27 June 2008

Words of Advice

Over the summer months, I've decided to participate in a Bible reading challenge... a read through the Bible in 90 days. I've read through the Bible before, but this is more intense; other times I've spread it out over 1-2 years. While I think it is good to read small portions of Scripture slowly to study and meditate over them - I'm also finding this very beneficial as it is giving me a "whole picture" that I've not ever seen before.

I've also decided to read using my French Bible, hoping this will help me to finally reach my long time goal of actually reading through the Bible in French. It seems a little easier (the French part) this way, as reading larger sections, I don't get stuck on the few words that may not be a part of my current vocabulary, but concentrate on a more global understanding. There's also the benefit that I've mentioned before: it is like reading a well-known story from a different perspective. I believe the Holy Spirit uses this to open my eyes to new aspects and new things that I had never noticed before.

That is what happened last week as I was reading through Exodus - the part where Jethro, Moses' father-in-law and a Midianite priest, comes to greet him as they are traveling through the desert. Although it is a passage which I've read or heard several times, a passage on which I've heard at least a handful of sermons and teachings in the past, God was faithful to, once again, show/teach me something new, something that relates particularly to current situations I am and will be working through in the coming months.

And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father in law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. And Jethro, Moses' father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in law before God. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to Godward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. (Ex 18:7-24)

I bolded the portions that really jumped out at me. But first, let me include a quick "disclaimer" - these are not completely new, revelation-ary (is that a word??) ideas that that I have never had presented to me or have never thought about before... I just them in this passage, in a new context, that presently has particular application to my life.

Here are the three key ideas that I highlighted:

1) Moses' clear testimony, giving all of the glory to God for the deliverance of him and his people, obviously opened the eyes of Jethro as to who God was/is. I don't know that the Bible is really clear as to whether Jethro was a "believer" but he certainly acknowledges that the Lord God was more powerful than all of the other gods - and the fear of the Lord (that begins, I think, first with an acknowlegement of His all-powerfull-ness), is the beginning of God-given wisdom. Thus, this was a good reminder to me that when others remark about things that have happened, things that God has done, I need to make sure that the glory goes to Him, that I don't allow even just a bit of that glory to fall back onto me. For one like myself, who is often overly concerned with the opinions of others and trying to meet their expectations for me, that can be quite challenging when walking in my fleshly nature instead of in the Spirit.

2) Moses' humility and Jethro's wisdom also stood out to me. Often, it is easy to discount the advice of those we don't think are as qualified as we are:

  • they don't have the experience,
  • they don't have the education,
  • it is not their area of expertise while it is mine,
  • they are so young,
  • old they are out of touch and "don't have a clue,"
  • they are brand new believers,
  • I don't see anything in particular that impresses me about their individual walk with God,...

and the list of excuses could go on and on... This is something that has often frustrated me in dealing with people here. It is quite accepted and normal, even encouraged, to have a type of "oligarchy" where if you have education and/or position, you are automatically "superior" to those who don't and thus can lord if over these others. The "boss" can treat those who work under him like dirt because of his position; yet those who work for him must never forget his elevated and more worthy position. We, in our family, are often treated favorably simply because of the color of our skin - and although at times, that is admittedly nice (like the times I have't had to wait "my turn" to see the doctor, or when Tim is bumped to the front of the line at the bank), I must also say that the principle behind such behavior bothers me and I usually try to discourage it.

Moses could have done the same to Jethro (respectfully, of course, since Jethro was his elder and his father-in-law). He could have discounted Jethro's advice because:

  • Jethro hadn't heard God's voice directing him specifically,
  • Jethro hadn't been leading the whole nation of Israel,
  • Jethro hadn't personally confronted Pharaoh,
  • God hadn't used Jethro's hand to perform His mighty acts in Egypt,
  • Jethro's relationship with God wasn't as intimate as his own...

but he didn't. He listened to what Jethro had to say and because it was good and godly advice, Moses recognized the value and humbly accepted it, greatly changing his behavior and his life as a result.

3) I also loved reading how Jethro offered his advice.

  • He kindly, respectfully, clearly and gently (i.e. he could have used words much stronger than "not good") stated what he saw as the problem and why.
  • He spoke precisely and wisely, recognizing Moses' special position before God (that had been given to him by the Lord) and before his people - probably knowing that it was not something that Moses had desired, sought or initiated, but rather something to which God had appointed him.
  • When giving his guidance, Jethro offers a short prayer "May God be with you," recognizing that Moses couldn't just accept what Jethro said carte blanche without first seeking God's counsel.
  • And in his last comment, he then specifically encouraged Moses to seek God's guidance before accepting his words.

These are all important things for anyone to remember when they find themselves in the position of offering advice, especially when unsolicited.

I love when God's Word speaks to me so directly, to situations "en face." However, the trick is applying it when in the heat of the moment. We find ourselves surprisingly often in the position of both giving and receiving advice - so I am thankful for this godly example of how to do both. And if I remember that any credit truly goes to the Lord and not myself - and then make sure I follow through on that, not only will God's name be glorified, but by God's grace, I'll also be more likely to humbly speak and respond when both receiving and giving advice.

1 comment:

  1. Richelle, I loved this post! You totally put your finger on why this reading plan is so different from other reads. I really appreciated all that you had to say about Moses and Jethro. It is a passage that is so full of....well, so much! :)

    I am a little behind right now and I hope to get back on track by reading a little extra each day this week. I have been amazingly blessed by this challenge and I am so glad that you decided to do it also.



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