A Near-Death Experience and a Nagging Question

Reading Time: 2 mins

Jesus is the only answer to the nagging question. He is the only way to make sense of this unsettling story in Exodus 4.

There’s an unsettling story near the end of Exodus 4 that I doubt you were taught in Sunday School. Here’s what happened. God had just visited Moses in the burning bush and told him he knew his people’s oppression—enough was enough! God would rescue his people from slavery, and he would use Moses to do it. So Moses was sent back to Egypt, but on his way, “the LORD met him and sought to put him to death” (Ex. 4:24). Huh? Didn’t God just call him? Why did God suddenly go on the hunt? Moses, however, was spared. Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it. “So he let Moses alone” (Ex. 4:26a). No wonder we weren’t taught this story in Sunday School—it’s scary and confusing! God’s out-of-control behavior plants a nagging question in the back of our minds. We can’t help but wonder, “Could this happen to me?”

What’s behind the uncertainty is our constant craving for control, which betrays our desire to approach God through the law. The only way to make sense of this story, we assume, is to find the action, the work, or the law that we can perform to save ourselves. But, to use Dr. Steven Paulson’s adjective, our God is an “outlaw” God. He will not let you find that key of obedient law-keeping to unlock the door of his mercy. No, instead, God swallows the key and flings the door wide open in Jesus. No law can keep you safe from an “outlaw” God, and this story isn’t asking you to find one. 

Think about Moses’ near-death experience in this way: what stood between Moses and God’s wrath was the blood of an intercessor. Dr. Reed Lessing, in his book, Deliver Us: God’s Rescue Story in Exodus, makes the point that this event in Exodus 4 gives us a foretaste of the Passover in Exodus 12: “Moses experienced Passover before Passover” (pg. 71). The fact that Moses was redeemed by means of blood anticipates God’s gracious provision for his people during the tenth and final plague, where the blood of an intercessory lamb redeemed Israel’s firstborns from the Destroyer.

Moses and Israel both needed the blood of an intercessor, and so do we. Both stories in Exodus point us to a greater, more personal reality. Jesus is the final and ultimate Passover Lamb, who stands between us and God’s wrath. His blood, which was shed on the cross, “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). To quote the song “Lion Man” by Ghost Ship, “Weep no more, the wrath is on the tree. Weep no more, there’s no more left for me.” It was the Father’s loving and gracious will to put his Son to death. Not you. Never you. Because of Jesus, you are forgiven and will live! 

Jesus is the only answer to the nagging question. He is the only way to make sense of this unsettling story in Exodus 4. Instead of having you look for some law to save you, God, through the stories of Moses’ near-death experience and the Passover, is graciously depriving you of your ability to save yourself, removing your fear, and drawing you closer in faith to himself. Your salvation is not left up to chance or possibility. It is certain, inked in the blood of Jesus, your Intercessor, and Passover Lamb.