sudden, the Bible tells us, “At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him.”
What happened?! We hear no words of warning from the Lord. There are no ominous clouds foreshadowing disaster. We simply read that the Lord came to meet Moses, and was about to put him to death!
The following two verses give us a few details. We aren’t told what led up to this, but it seems Moses’ wife, Zipporah, knew exactly why the Lord was about to end Moses’ life. “Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.” Then she angrily said to her husband, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.”
Here’s what happened: Moses had not circumcized his sons. It may not have seemed important to him, but it was vitally important to the Lord. In fact, not circumcising his sons was so important to the Lord that he was about to end Moses’ life!
It might sound silly to us, but circumcision was a big deal for the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Lord first commanded this of Abraham: “This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.” This marked God’s covenant with his people. It meant that Abraham and Isaac, and Moses and his sons belonged to the Lord, along with women in their families. It meant that they were now a part of God’s family.
Unlike Moses with his sons, Joseph and Mary faithfully brought the baby Jesus to the temple to be circumcized. “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” It had to be done to fulfill the law.
But no longer. For us in the New Testament, circumcision is not a command. Jesus fulfilled that Old Testament law. And as he always does, when he fulfills one command, he gives us a new one. The book of Colossians tells us what that is that replaced circumcision: “Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
God took circumcision seriously. He must, he almost ended Moses’ life because he had not circumcized his own sons. Now, the Lord takes Baptism just as seriously. But do we? Do we, like Moses, wait and wait to have a child or grandchild baptized? Have we put it off? Or for us who are baptized, have we taken that blessing for granted from the Lord? Do we even remember why we were baptized?
This is how the devil works. He knows Baptism has true, lasting power. He can’t change that. But he does the next best thing – he gets us to forget all about that power of Baptism. He gets us to doubt whether our Baptism really did give us faith and strengthen that faith. He makes us wonder if we really do belong to God’s family.
This morning, Jesus removes all doubt. “Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” Just like Jesus’ circumcision, he wasn’t baptized because he needed forgiveness. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He gave Baptism its power!
Now watch what happens next: “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”
At the Baptism of our Lord, each person of the Trinity is represented. God the Father spoke from heaven. God the Son, our Savior Jesus, was baptized to begin his ministry. God the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.
Each person of the Trinity was there at your Baptism, too. As the pastor poured the water over your head, the Holy Spirit entered your heart – giving you faith. Jesus himself washed away your sins. And God the Father made you his dearly loved child.
We don’t say this very often in church, but don’t be like Moses. He overlooked circumcision, and it almost cost him his life. Don’t overlook your Baptism. Through it you have eternal life! Let your baptism be a daily comfort in this difficult, plague-ridden, sad life. Say with the hymnist: “Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord unites with me.” Amen.