It was certainly a convenient marriage. Moses had arrived in town as a fugitive. He’d seen the seven sisters struggling to water their father’s flocks, when other shepherds were pushing them away, and he’d stepped in to help. Of course the girls wanted to take him home and present him to dad. If the other shepherds were anything to go by, eligible males were in short supply, so it wasn’t long before the well-mannered Moses was hitched to Zipporah, the eldest daughter. It was handy for Moses to have a ready-made home and instant employment. Good news too for a father of seven girls, to have a reliable, strong and healthy male on the scene. Happy event all round. At least while Moses was relatively content with sheep farming.
But the day came when God entered the scene, when Moses met him in the burning bush. In a moment, his life was changed, his faith challenged and spurred on, and his ambitions raised to the unimaginable task of leading his immense birth family out of slavery in Egypt. Lacking confidence he may have been, but a man with a purpose he now most definitely was.
However, like most folk who have fluctuated in faith, Moses was a man with baggage. His wife hadn’t encouraged him in his Hebrew beliefs, and one of their sons had not been circumcised. This almost cost Moses his life (Exodus 4:24-26), but her quick response had saved that day. She’d set out with him on his mission, but was evidently no encouragement to him, and before long, Moses packed off Zipporah and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer back to her father.
Some time later, word reached Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, of the amazing things God had done through Moses, and that the people were indeed free of Egypt (Exodus 18:1-8). It was time to go visit, and take his daughter and grandsons back to their rightful home, with Moses. Jethro received a very warm welcome, but the rejoining of Moses and Zipporah was underwhelming. Undescribed in fact. Indeed, we hear nothing more of Zipporah, and little more of the two sons. Such insignificant offspring of such a famous and powerful father. We can only assume they followed their mother’s nondescript faith, and lived out unremarkable lives.
Sad as this story is, we see it repeated so often in modern times. When a couple do not share faith, there is no mutual stirring up; when there is no spiritual enthusiasm in the home, the kids are not drawn into faith; and when the ups and downs of life are not prayed over by the whole family, the children do not see God’s activity in their own lives. One believing spouse can be a great influence in the household, but it is much, much harder. Even with a believing couple, there are no guarantees. So Moses, the great leader, failed to impact his own family with faith. But did this make him a failure? Was he any less a man that God could use? Did it reduce his achievements? Did God love him less? No doubt his life was tinged with sadness, but he had a job to do, and with or without the support of his family, he stuck at it and achieved great things.
No-one lives a perfect life. We all have baggage. It is wonderful when a whole family worships God together, but those whose spouses or families do not share faith, should not feel failures. God still used Moses, because he did not allow his situation to limit his achievement.