Like all God’s children, Moses had to learn to trust and obey (Exodus 4:15ff). God ensured he did. Moses would return to Egypt with Aaron as helper, trusting God’s Word and power (symbolized by the staff) to bring into reality His promised purpose. Their message would be one of judgment and salvation, and it would not merely entail bare announcement, but would create and bring into reality the divine plan revealed. Preachers today who are sent by God are likewise to trust God’s Word and Spirit (the Helper, Jn.14:26) to accomplish His intended purpose. Like a golfer’s 15th club, God’s servants have every reason for confidence. They are called to be faithful to the revealed will of God, and leave the result to His secret will.
Israel is described for the first time as God’s ‘firstborn son’ in verse 22. This rich motif reminds the believer that God is their Father, and desires to be thought of as such. It reminds us that he regards his people with especial delight, that we are collectively his special interest, no matter what story dominates the news outlets. This language also reminds us of another Son, sent by the love of this Father, the eternal Son, who became the Firstborn Son of all creation through incarnation (Col.1:15), who became the substitute for this adopted Firstborn Son, and secured for them the inheritance promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The punishment that would fall upon Pharaoh and Egypt would match her crime: God would kill their firstborn. This is a message repeated throughout Scripture. God’s justice is perfect.
The trust and obedience of Moses and Aaron would lead the leaders of Israel to faith and worship in God (v.28-31). But Moses had to have his own house in order too, and is met with sober warning for what appears like an insouciant attitude towards his firstborn’s status in the covenant. Gershom had not been circumcised! Scripture does not reveal the reason why, but it is his wife’s action (Zipporah) that spares disaster for the family. Intimate revelations and special assignments do not negate family duty, especially when it concerns covenant signs and things spiritual. All too often in the Church, fathers abdicate their covenantal responsibility, and mothers are forced to take a lead to avoid the just displeasure of God. None are exempt to trust God’s Word and obey in all things, for the glory of his name.