Torah Tuesdays: Moses our Mentor – Lessons for Living the Good Life [Shemot, Part Two]

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As we said last week, here at Interfaithfulness, one of our initiatives is mentoring people who may be intrigued by or committed to the synergy that is meant to exist between the Jewish and Christian worlds.  We coach people, groups, and just about anyone seeking deeper understanding and transformation for life and relationships.  Sometimes these people are part of intermarriage family constellations; often they are not.

We are committing to at least three months of weekly postings, every Tuesday,  lessons about how to live the good life, taken from the life of Moses.  We will call these “Torah Tuesdays.”  These are not lessons simply for the mind of for discussion. These are lessons for living. So give them some thought and see how, in each lesson, you will find something that applies to you.

We continue now with the early life of Moses, From Exodus, the second chapter.

2:11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.[c] 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one [when he saw thee was no man], he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

A)   If you observe people, even yourself, you will notice trends in how they respond to situations which tell you something about how they are wired. Pay attention to this.

  • What do these two incidents in verses 11-13 say about how Moses is wired?
  • What trends of response do you notice in yourself? What do these say about how you are wired?  What should you be doing with this information?

B)   It is not enough to take appropriate action: one must be attentive to his/her level of authority. [ see verses 13-15].

  • Moses gets in trouble here because he has taken action but has no authority to do so.
  • Later, Moses will function as Prince and Judge over all of Israel and do so successfully. What made the difference between his later success and his early failure as indicated in verses 13-15?
  • Have you ever seen someone, even yourself, get in trouble by taking unauthorized action? As an example, what happens when someone takes it upon themselves to reprimand or discipline someone else’s kids?  Does that ever backfire?  Why ?

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”

C)   A person who is wired a certain way will behave accordingly in a variety of circumstances and contexts.

  • Moses is a compassionate idealist. He was that way in Egypt, and now, in this first encounter in Midian, he is the same way.
  • Have you ever made mistakes in judgment by expecting a person to behave differently because of a change of contexts, only to find that they behaved the same in context B as they did in context A?
  • How can the knowledge that people tend to behave in accordance with how they are wired be of aid in hiring people or assigning them tasks?
  • Dr. Bobby Clinton, Leaderhip Professor from Fuller Seminary says that our wiring falls into three broad categories: natural abilities, acquired skills, and spiritual gifts. The way these three factors interact synergistically make you to be the kind of person you are.
  • All people tend to have focal points—aspects that predominate. For some people it is one or more natural abilities. For some, one or more acquired skills. For others, one or more spiritual gifts.

i)      Years ago there was a Messanic Jewish leader named Art Kztz, a very handsome man with great charisma. But what predominated with him was extraordinary powers of articulation. Nowadays, Bishop T.D. Jakes is off the charts in his ability to create and apply original metaphors that illumine life and spirituality. These are spiritually gifted men, but their focal point is their natural ability with language.

ii)    What predominates in Billy Graham? What do you think of when you think of him?

iii)   If you are old enough to remember Kathryn Kuhlman, what predominated with her?

iv)   What predominates in some spiritual leader you admire?  Natural abilities? Acquired skills? Spiritual gifts?

v)     What predominates when people think of you?

vi)   What do you think your focal point is?

vii)  How do your natural abilities, acquired skills, and spiritual gifts work together in synergy in your life?

viii) What trends of response do you notice in yourself? What do these say about how you are wired?  What should you be doing with this                information?

D)   Acting in accordance with your best self will open doors for you.  Therefore always be looking for opportunities to do what you are wired for, which is invariably what you do best.

  • Notice how Moses’ rescue of these seven girls gets him a wife, a job, a family context as a stranger in a strange land.
  • Can you remember a time when you took the initiative to act in accordance with your best self where it paid off in ways you had not anticipated?
  • Mishlé/The Book of Proverbs puts it this way: “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great” (18:16).

23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

E)   God is constant, circumstances change. Relying on Him, we must learn how to be constant amidst changing circumstances.

  • Even for the best of people, even for heroes, unpleasant changes happen.
  • Paul the Apostle stated this principle this way: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  • How do people learn this kind of lesson?  Have you learned it?

moses-and-burning-bush3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

F)    Sometimes dramatic encounters, even with God, happen in the most mundane of circumstances. Therefore, be faithful in the small stuff.

  • Some people are always looking for the Grand Opportunity, and despise faithfulness in the mundane. This is a mistake. Often it is in the midst of day to day faithfulness that opportunity knocks, or knocks down your door.
  • How many employees, working at a low level job, got noticed, promoted, and rose to positions of power because of faithfulness in the little things?  Dr Clinton, who taught me about mentoring, calls this “the little-big principle.”  “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 1610).
  • Can you think of a time when the extraordinary happened in the midst of the ordinary in your life?

G)   Success meets people who follow their curiosity.

  • If Moses had been lazy or made an excuse of some kind, he never would have gone to that bush and had the pivotal encounter of his life.  Yet do you know people who are no longer curious, who have reduced their horizons to what is in front of their noses or on their dinner plate or what they always watch on television?
  • What can you do to nurture your curiosity?

7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

H)   God hears the cry of his afflicted people, and he knows all about what troubles, hurts, and threatens you and those you care about. Therefore don’t waste your time and energy doubting this or being frantic to inform him.

  • Once in the previous chapter and twice in this one we read of God hearing the groans of his people, their cries, being aware of their sufferings.
  • Do you believe that God knows your situation and the situation of those you care about?
  • Does God mind if we remind him?
  • When do such reminders become inappropriate?

I)      God’s method is a person: be prepared to be that person.

  • God hears the cries of his people, and is taking action to fulfill his ancient promises to them . . . but his means is a man, Moses! He says “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
  • What need is there that God wants met which he may want YOU to meet because of how he has you wired?
  • How much time to you spend fretting about what others ought to be doing in contrast to what you ought to be doing?

A Lesson for Living from The Sages of Israel

In Midrash Tanchuma, a homiletical commentary, we read that when the text of Exodus 2:12 says of Moses, “When he saw there was no man,” the meaning is that he saw that there was no one who would be zealous for God and slay the Egyptian. Similarly in our own lives, there will be times when we look at a wrong situation that needs to be righted we will notice that no one is taking responsibity to address it. At such times, we need to ask ourselves—”Shouldn’t I be doing something about this?”  At such times, it is good to remember the great wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon [late 1st, early 2nd century C.E.] who said, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Dare to be a Moses, and dare to make a difference. If not now, when?

And please take a few minutes to comment on this post  by answering this question:

How have you observed some idea in this blog post in day to day life in your experience or in the public arena?  [And if you disagree, comment  on that too!]

Your comments help others to learn!  Please do!



1 Comment

  1. Especially in last decade of my life I have been coming to realize nature God has given me ,I think what you call acting by my best self, according to how God has wired me. I think I have known since my childhood in some sense my innate being, but I think with maturity experience it has really sunk in and with guidance prayers from people I trust I am accepting it. I admit I fought it for years,. I think I alluded to my character in last weeks lesson. For me being truer to my God given character has released a burden of sorts that I had lived under for years. For me part of coming to terms had to do with my occupation which was actually quite a heavy load for me. I really am not wired to be an engineer which is what I did for 25 years. I am very fortunate I am part of a religious community that sees me for who I am and has helped me develop my spiritual gifts. However I do feel I have so much further to go. I feel God has laid it on my heart to be a part of interfaith relations which is why I am here!! I always have a desire to understand people what makes them tick what causes them to live act and believe in ways they do.
    I think God has given me some qualities to be drawn into this . I notice I put people at ease , I very much desire to help others in all sorts of ways. What I do for a living is a God given ministry I believe. I look to see the all sides of controversies even as I try to avoid confrontational issues although too much I feel. I desire Gods shalom and harmony in my life in and as I touch others in daily life I try to share this thru my nature .
    Rabbi what you say be prepared to be the kind of person God had called me to be. ..I desire that and hope to be Gods man for the job. May I have the courage to do that. Thank you for this lesson.

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