Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Zipporah - when a woman must take the reigns in obedience
Every wife gets angry with her husband now and then. Even so, it’s a little surprising to run across a story about a ticked off wife in Holy Scripture. Aren’t holy women supposed to always be calm, cool, and collected? Aren’t they supposed to love and obey their husbands? Certainly, they aren’t supposed to get angry and take charge of the situation. Maybe Zipporah didn’t read the job description because she certainly wasn’t a passive wife.
Zipporah’s husband Moses was blowing her off. The boys weren’t circumcised, but when she approached Moses, he told her he’d get around to it - after he’d taken care of all the other stuff God wanted him to do. Free the Israelites. Get them through the desert. He had big fish to fry. The boys could wait.
And yet, Zipporah knew that faith started at home, in the family. A lack of faithfulness to God’s precepts in the home threw everything else out of whack. They were covenant people. Moses needed to be about the business of bringing his own sons into the covenant. She waited and waited. She probably began by hinting around at the subject. Then she probably asked him straight out in case he was too busy to catch innuendo. Then she probably begged him. Finally, she probably got really ticked off.
If the thing hadn’t been so important, she might have let it go. But these were her sons too! Let the rest of them cool their heels at the tent flap. Get the boys circumcised, Moses.
But he just kept ignoring.
I suppose the story is in the Bible because Zipporah didn’t act like a typical Old Testament woman. No second class citizen here. Sure, she was a foreigner. Sure, Moses’ own siblings disliked her and never really treated her like one of them. Who cares? All that matters is pleasing God. Not the in-laws. Not the throngs of Israelites. Not even Moses if it conflicted with what God wanted. Her duty to God came first.
That spunky woman took up the knife and did the job herself.
And Holy Scripture tells us that she did it for her sons. But she also did it so that God would hold His hand back from punishing Moses.
Many generations later, Mary would quietly embrace a New Covenant. She would give her consent to carrying God’s Son, even if it got her into a heap of trouble. Nothing mattered, except what God wanted.
She knew she wasn’t in charge of what Joseph would think or what the rest of the people would think. She didn’t pause to consider what retribution might come when the community discovered that she was with child. All that mattered was following God’s will, and ushering in the New Covenant. All that mattered was this Son and giving Him all that He needed.
The Book of Hebrews talks about the faith of the Old Testament men, and how it was credited to them as righteousness. There was a quiet faithfulness in women like Zipporah as well. And it was credited to her as righteousness. How do we know this? Because God held back His hand and did not punish Moses for this offense.
I suppose Moses was a little angry at his wife. Husbands are like that sometimes. But we wives must remember that God’s will comes first, especially when it comes to our children. We must make sure that they are raised in the faith, even if it means we attend Mass with the children and our husbands stay home. Even if we have to drive them to religion class or take a part-time job to pay for a Catholic school education. Even if it means we must present our children for baptism – or any of the sacraments – all alone.
If Zipporah could do it, so can we.
Render to God what belongs to God. And let the chips fall where they may.