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Monday, November 7, 2011

You are Not Alone

Exodus 18:18b - "You are not able to do it alone"

I don't know anyone that doesn't have a hard time trusting God when it comes to things that really matter to them. Think of any application process whether it be college or a job, or how your child is raised, or even your significant other, and easily, you find that those experiences are often times filled with anxiety, fear, frustration, and sometimes even a neurotic depression. I notice that most people have a hard time trusting God because they haven't experienced His trustworthiness. It is often more a theory than a reality, one they understand and accept cognitively, but have a hard time relating to in a personal manner.

As I read Exodus 16-18, what I see recurring with Moses is a burden that he carries alone to lead a million people. To put this into perspective, we are talking about a man who was raised by his Hebrew mother, then educated in the Egyptian courts, then tended sheep for nearly 40 years in the desert. It would be similar to a boy raised in the slums, who went to private boarding school while never fitting in, and then moved to Idaho to potato farm: not what anyone would consider leadership training. However, what we see Moses learned in the desert was to strip away from all the desires of the reigning culture of the time and be find contentment in whatever circumstance he was in. His making a home, finding a wife, and having children are all indications of this acclimatization. He learned that the prevalent culture in which he grew up wasn't the defining culture and that he could live differently, without experiencing the pressures he thought he needed to embrace to achieve success.

As he led the Israelites out of Egypt, he was confronted first with the obvious need to organize the movement of a million people at once. For most, getting 10 people on the same page is quite a task, but multiply that by 100,000 and you have the daunting mission ahead of Moses. Add to that the fact that he was leading people who had been slaves motivated by fear and deficiency all their lives didn't help. On top of that, they would often times complain to him that the certainty that came with slavery was better than the uncertainty that came with freedom adding more stress and pressure to the matter. However, after seeing the wonders God performed in Egypt, Moses was now confident that God was with Him and that He could do anything through him. Thus, we see Moses calling upon God to part the Red Sea, provide Manna and quail to feed the people, and gush water out of a rock to quench their thirsts. However, Moses' understanding and experience with God ended with his personal involvement in accomplishing the things of God.

In this passage, we see Jethro observing everything that Moses is doing to organize and lead the people. Upon hearing what God had done in Egypt, we see in 18:11 that Jethro, the High Priest of Midian and Moses' father-in-law, recognizes that the God of Moses is "greater than all gods." At first glance, it may appear that Jethro is still practicing a form of polytheism, but what he is actually doing is attributing to God the ultimate position of God. He recognizes that the God who revealed himself to Moses is indeed, the true God. Then as he sees the inefficiencies of Moses' leadership, tells Moses that he cannot do it alone and then proceeds to give Moses a method of governing the people of Israel by finding "able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens." Whatever they could handle on their own, Jethro said, trust God and let them, and have the more difficult matters brought to Moses.

We learn three things in this process. First, we see that God calls us to wisdom and organized governance with things. Second, we see that there is a necessity for prioritization and for reflection amongst our circumstances. Third, we see that God is constantly calling us to grow in our trust for Him as it will show us how near He actually is to us.

We know that God calls us to wisdom when we look at the book of Proverbs. But clearly, what Moses was doing wasn't wise in any way possible. We regularly see that the Israelites grumbled to him. He would then, often deflect that grumbling to God and tell the people that if they complained to him, they were actually complaining about God. As Moses immediately listened to his father-in-law's words, we see that organized governance was something that God deemed good and necessary when looking at the sheer numbers of people. We also see just how busy Moses was in chapters 16 and 17. Over and over, we see that Moses is constantly directing people, and getting complaints for just about everything. All this led to him regularly feeling frustrated and angry with the people. Moses simply didn't take time to think through some of the practical issues because he was always fixing the problems and the complaints of the people. He was putting out little fires when an entire volcano was erupting. The author is showing us that Moses had too big a task to manage alone.

Up to this point, his job, in many ways, was "easy." Moses was told to simply show up and have his brother talk as God performed some of the most incredible miracles raining havoc on the land of Egypt because of Pharaoh's pride. Now, he wasn't only addressing Pharaoh and a group of Hebrew elders, but the entire population of slaves that followed him out of Egypt. While before, Moses was only responsible to bring a message before Pharaoh and watch the power of God work, he was now charged with leading an entire nation being the only one who had the power of God manifesting through him. This in many ways prevented him from delegating and allowing others to step up since God's authority rested with him and God's power was displayed to him. Moses became comfortable being the dispenser of God's power to the people and was now confronted with the reality that he would need to trust God in a way that he never has before. He was being called to engage in a much bigger God. Moses knew God as personal and powerful, but most likely believed that God's power extended through Moses alone. God was going to show Moses that His authority spanned much further. Moses was called to trust in the sovereignty and providence of God through other imperfect people that at best, weren't corruptible individuals.

Many times in our lives, God wants us to expand our need to need Him. He wants to show us exactly how far His reign extends and that He is sovereign over all things. He wants to demonstrate to us His trustworthiness in all things and that regardless of human flaw, His will will be accomplished. More than anything, God wants us to let go of our own complacency in being able to control our environment. It is clear that how much we trust God is demonstrated in difficult times when things seem to be too big for us to handle, not when things seem easy for us to control.

I think when people graduate from college, people are confronted with 2 major decisions: career and significant other/marriage. These two decisions cause more anxiety, worry, stress, and frustration than anything else for post-grads. Constantly confronted with discontentment with either-or, people either learn to follow a pattern of settling for mediocrity, being paralyzed by doing nothing, or emphasizing one to the point they have to neglect the other. If these aren't significant issues, there are other issues (ie. friendships) that have been elevated to take the place of these. However, most people I encounter, are regularly thinking of these things.

The interesting thing about both jobs and marriage are that they are often times dependent on the decisions and judgement of other people. Your resume can take you far, but never all the way. I was told by a CEO friend of mine that his classmates who graduated with him from Harvard B-School have been having a hard time finding work due to the economic crisis and were willing to take jobs with him for less than half the pay they had before. We see that life often fills us with the need to worry, but God often fills us with the need to trust.

When I scan the Bible, all I see throughout is that God is faithful. That as long as we are able to recognize that having God is better than having anything in life, that we will never be in want. I look at my own life and my own desires for a flourishing career and a woman who experiences the love of God, and find that I can now quickly come to my senses and see things as they are. I see so many people having to climb out of the hole they've dug for themselves in search of fulfillment in anything except for God. I see so many people still stuck in the hole digging further in hopes to find what they we're created to only be able to find in Christ.

I was sharing with a friend of mine, to whom this entry is dedicated, that through God's grace, we are standing on the finish line at a track. The temptation for us is to want to think that the finish line is actually the starting line and that we must run around the track in order to merit that which Christ has already accomplished for us. However, God wants us to just recognize all that it means to be standing on the finish line without having to run around the track, everyday of our lives, for the rest of our lives. We will undoubtedly see the hurdles we need to jump, but God is saying to resist the temptation to jump those hurdles, because if we place our trust in Him, we will be able to rest in the fact that we've already overcome them.

What we learn from Jethro and Moses is that God is much bigger than our problems, our stresses, and our abilities. We also learn that in order to trust, we truly must learn to let go of things, to rest in Him, and be okay with whatever result we get knowing that on our end, we worked to glorify God. The greatest lesson in all of this is that, if we are called by God in His love, He will constantly push us to a point where we either trust Him more or find the weight of the world we are trying to carry on our own too much to handle. He will not let us carry a burden we don't need to carry and through the process of revealing His greatness, He will continue to show us the ways in which he is bigger, closer, more loving and more powerful than we could ever imagine.

Psalm 25

Dedicated to B.S.

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