Fourth Confirming Sign – Circumcision/The Flesh
(Listen to audio above and follow along with full transcript below which is also available for download in a Word document at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)
As we come to look in God’s word there’s a principle of Bible Study that is absolutely indispensable, and that is total reliance of God’s Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “We constantly thank God that when you receive the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but for what it really is; the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” And it’s our prayer that what we share that is from the Lord, that you take from the Lord, and if there happens to be anything that I say, then may God protect you if it’s not from the Lord. He’s promised me that everything that He hasn’t planted would be uprooted, and so I take great comfort in that.
Our Heavenly Father we thank You this morning that we can meet again in the name of our Lord Jesus. We can expect the indwelling Holy Spirit to put the spotlight on the Lord Jesus. We want to see Jesus, so we ask You that You would minister to us and open the eyes of our heart that we might behold Christ, and then grace us, Lord, to appropriate Him, as You reveal Him to us. We claim this in the matchless name of Jesus. Amen
We trust the Lord to unveil our hearts as we meditate on this wonderful book of Exodus. The theme of Exodus presents the Lord Jesus as our salvation. Exodus in the Old Testament is like Romans in the New Testament. It’s the revelation of Christ as salvation. By way of review I want to remind you, no matter what you’ve heard or said, salvation is not a plan. Salvation is not a doctrine. Salvation is not a creed. Salvation is a Person, and His name is Jesus. In that connection I like Luke 2:28&29, remember Simeon when Jesus was just a little baby, “He took him into his arms and he blessed God, and said, ‘Now, Lord, you are releasing your bondservant to depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Simeon, looking into the eyes of that little infant Jesus said, “My eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Salvation is a Person, and every time we see Him, He’s going to save us, and set us free in some way.
In our meditation, we’re still at the burning bush. We’ve been there since lesson #5, and this is lesson #9. We’re going to leave the bush today. Last week looked at three of the four confirming signs; the double miracle of the staff being changed to a serpent and then from a serpent back to a staff again. We looked at the double miracle of the hand which was the leper’s hand which became leprous and then it became whole again. Those two go together because the first was something in his hand, the staff, that’s what I have. The second is his hand, that’s who I am, and all that I have and all that I am belongs to the Lord. The third double miracle we didn’t develop last time, and it’s the turning the water into blood. One reason it wasn’t applied at the bush was because there wasn’t water at the bush, so we have to wait to get to Egypt. That sign is also a double miracle; a miracle of judgment and a miracle of mercy. We’ll look at that when we look at the first plague.
There are two more events that take place at the bush. After this, Moses and his family begin their journey to go to Egypt. The two final events at the bush are in Exodus 4:13&14, “He said, ‘Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever you will.’ Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron, the Levite. I know he speaks fluently. Moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you he will be glad in his heart.” You can understand why. They hadn’t seen each other for forty years, and that would be a great reunion.
I want to take those last two events one at a time, first from Exodus 4:13 and then from Exodus 4:14. Exodus 4:13, “He said, ‘Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever you will.’” The great majority of commentators read that verse 13 as if it were negative. In other words, they see this as Moses final act of resistance. He seems to be squirming ever since he got to the bush, making excuses, and trying to get out of it, and they say that this is his final resistance. They base it on what comes before that verse, and what follows that verse. That’s the authority they use. What precedes the verse? As I showed you last time, Moses is a believer, but he is an unbelieving believer. God has a special way of dealing with unbelieving believers. When it comes to God’s call on his life, that God would choose him as an instrument of redemption, Moses is resistant. It’s possible that Moses feels disqualified to be used of the Lord because forty years before he blew it. You remember that, when he killed the Egyptians. At that time he was so convinced that he knew the will of God, that he said that everybody must know that God called me to be the deliverer. Stephen mentions that in Acts 7:23-25, “When he was approaching the age forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.” “It entered his mind” is clearly from the Lord. “He saw one of them being treated unjustly, and he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed, striking down the Egyptians.” Now this part, “He supposed his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.”
Moses got a word, and he knew the will of God, “I will be His channel of deliverance.” He went and he tried to do it in his own strength, and take them out one Egyptian at a time, and you know how that worked out. Acts 7:29, “At this remark Moses fled, and became an alien in the land of Midian where he became a father of two sons. After forty years had passed an angel appeared to him in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai in a flame of fire at the thorn bush.” It’s possible that Moses felt disqualified from being God’s channel of redemption because of what happened forty years before. Some would say he actually quit and threw in the towel. He got married, had a couple of kids, took a job with his father in law, became a shepherd, and for forty years he put it out of his mind, “I am not God’s instrument. I must have misunderstood God’s call.” Now it’s forty years later, and at the thorn bush, the flaming bush, he’s eighty years old and he hears things that are almost impossible to his ears. God repeats the call and the commission, “I want to use you as My instrument of redemption, to set God’s people free from their bondage and to lead them into liberty. It’s so good, and almost too good to be true, so he is squirming.
I’m just going to touch a little on the resistance. Exodus 3:10, God is speaking and says, “Come now, and I’ll send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” And Moses responds, Exodus 3:11, “Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” Moses said, “Are you kidding? Are you talking about me? Who am I to do this?” And then God says in Exodus 3:12, “Certainly I will be with you.” That should have settled it, but then in Exodus 3:13, Moses said, “Behold, I’m going to the sons of Israel, and I’ll say to them that the God of your fathers sent me, and they may say to me, ‘What’s His name? What shall I say to them?’” Then God answers in Exodus 3:14, “Say I am that I am has sent Me.” And then Moses responds, “What if they’ll not believe me?” Remember the reason that Moses got the three confirming signs – the miracles? God said, “You are going to go, and they will believe you. They will listen.” Moses said, “What if they don’t?” That’s after God said they will. Exodus 4:10, he raises another objection, “Moses said to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, I’ve never been eloquent, either recently nor in times past, nor since you’ve spoken to your servant. I’m slow of speech, slow of tongue.’” And then it seems like God got a little testy and said Exodus 4:11, “Who made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I the Lord? Now then, go and even I will be your mouth and teach you what you are to say.”
I think some of you know that the Lord blessed my Lillian and me with a deaf son. And it was this verse that settled everything in his heart, “Who made the deaf? Is it not I?” When he saw that he was at rest, and he is now enjoying the exchanged life walking in union with the Lord.
Many believe that Moses finally came clean. He had been giving excuses and excuses, and many think he was just rationalizing, but now finally it comes out, “I don’t want to do it. Send somebody else. I don’t want this great privilege you are offering me.” I had one commentary that actually says, “Moses finally told the truth.” I think that’s reading a little much into that. Some think Moses is saying, “If possible, send somebody else. I don’t want to do this.”
Moses called attention to not being eloquent, and then he said, “I am slow of speech.” The majority of Bible linguists who have studied the Hebrew suggest that he actually did have a speech impediment. One commentator said it was a stutter. Another said it was a stammer. One suggested it might be a lisp, or something like that. We know from the Hebrew that he did get his “tang all tungled in his mouff”. He wasn’t able to talk. He believed that would be a hindrance to him. We know from another place that Moses was very intelligent. He had been trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and we read these words from these words from Stephen in Acts 7:22, “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians. He was a man of power in words and deed.” Isn’t that amazing, “I’m not eloquent.” God says, “You are a man of power in words.” His problem was not what he said, the content. He was powerful in his message; powerful in what he said. The problem was how to say it, and he said, “I’m not eloquent. I can’t persuade, and I don’t have the grace, and don’t have the ability to stir, or to motivate people.” That’s his last comment here and they say, “That was his last excuse, ‘I’m not eloquent; send somebody else.’”
The question comes, “Was he really saying that?” Was he saying, “I’m disqualified because of my speech, because I have an impediment, because of my stutter?” Was he thinking like many on the level of earth, where none of us live anymore, “I can’t go before Pharaoh, the king of all the earth. For four hundred years they’ve held our people as slaves. What am I going to do, go out there and saying, ‘G-g-god s-s-said let let let my my pep e people ggggo.’? What authority is that? How do you think Pharaoh would respond to that?” So, Moses might be thinking like that. Here’s my question. Could Moses, instead of giving an excuse when he said he wasn’t eloquent, have been suggesting to the Lord, “I’ll go if you make me eloquent.”? Could he have been saying, “You turned a dead stick into a snake, and a snake into a dead stick. You turned a perfectly healthy hand into a leper’s hand, and then made it healthy again. You’ve said you can turn water into blood. Certainly it’s no big deal for You to remove my stuttering tongue. You can fix my mouth. You can make me eloquent.”
I want to give you a great principle in connection with this, and it’s from 2 Corinthians 3:5, and it says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves. Our adequacy is from God.” Isn’t that a wonderful verse? In other words, God will not make Moses eloquent. God will not make you adequate. Why? It’s because He is our adequacy. He doesn’t want me to be adequate. He wants me to trust Him as adequacy. Over and over again Christians pray the wrong way. They say, “Lord, help me.” He doesn’t want to help you. He wants to be your help. “Lord, make me strong.” He doesn’t want to make you strong. According to Paul, “when I’m weak, now I’m strong”. He doesn’t want to make you strong. He wants you to know that He is your strength, He is your adequacy, and He is everything. Some people think, “I have a terrible personality and terrible temperament. I hope God changes my personality and temperament.” I’ll tell you from the word of God He’s not going to change your personality or temperament; not at all. He’s going to liberate it so that other people that have your temperament and personality can see what God can do if you embrace His adequacy. That’s not the same thing. That’s a different direction altogether.
I know Moses finally learned it. It’s because he wrote Deuteronomy, and that is the last month of his life; in thirty days he’s dying. That’s Deuteronomy. Here are some of his last words. Deuteronomy 32:1&2, “Give ear, oh heavens,” (remember he’s not eloquent!), “and let me speak. Let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop down as the rain; my speech dispel as the dew, as droplets on the fresh grass, as showers on the earth. For I proclaim the name of Lord, and ascribe greatness to our God.” Is that the same Moses. What happened to his mouth—“Let my lips drop dew…” He sounds pretty eloquent there, but that was in spite of his inadequacy. He finally learned it.
Those exchanges I just went through came before verse 13, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever you will.” In other words, “Who am I to go? What if they don’t believe? I can’t speak,” and all that comes before the verse. It’s because of that, they say, that he was a reluctant servant of the Lord. Once again verse 13, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever you will.” They say that means to send somebody else.
That interpretation in their mind seems to be justified by not only those excuses that went before it, but what follows it. Exodus 4:14, “The anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is not your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know he speaks fluently. Moreover, he’s coming out to meet you. When he sees you he’ll be glad in his heart.” Not only did His anger burn, but that verse says, “Here’s Aaron,” so that adds to their argument. He must have been saying, “Send somebody else,” and then God angry and said, “Alright, I’ll send Aaron in your place.” They use that, the excuses before, the anger and the mention of Aaron afterward, and they say that Moses was saying to send somebody else.
Here’s the question, and I want to present it before you. Is there another way to look at this whole thing? I’m suggesting there is. I read it differently. I don’t see it as a great negative and I don’t see Moses saying to send somebody else, refusing God’s recommission to him. In fact, I think if you read it carefully you’re going to see the exact opposite is true. I think after the long struggle Moses is finally acquiescing, as if to say, “Alright, Lord. You taught me a lot. I know I’m just a dead old thorn bush, but Your presence can make a difference. I know like the staff that I’m just a dead stick, but You can make it alive. I know, Lord, in Your eyes I’m just a leper, but I know you can cleanse me. I know I have infirmity and I stutter, but You are my adequacy. I feel very disqualified in myself, but You said that they would listen, and You said You’d be with me, and You said You would be My mouth. I’m finally going to believe You. Alright, send by whomever You will.” I don’t think he’s saying to send somebody else. I think he’s finally submitting and saying, “Alright, alright, in the light of all that, I surrender. Send the one of Your choice. If that’s me, with all my infirmity, I surrender. I’ll go.” That’s how I understand verse 13; that Moses is finally saying, “Okay, okay, okay; send me; I’m willing to go.” But then you’ve got to answer the next question; why did God get angry and why did He mention Aaron? I’m trying to answer that now.
If he wasn’t saying to send somebody else, why did He get angry? If the somebody else wasn’t Aaron, then why is he mentioned? I’m going to try to answer that with my present light. I’ve got to say this, you might see it a little differently than I do. I think the facts, as I will present them, illustrate what I’m trying to say; the principle. But even if they don’t, and there’s a possibility that I’m wrong, the principles stand. I think this illustrates this, but if you don’t like the illustration, then drop that, but don’t drop the principle. The principle is true through the balance of scripture. I believe the story of God’s commission to Moses at the end of the burning bush, Moses is finally submitting, and God is looking back over the whole time he was at the burning bush. He’s recalling everything, and Moses is an unbelieving believer, and that’s why God is angry. Moses was parleying with the Lord, and arguing with the Lord. God said, “They’re going to listen,” but he said, “But what if they don’t?” In other words, “You might be wrong, Lord.” Moses refused to believe God unless he had miracles to see it. We looked at that last time. Even though God had promised His presence, verse 12, “I’ll be with your mouth, and I’ll teach you what you are to say.” I think God was angry because Moses didn’t believe God at the beginning, right from the start. He brought in human reasoning, and he expressed his doubts, and he argued with the Lord, and he even held some of the things God said in high suspicion.
In this connection I want to say something about, “God was angry,” and as we go down we’ll touch it a little bit today, and more next week, to verse 24, “It came about at the lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.” Moses is about to get killed by the Lord. There’s such a thing as “judicial anger” in the Bible. That’s the anger of a judge, and there is such a thing as parental anger, and that’s the anger of a loving father. I hope you know as a Christian no matter what you do, and I’m not giving you an excuse to go out and sin, God will never punish a Christian. It’s not possible. Why? It’s because He’s already punished you for your sin in the Person of Jesus Christ your substitute. If He punished you again He would be collecting for the same debt two times. He will not do that. He’s just. But will He chasten you as a father? Indeed He will! Will He discipline you as a father? Indeed He will! When God deals with a Christian, it’s always redemptive, and it’s always about teaching, and it’s always about correction. A parent doesn’t punish a child because he paints on the wall or breaks a window. A parent deals with a child, so he won’t paint on future walls and break future windows. There’s always that element of teaching.
In this connection I love an expression from the prophet Habbakuk, chapter 3 verse 3, “In wrath remember mercy.” As a heavenly father, He’s going to be angry, and He’ll chasten and discipline, and He’ll teach, but there’s always mercy. I want to take this story from Exodus and I’d like to show you in wrath. Next week, Lord willing, remember mercy; the same event, but I want to show you both sides. Today we are going to look at the anger of God. How did God correct Moses and what did Moses lose by not trusting the Lord at first and by being an unbelieving believer? I call it the cost of unbelief. What is the cost of unbelief? I’ll give it to you right up front, and try to develop it. It’s losing privilege, privilege you could have if you were a believing believer. Many times that privilege, because God turns the curse to a blessing, is a return many fold if you repent. But that’s in another connection.Let me show you the things that God threatened Moses would lose, privileges that Moses would lose if he had not been an unbelieving believer from the start. I’ll mention three of them, and perhaps you’ll see more than that. He temporarily lost them.
The first privilege was the privilege of allowing the Lord to work His miracle through His inadequacy, through His impediment, through his broken speech. If he had trusted God, he would have seen how God used his lack of eloquence, even powerfully, to convince the Pharaoh, and elders and all Israel. Exodus 4:14, “The anger of the Lord burned against Moses. He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know he speaks fluently.” The Lord says that Aaron would be the mouth of Moses. I’m just going to call attention to the record, and I’m jumping ahead, but here is what happened. Exodus 4:30, this is when they arrived at the elders, “Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses.” Aaron is the one with the privilege. He gets to speak the word. When they came before Pharaoh to work signs, Exodus 7:10, “Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.” Aaron is the one with the privilege. At the burning bush Moses threw his staff down. Now it’s not him doing it. Now it’s Aaron.
First plague, turning water to blood, Exodus 7:19, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your staff, and stretch out your hand over the waters, the rivers, and streams, and over the pools, over all reservoirs of water, and they’ll become blood.”” Once again, Moses stepped aside. Plague #2 of frogs, Exodus 8:5, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams, the pools, and make frogs come up.”” Step aside, Moses; it’s Aaron. Plague #3, the lice, Exodus 8:16, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff.”” It’s interesting to know that when they first got there, Moses stepped aside and it was Aaron. First plague, Aaron; second plague, Aaron; third plague, Aaron—and that’s the end of it. From that point on Moses stepped up to the bat, and it’s no more Aaron. From the third plague on we read Exodus 8:26, “Moses said,” verse 29, “Moses said.” Now Moses is talking to Pharaoh. He still has his impediment, but he’s learning now about the Lord. But for a time he lost that great privilege of seeing the Lord work that miracle in his inadequacy.
I want to revisit that principle I mentioned earlier, that Moses was powerful in word. He had content, but he didn’t have eloquence. He wasn’t smooth. We read that Jacob was a smooth man. He didn’t think he was able to communicate it, and persuade and argue logically. I’m glad to read this, Exodus 4:27, “The Lord said to Aaron, ‘Go meet Moses in the wilderness.’” I’m glad to read that because I’m not going to read it again, “The Lord said to Aaron.” I’m glad that at least once that Aaron had an ear for the Lord, but after this everything changes with Aaron. Even there I’m not even sure Aaron had an ear because it says that the Lord told Aaron to go meet Moses. That might have just been an influence. I know with Elijah it says, “The Lord commanded the widow to provide for Elijah,” and when he got there she didn’t know anything about it. I can hear Elijah say, “Next time you command a widow to provide for me, please tell her.” She didn’t have any idea about this.
Moses had content, but he didn’t have eloquence. God says in Exodus 4:16, “He shall speak for you for the people; He will be a mouth for you, and you will be as god to him.” What does that mean that Moses will be as God to Aaron? You see, Moses had nothing until he waited before God. God told Moses directly, so Moses got it from God. But Aaron is not going to get it from God. Moses is like God for Aaron. So, as Moses waited before God, now Aaron must wait for Moses. Moses lost that great privilege of being able to communicate through his handicap through mighty miracle of God, and for a time he had to depend upon his brother who didn’t have a clue about getting a message from the Lord.
In God’s view content is everything. Eloquence is not that much; the idea that you can communicate. That principle is repeated by Jeremiah 23:18, “Who has stood in the counsel of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word? Who listens to the Lord?” It’s rare that a man or woman of God actually comes before the Lord, and waits for God to speak. Same chapter, Jeremiah again, Jeremiah 23:30, “Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal My words from each other.” There’s a great word on plagiarism, “I’m against those who steal My words.” It’s unfortunate but I believe many Bible teachers are like Aaron. They don’t get it directly from the Lord. They depend on books, and on tapes, and they depend on schools, and they depend on websites, and so on, and they steal God’s words from others who get it from the Lord.
Now, that can be misunderstood. Lillian checked me on that. I always go through everything with her. If I say something I’m not supposed to say you have to go after her. The point is we know God has given teachers to the church. Ephesians 4:11&12, “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, the work of service for the building up of the body of Christ.” Praise God for books and tapes and teachers and men and women of God who have waited before the Lord! They are the Lord’s gift. I thank the Lord so much for the library He’s given me. I’ve depended much on the light God has given others. The danger is substitution. Do I use them instead of the Lord, or am I trusting God to give it either directly to me, or indirectly through some human instrument. We need to get it from the Lord, and that doesn’t rule out getting it from instruments. Praise God for them! Dependence on others is part of helpless dependence. You need to depend on the Lord, and you need to depend on other people. I need you and you need me, and we need each other. Make sure if it’s directly or indirectly that it’s on the Lord we are dependent. He’s always going to make us helpless. Every forward step in helplessness is a forward step in a heart knowledge of the Lord. Don’t despise it when God makes you dependent on somebody else. But make sure you are looking through them to the Lord.
I’m going to rush through this second one because there’s not enough information to be dogmatic. Exodus 4:14, “Is there not your brother Aaron, the Levite.” Why does He say, “Aaron, the Levite.” He was from the tribe of Levi, but so was Moses. It didn’t make sense to say, “the Levite”. Some would suggest that He’s talking about the priesthood, because later from the Levites came the priesthood. Here’s a suggestion; is it possible that Moses lost the privilege of becoming the first high priest. Some would say that’s the point of that; he set that aside. When we come to the mercy side, God turning the curse to a blessing, I’m going to show you that Moses perhaps lost the priesthood, but he became a heart priest. You’d be hard pressed to find a greater mediator in the Old Testament than Moses. So, he became a heart priest.
Clearly we’re losers if we’re unbelieving believers. We’re going to lose privilege. Let me illustrate it from the three men in the furnace, the command, because of the influence of peer pressure, and the influence of music and the fear of men, could Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have bowed down, and then repented? Would God have received them back? Indeed! But what would they have missed? They would have missed a walk with the fourth man in the fiery furnace where their bonds were burned off and they had liberty. They would have missed the great testimony. So, we’re always losers every time we don’t believe in the Lord.
I come finally to the last privilege, and this is what I call the fourth confirming sign. This is the greatest loss of all. If you lose this privilege you will be undone. I’m going to dip into a very interesting, somewhat confusing history. It happened when Moses left the burning bush and was on his was with his family to his great commission; to Egypt. He had is wife Zipporah, and his oldest son Gershom, and his youngest son Eliezer. Something happened on the way, verse 24, “It came about on the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.” The Lord met them and was about to kill Moses. Isn’t that striking? He had all he learned at the burning bush, he’s on his way, and God steps in the road and is ready to kill Moses.
I want to get the principle before you, and then we’ll take up the story next time; the Zipporah story. What is the fourth confirming sign? Why was Moses spared? God was going to kill him, but He didn’t. Why? Exodus 4:25, “Zipporah took a flint, and cut off her son’s foreskin, and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.’ So He let him alone.” She said, “You are a bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision.” We’ll deal with that in another connection. Moses had neglected to circumcise his youngest son. He already circumcised Gershom, but he didn’t circumcise Eliezer. We’ll look at that interesting story, but the picture, the confirming sign is circumcision, so we need to get the principle.
Remember that was the sign that God gave Abraham, Genesis 17:10, “This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you; every male among you shall be circumcised, and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. It shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Verse 24:25, it went into effect immediately. Abraham was ninety nine years old when he got circumcised, and his son Ismael was thirteen years old when he got circumcised. The rule is Genesis 17:12, “Every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations.”
Circumcision is an external picture. Even in the Old Testament we have the reality. Deuteronomy 10:16, “Circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” Much could be said about that, but let me give you the principle. Beyond questions and beyond dispute, this is the principle of circumcision; separation from the flesh. That’s the principle. It’s a graphic picture. In the picture it’s a little piece of foreskin separated from the person; separation from the flesh. The reality is bigger than that. How much bigger? You aren’t going to believe how much bigger. Look at Colossians 2:11, “In Him you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands in removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”
Let me contrast in the picture of Abraham, a little piece of skin was separated from the person. In the reality the whole body of the flesh, not a piece of skin, the entire body has to be separated. That’s the reality. If God told Abraham to use the reality they would have had to skin the baby who was eight days old. That’s just a little foreskin. They would have had to skin them alive in order to show the reality. The whole body of flesh must be separated from the person. Moses neglected that sign, that covenant. Evidently he did not think separation from the flesh was all that important if he was going to be an instrument of redemption, and he disregarded that. He didn’t take it seriously.
We know he circumcised his firstborn, but he didn’t circumcise Eliezer. To be honest with you, the Bible doesn’t give the reason. There are many stories and guesses, so I guess you are free to guess, and I’m free to guess, but the point is that God is not happy with Moses, and it’s not a figure of speech. God intends to kill Moses because he neglected the principle of the separation from the flesh. At this point I have to give you a little theology lesson. If you look at Christ you’re going to have good theology. If you look at theology, you might miss Christ. So, it’s not the doctrine, but we talk so much about separation from the flesh. That’s part of our Christian language. We talk about not living in the flesh, not yielding to the flesh, that we’ve got to die to the flesh. We’re not to walk in the flesh. We’re to walk in the Spirit. The New Testament gives many illustrations; the old Adam, the old man, the old sin nature, the carnal Christian, the self-life. There’s many ways to express it. Isn’t this a fact; if I am serious about being separated from the flesh, I ought to be crystal clear on what is meant by the flesh? That just seems logical. I want to give you God’s definition and description.
Let me tell you what it’s not. It’s not something inside of you that you have that sometimes rises up and you’ve got to deal with it; when you are looking to Christ things are fine, but then all of a sudden this old sin nature rises if I take my eyes off the Lord, and then I get into trouble. There are those who hold that truth, that there’s something in me called “an old sin nature” and it will rise up, and they must believe these two things, neither one of them are scriptural, but they think they are. #1 If that’s true, then the Christian life is a life of continual spiritual warfare. It’s all about warfare, and I’ve got to fight, and struggle, and resist, and I’ve got to persevere, and every day I have to die more and more to the flesh. I’ve got to live by the cross, and all that kind of talk. That’s the first thing, that the life is a life of warfare.
The second thing is, those who hold that believe that they are improving, that as time goes on I’m becoming a better Christian. I’m more patient than I used to be, I’m more loving than I used to be, I’m more generous than I used to be, I am less bitter than I used to be, less short tempered than I used to be, less anxious, less proud, less unbelieving, and as time goes on I’m a better Christian today that I was last week, but I’m a better Christian for sure than I was last year, and on and on.
Both of those things, though believed by a great number of Christians are not true to the Bible. The Christian life is not a life of continual warfare, and that which is flesh is flesh, it will always be flesh, it cannot be improved at all. The Christian life – now this is a message all its own, and I’ll just say it (I may raise more snakes than I can kill) – is not a life of continual warfare. Brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s with joy I proclaim to you, the war is over. It’s finished. Jesus finished it on the cross. If you are going to spend all your time fighting the war that’s already finished, you are going to be so frustrated. The second thing is that you are not improving. That which is flesh is flesh.
I was saved in 1958, not in the purpose of God because that was in eternity, and it’s now 2020, if my math is right, that’s 62 years ago. I am the same Ed Miller now as I was 62 years ago. I was a wretch then. I sit before you as a redeemed wretch. I’m still a wretch. The life Paul lived, before he became a Christian, these are his words, and he describes his life; a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent aggressor, a wretched man, ignorant. Nobody doubts that Paul was the number one enemy of Christ before he got saved. Then on the Damascus Road the number one enemy of Christ became the number one defender of Christ. He was saved about 37 AD, and about 62-64 AD he wrote 1 Timothy and in that book he wrote, “It’s a trustworthy statement, a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.” I want you to know when he wrote that. He’s twenty five years down the road, as a Christian. He didn’t say, “Sinners, of whom I was chief before I got saved.” He didn’t say he was chief. He said, “I am chief.” Twenty five years later he’s the same dirty old no good for nothing inconsiderable rotten renegade that he had ever been.
So, what’s the flesh? I’ve got to be separated from the flesh. If it’s not something that rises up in me that I’ve got to resist and fight against, what is it? I’m going to give you the most succinct description from the Bible of the flesh that I have found in my study. Romans 7:18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh.” The most crucial part of that verse is really the first couple of words, “For I know…,” because most Christians don’t know that. They’ve got to know it, and by the Lord they’ve got to know it. But here’s the second part, “I know nothing good dwells in me, that is my flesh.” What’s the flesh? It’s me. Nothing good dwells in me, that is my flesh. Flesh is not something that’s in me that rises every now and then. It’s me, and it will always be me, and it will never be improved. Nothing good dwells in me. I’ve got to be separated from me. That’s what circumcision, that fourth sign is all about. That’s a confirming sign.
I hear testimonies, “I was saved from the life of crime.” “I was saved from a drunkard’s death.” “I was saved from addiction to this drug and that drug.” “I was saved from a life of perversion.” Praise God because potentially all that is in me, and it’s in you. I’ll tell you my testimony. I never used drugs, I never used alcohol, but I’ve got a testimony. I’ve been saved from me! That’s the flesh! Me! I know nothing good dwells in me, that is my flesh.
Back to Moses. Moses is leaving his experience with the Lord at the burning bush, and he’s on his way to become God’s instrument of redemption, to set God’s people free. He’s going to become the channel of redemption, and I’ll tell you, he almost lost that privilege, almost lost the privilege of becoming God’s instrument. God was saying, “Moses, I want to use you, and I want you to be My channel of redemption, but I can’t. I’ll kill you. I cannot use you if you don’t understand that you’ve got to be separated from Moses, separated from yourself, you’ve got to be circumcised in heart. The flesh cannot be improved. It’s got to be crucified.
God is about to do a wonderful thing when they get to Egypt, and we’ll study the Pharaoh and the deliverance, and so on, but God would only use Moses if Moses agreed to the covenant of circumcision. That’s on the way. Everything needs to be done by the Lord, and I’ve got to get out of the way, and you’ve got to get out of the way. This whole idea that the Christian life is, “I die daily, I die to self every day,” your old man and old self, I tell you went to the cross two thousand years ago. Do you believe that it’s history that Jesus died two thousand years ago? Is that good history? The fact that you died with Him, is every bit as historical as the fact that He died. Some Christians don’t believe the history.
If somebody were seeking the Lord, wanting to get saved, and they came to you, and you saw in their heart they were serious and they want to repent of their sins, and they want Jesus, would you say, “If you are really sincere, I’ll give you this word; Christ will die for you.” Would you tell the sinner, “Christ will die for you?” We all know the answer. I’m not going to tell the sinner, “Christ will die for you.” I’m going to say, “Christ has died for you.” If a burdened Christian comes up to you, and they are in bondage to indwelling corruption, pornography or whatever, is it right to tell them, “If you trust the Lord, the Lord will give you the power to die to yourself?” It’s already done. They need to hear that they are already dead. They died at Calvary. It’s as wrong to tell a burdened Christian that you must die to yourself as it is to tell a burdened sinner that Christ will die for you, because it’s already done.
When Moses leaves the bush he’s heading for redemption, to be a channel of redemption. God is saying by this story, separation from yourself, the exchanged life, His life and not your life, that separation is not a goal. You are not going to get to Egypt. You are going to die on the road. It’s not a goal. It’s a starting point. So many Christians have not believed that in me dwells nothing good, that is my flesh. I need to be delivered from the flesh. Nothing good in me. The whole idea that circumcision is not me cutting off my flesh; I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t vape, I don’t go to R plus rated movies, I don’t waste money, I don’t gamble—that’s not separation from me. That’s me separating things. That’s a salvation by works.
Let me close with this verse. Here is God’s full description of circumcision. Philippians 3:3, “We are the true circumcision.” Now watch these three things, “Who worship in the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, who put no confidence in the flesh.” Isn’t that a wonderful description of the heart circumcision? I’m going to read it again and we’ll pray, “We are true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God, who glory in the Christ Jesus, who put no confidence in the flesh.”
Heavenly Father, we ask You to work in our hearts what you know all of this means. It’s not what we think it might mean. Thank You for inspiring it, and putting it in the Bible and giving us these Bible stories. Lord, we want it from You. We want to hear You say to our souls, “I am your salvation.” Will you do that for us? Thank You, Lord, for all those who have come, and now grace us as we go out, that we might know the joy, the excitement of the exchanged life, not me, but Christ lives in me. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
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