Here at Interfaithfulness, one of our initiatives is mentoring people who may be intrigued by or committed to the synergy exists between the Jewish and Christian worlds. This is one reason why we offer coaching services. And here, in these Torah Tuesday posts, we are seeking offer a little coaching over the Internet. 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. The lessons are here: the question is what are you going to do with them?
This week’s lesson deals with self-defeating behavior and lack of confidence.
We said last time that God’s means is a man—a person actually, male or female. God usually does His great work through people. But people are not automatons, and their response to God’s invitation varies. In fact, some succeed in saying “No,” and spend a lifetime and more regretting it. So today’s Lessons for Living the Good Life from Moses our Mentor deals with this issue: How we respond to opportunity when it knocks, whether in what might be termed “the work of God,” or in any form of endeavor.
As we read this think not only of opportunities you took, or passed up, but also about opportunities that are knocking on the door of your life right now to which you have not yet said, “Yes.”
We join Moses at the Burning Bush, where God has just told him he wants him to go to Egypt and set the people of Israel free.
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”1 And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.3 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
- We avoid life’s greatest adventures when we chronically complain that we don’t know enough to move forward [v.11-22] but . . .
- We see here that God reassures Moses in the following ways:
- He tells him what to say—he gives him a message. Similarly, when you are going to go off and do something for God, or just about anything else, you need to know what you are about, what is the message, what is the point? You just don’t go running off on impulse. You may not know EVERYTHING when you set out, but you must know something. That’s all you need to get going.
- He tells him what to do—“Go and gather the elders of Israel” and say this to them . . . .
- He tells him about working with others . . . with the elders of Israel and going to Pharoah. He gives him a sense of social context. You too should keep that in mind. If you are planning to do something, or fighting your avoidance of it, chances are there a social context in which your goals will nee to be accomplished, and your work carried out. Work the system!
- He tells him He knows about the obstacles and has a plan for dealing with them (See verse 19-22).
Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, I A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.”4 And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was lleprous5 like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile nwill become blood on the dry ground.”
- We avoid life’s greatest adventures when we reflexively regard ourselves to be so constitutionally unimpressive that we lack all credibility.
- Yet, as with Moses, so with us, when God sends us to do something he does not leave us unequipped. There is only one thing you must do in any situation: what you can. EVERYONE is qualified to do what they can. And so are you!
- He gives Moses three signs—the staff, the leprous then non leprous hand, and the water from the Nile turned to blood—to deal with Moses’ core problem: establishing his credibility.
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
- We avoid life’s greatest adventures when we focus on our shortcomings and deficits instead of on the God who is calling us, and what He has called us to do [4:10 ff.]
- This is something to always bear in mind and to watch out for. What are you focusing on in life, what God has called you to be and to do, or your own self-doubts?
- Focusing on the God who calls you and/or on the matter you know yourself called to address will give you momentum and empowerment, while focusing on your self-doubts will only depress and cripple you.
13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand his staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
- We avoid life’s greatest adventures when we chicken out due to a low self image, when we decide to leave “such things” for others to do, when we become bystanders instead of partners with God! We become safe . . . and stultified. God is not pleased with or honored by such pretend humility which is really refusal and fear. Notice how the text says, “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.” Let’s not imagine that a pattern of safe avoidance pleases God!
- See this parable of Yeshua’s which makes the very same point. This is in Matthew 25.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This parable forcibly teaches us the same lesson as Moses our Mentor is teaching us here in Torah. God will not simply let us off the hook . . . we still have responsibilities for which he will hold us accountable and we must do what we can!
- If we fail to make ourselves available, God may take some of the privileges and distribute them to others who WILL make themselves available. This is what God does when he distributes some of the privilege to Moses’ brother, Aaron, because Moses just refuses to go it alone with God. God DOES work with us as we are, as he did here with Moses. Yes Moses had his self-doubts, which are understandable considering the enormity of what he was being asked to do. But God worked with him as he was . . . and he will do the same with us.
The only question that remains is this: Will we face challenges and opportunities in life or will we perpetually hide from them, unnecessarily controlled by self-doubt?
A Lesson in Living from the Sages of Israel
Our sages discussed at some length why God revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush. The Midrash saw this as foreshadowing various aspects of Israel’s character and destiny. Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher, of 13th-14th century Spain, saw the bush as revealing that God’s people Israel, despite its varied and horrific history, remains eternal. “The burning bush conjures up the image of a lowly nation in iron chains, constantly aflame with suffering. Threatened on all sides, against all odds, the Jewish people continue to endure miraculously among their enemies.”
And if the God of Israel is your God too, whatever your experience, God will see to it that in the end, the final word about your life is not death, but life. The flames may burn, but the bush will not be consumed. So get there and burn on the mountain instead of playing it safe, hiding under some bushel basket.