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Just Like God

Ephesians 4:32 CEV

32 Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.

I want to tell you the story of a man named Joe Foss.

Joe Foss

A year after his father died, Joe Foss dropped out of college. Holding down a couple of odd jobs, running the family farm and attending college was just too much for him-something had to give, so he quit school. When his younger brother was old enough to take over the farm, Joe returned to Sioux Falls College and later the University of South Dakota. Along the way, he was able to save up enough cash to take flying lessons, and in his Senior year, he joined the Marines.

He was an old man of 26 by then, though he’d earned his wings, the military thought he was too old to be a fighter pilot. Eventually, he worked his way up into a carrier group and a few months after Pearl Harbor, he got his first combat assignment—Guadalcanal. In six weeks he shot down 23 Japanese planes, within a few more months he’d shot down his 26th plane and was presented with the Medal of Honor. Malaria forced him to leave the Pacific in 1944 and the next year he left the military.

Foss was a hero in anybody’s book. But there’s more to his story.

He worked several jobs in the private sector before running for public office for the first time. He served as a member of the South Dakota House from 1949–50 and 53–54, before becoming the governor of South Dakota in 1955 for two, two-year terms.

Sounds like a lot of accomplishments for just one man, doesn’t it?

But there’s more. After leaving public life, he became the first Commissioner of the AFL and served in that capacity before the AFL & NFL merged and the creation of the Super Bowl. He went on to serve as the host for ABC’s The American Sportsman and the host of his own syndicated series, “The Outdoorsman: Joe Foss.”

He passed away in 2002. Before he passed he never stopped traveling, giving speeches about “leadership, patriotism and his enduring faith in God.”

He was an impressive man. A veteran we should honor and thank God for because of his service. But that’s not the only reason I’m telling you his story.

There’s something more than all of that which impresses me about Joe Foss.

I want to read the article to you today:

For a 9-year-old newspaper boy in Pierre, balancing 50 to 100 papers on a bike was a challenge. One day in 1956, I hit a rut and crashed into the pavement. Newspapers scattered across the highway. With a badly skinned knee and embarrassed, I saw a black limousine coming straight at me. I scrambled to get out of harm’s way as the car screeched to a halt. A man in a suit stepped out of the limousine and began picking up newspapers. I didn’t know he had been a fighter pilot in World War II or that he scored 26 personal aerial victories against the Japanese. I didn’t know he had been shot down over the Pacific or had received the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Congressional Medal of Honor. I didn’t know that in 1941, he was the Officer of the Day, in charge of base security at Pensacola, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He rode around its perimeter defending against Japanese invaders on the only transportation available…a bicycle. Was this on his mind as he saw me take a spill in the middle of the airport highway? When he said, “Let me help pick up your papers,” I was in awe. Without fanfare, Joe Foss, the governor with a state to manage and a plane to catch, took a few minutes to help a kid with a skinned knee.

‌What an incredible story. If you find the article online, you’ll be able to read all the comments people posted of what a servant hearted man Joe Foss was. It’s incredible. I was overwhelmed thinking of how this man served his family, his country, and his God.

He showed this 9 year old boy an intentional act of kindness. That boy grew up and became a Pastor. He tells this story because it impacted his life and ministry.

Kindness is really a simple thing, it doesn’t take much to be kind to one another, it is a principle that even a child can grasp.

It’s not a tough concept. It is as simple as getting out of a limo and helping a nine-year-old boy pick up Newspapers.

It is getting someone else a glass of Ice Tea when you’re up or calling your loved one in the middle of the day just to say, “I love you.” It is treating your parents like “people” being home by your curfew or picking up your room without being asked.

It's just small stuff. If it is so small, why can’t we get it right?

Let’s think a little bit about Moses this morning.

Moses is journeying with his family back toward Egypt to deliver the people of God out of Pharaoh ‘s hands. But God wasn’t going to let him go until he circumcised his son. How could God let a deliverer rescue the people of the covenant who wasn’t keeping the covenant himself.

We don’t know exactly how it happened, it could have been sickness or a direct confrontation, but God was going to kill Moses if he didn’t circumcise his son. Let me read the text to you, and as I do, pay close attention to how Zipporah, Moses’ wife intervenes to save Moses’ life, but also notice the attitude she does it with:

Exodus 4:20–26 NLT

20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God. 21 And the Lord told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. 22 Then you will tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. 23 I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’ ” 24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. 25 But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the Lord left him alone.

This episode is rarely more than a footnote in the amazing story of how God used Moses to deliver his people. A footnote that is easy to overlook.

But today I want us to think about Zipporah’s actions.

Zipporah only appears three times in Scripture: the first time at the well (Exodus 2), the second time while on the journey to Egypt (Exodus 4), and finally in the wilderness when Moses met her father Jethro who was accompanied by Zipporah and her sons (Exodus 18). Of her three appearances in the text, she only speaks one time, in Exodus 4.

‌The long donkey ride on the way to Egypt left Zipporah, Moses, and their two children wanting for a good night’s rest. During the night, God’s hand of death came against Moses and “tried to kill him” (Exodus 4:24).

Wait. What? God had just given Moses an assignment to return to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh free the Hebrews from bondage. What’s more, God had just revealed himself to Moses and demonstrated great power in and through him. Why would God want to kill Moses?

Moses had failed to honor the covenant established in Genesis.

Genesis 21:4 CEV

4 and when the boy was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, just as the Lord had commanded.

Moses had raised his children as Midianites who weren’t circumcised until before marriage.

Zipporah is now in the situation with her husband incapacitated and she has to figure out what to do. She somehow knew that this was happening because Moses disobedience to the covenant.

Zipporah had to think and act quickly in order to save her husband’s life. Her response to her husband’s impending death is to perform a circumcision on her son and toss the foreskin at her husband Moses. In order to understand this scene, some background information is in order.

Let’s go back:‌

When Zipporah and her sisters spotted Moses the first time, they thought he was an Egyptian, and in many ways they were right. Moses had been in the household of Pharaoh in Egypt since infancy. His mannerisms and customs were shaped by his Egyptian upbringing. In fact, he most likely dreamt in the language of Pharaoh.

Everything about him was Egyptian, except for one thing. Unlike his Egyptian peers, he was circumcised.

Circumcision was not the same medical practice it is today, but circumcision was a sign of the covenant God had made with Abraham and his descendants. Zipporah had borne two sons to Moses, but he had failed to perform circumcision on his sons.

Egypt had caused Moses to forget his roots—his identity—as a descendant of Abraham.

When Zipporah saw her husband dying before her eyes at the hand of the Lord, she made a split second decision to circumcise her son and throw his foreskin at the feet of her husband.

This has to be the bloodiest scene in the book of Exodus since the massacre of Hebrew male children in chapter 1. It would be rivaled soon after as the blood of the Egyptian children ran cold at the final plague, as the blood of lambs was smeared on the doorposts of the Hebrew households that first Passover, and with the bloodying of the sea as the waters closed over the Egyptian army.

“You are a bridegroom of blood,” Zipporah says as she tosses flesh at Moses’s feet.

She is telling Moses: “Remember who you are.” You, Moses, are of the bloodline of Abraham. You should have circumcised your son soon after his birth. Remember who you are; you are a bridegroom of blood.

Pharaoh’s house made it easy for Moses to forget Abel’s sacrifice, the ram who saved Isaac, and the Hebrew blood that ran through his veins. These people he was going to save were his own people, God’s chosen people by blood.

In order to complete his assignment, Moses had to die - At least, the Egyptian in him had to die in order for the Israelite Moses, in his truest identity, to fulfill the purpose for which he was born.

Through Zipporah’s quick-thinking actions, she evoked the covenant by demonstration so Moses would remember his roots.

If he was going to Egypt to free his people, his identification with Egypt had to die. The flesh and blood in the hands of his wife Zipporah would not let Moses forget.

Zipporah, to me, shows us an act of undeserved kindness. ‌

Other commentaries on this scripture say that Zipporah sinned in her action because they assume that she was the reason why Moses was unfaithful to the covenant. They say that she didn’t want to have her sons circumcised at 8 days old and only relented when God threatened to kill her husband.

They say Moses even divorced her because of this action.

I don’t read the story in that way. I read the story with Zipporah as the hero.

At first glance, the relationship between Zipporah and Moses looks like the familiar boy-rescues-girl tale. Zipporah and her sisters appear too weak to defend themselves from the threat of local shepherds at the well. And, here comes Moses to the rescue.

Naturally, this man who rescued these vulnerable young women was a likely suitor for one of the daughters of the Priest of Midian, and they lived happily ever after.

But as we have seen, Zipporah is no damsel in distress. In kindness she STEPPED up.

Zipporah’s story should always be told alongside Moses’s, for without her, he would surely have died before returning to Egypt, still unclear about his true identity.

She could have done nothing.

Joe Foss could have done nothing.

You can live without doing anything.

There are things in the culture, in society, and in this world that naturally attach themselves to us and disguise our true identity. Sometimes it’s our careers, our family name, or our traditions that are such a part of us that we forget Paul’s reminder that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), and our identity is hidden in Christ.

Ephesians 4:32 CEV

32 Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.

This is a hero. A person who is kind, merciful, forgiving.

EVEN is the recipient is undeserving. You say, the verse doesn’t say that part..

Well it’s implied because it says JUST as God did for YOU through Christ.

We didn’t deserve kindness, mercy, forgiveness. Yet, God gave it to us anyway.

As we reflect on the strange story of Moses and Zipporah I want to read it again in my new favorite translation of the bible which puts it in plain English:

Exodus 4:24–26 CEV

24 One night while Moses was in camp, the Lord was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah circumcised her son with a flint knife. She touched his legs with the skin she had cut off and said, “My dear son, this blood will protect you.” 26 So the Lord did not harm Moses. Then Zipporah said, “Yes, my dear, you are safe because of this circumcision.”

The blood made the difference. The sacrifice made the difference.

How difficult was it for this mother to cut her child? It’s unimaginable, but it was necessary to save the child, the husband, and the people of God.

It’s a picture of service. It’s an example to us today. We are to serve the Lord without fail because people hang in the balance.

Our lives, as much as we think, are not our own. We are part of a community of humanity. We are called to service.

Christ gave His life, shed His blood, to cleanse us and make us right with God.

What are we doing to so kindness to those in our lives who need it most?

As we think on the service of those in this room who were part of the armed forces, I can’t help but to think that they made a decision to put their lives on the line. They were willing to shed blood to save a country. What’s a country? It’s a group of people. I am grateful to those who serve.

My hope for today is that we think on those people who have served us as a nation, we think on how God has served us, and that we would consider how we are to serve others each and every day.


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