A faithful woman stood in the gap between her husband and the Lord, thereby saving his life. Although the Bible instructs women that the husband is the head of the family as Christ is to the church, ultimately our Lord God is the head over us all. “But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Reading the following from Tony Evans in a chapter of Kingdom Woman, lifted the veil off of a question I’ve had for quite a while, and is a partial answer to a prayer I’ve been praying about my husband.
One woman acted in faith despite following a husband, Moses, who was making God mad. Not a lot is known about Zipporah. We do know that she was of African descent. She was the daughter of a man named Jethro, who held the respected position as the priest of Midian. We also know that Zipporah married Moses after he had fled Egypt, and that their interracial marriage had been the cause of some contention in Moses’ biological family (Numbers 12).
Zipporah was a proselyte to the faith. She believed in the one true God— Moses’ God. And she demonstrated her fear of God and faith in Him at a time when Moses seemed to lack faith. Moses had been instructed to circumcise his firstborn son as a demonstration of his commitment to God’s covenant. The covenant was the unique agreement God had set up between Himself and His followers, the Israelites. It was the father’s responsibility, according to the culture and tradition, to raise his family in the faith and to teach them to carry out the various symbolic acts and demonstrations of the faith.
God had instructed Moses that He had a big job for Moses to do. Moses was supposed to go tell Pharaoh that the judgment of God was about to come: “Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son’” (Exodus 4: 22). The firstborn son was the son of privilege and honor. God was making that point clear to Pharaoh in that He wanted His children, the Israelites, to be let go. Yet because Pharaoh refused to let Israel go, God said, “But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son” (Exodus 4: 23). It was a high price to pay for Pharaoh’s rebellion against God. God had clearly told Moses that this was the message for him to relay.
However, then Moses’ personal problem arose: “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.” (Exodus 4:24). This is the same Moses for whom God had earlier said He had great plans. This is the same Moses God had chosen to be His leader and His mouthpiece. And yet now God was seeking to put Moses to death. That is a great turn of events if ever there was one. We know why this great reversal occurred because of what Zipporah did next.
“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.’” (Ex. 4:25). She did what Moses had failed to do. She found the courage to carry out what Moses could not. When Moses was lacking as the spiritual leader in his home, Zipporah rose up in faith and stood in the gap. Moses had failed to bring his own firstborn son into the covenant with God. So Zipporah took the matter into her own hands because she feared God.
Zipporah knew that God’s judgment was on her husband. So she did what many women have done over the ages. She interposed herself between God’s judgment and the person who was to be judged. Interposition is when you act in obedience in an attempt to deflect God’s judgment intended for someone else. Many women have interposed themselves as an act of faith on behalf of someone else— perhaps a wayward child or even a spouse. They have diverted the judgment of God and in fact brought about blessing instead.
Zipporah’s act of faith didn’t come without some frustration. She was upset. It had come on her shoulders to take care of something of utmost spiritual importance, and she let Moses know how she felt about it.
Because God’s wrath was against him, Moses could have ushered in destruction on his family. Zipporah’s faith was all that stood between that destruction and a future. As a result of Zipporah’s strength in faith, “the LORD let him alone” (verse 26). Zipporah’s faith saved Moses’ life and his family.
Many lives have been saved because of a kingdom woman’s interposition where husbands and/or fathers have failed. I have seen it countless times. In various counseling scenarios, the man is clearly in the wrong spiritually, and yet God appears to be blessing the couple through one form or another because of the courage of the woman’s faith. That raises questions that I often hear in counseling: What do you do if your husband is not being the leader? What if he is not taking responsibility for the spiritual direction or leadership in the home? What does it mean to be submissive in the face of his own lack of submission to God? How do you follow a parked car? The man is clearly not leading spiritually, but then again he also doesn’t want you to lead. What then?
The life of Zipporah gives an answer. When it comes to a matter of obeying God— fulfilling the commandments of God— you act anyway. When it comes to a matter of principle— not preference— you submit to God. See, submission does not mean that you do nothing. Submission means that you surrender to God’s revealed will because your commitment to God is greater than your commitment to your husband.
Men often think that “headship” is a blank check to command their wives to do or not do whatever they want. If a wife does not do it, her husband calls her “rebellious” or “unsubmissive.” But the validity of headship rests in the submission of that head, the man, underneath Jesus Christ. What men will frequently do is only quote half the verse, thereby missing out on the whole meaning. Yet Scripture outlines the definition of headship: “But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The order is clear: God, Christ, man, woman.
To ask a woman to submit to a man who is out of alignment under God and Christ is to ask that woman to submit to something other than God, which she should never do. Men bear a responsibility to align themselves under God before they ever ask their wives to align under them. Over my years of meeting with struggling couples, I have found this to be a primary point of contention in that a woman will often struggle between submission to a man who is clearly not living a spiritually mature life and the teachings that come from God on how she is to live her life. If there is a choice to be made over a specific spiritual principle, the choice has to be submission to God if the man is out of alignment with God’s principles.
That’s why the Bible limits the word submission. It is not an all-inclusive submission. Scripture clearly says a wife is to be submissive to her husband. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5: 22). There is a higher commitment than to your husband, and that commitment is to God. So anyone who tries to tell you that submission means you are to do whatever your husband says whether or not God agrees, that person is using the term incorrectly. Unfortunately, it is one of the most misused and abused principles in Christian homes today, and often one of the major causes leading to a breakdown of home life.
Zipporah honored Moses by honoring God. As a result of her faith, her family was saved.