Monday, October 10, 2011

Moses and Jethro-The Stories We Tell

In a previous blog post I wrote about how we often have conversations that allude to our busyness, but really are a sign of our pride in that busyness (Read it here). Today I sat down to re-read Exodus 18, where Moses' father-in-law comes to visit. A funny thing happened during Jethro's visit to Moses. Okay, two funny things happened.
First, here is how the Bible recounts Moses meeting his father-in-law in verse 7a, "So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and then kissed him." I know there is a stigma with father-in-laws and all, but bowing down and then a kiss. I think Moses is trying a little too hard. Either way, Jethro seems cool with it and they go on about their business.
The second funny thing follows the first, as funny things tend to do in life. In verse 7b we are told, "They asked each other how they had been and went into the tent."  Here is Moses, the guy that talked to God on the mountain, led the Israelites out of Egypt, and received the 10 commandments from God, and he starts a conversation the same way that you and I do everyday.
We don't know how Jethro had been, other than Moses' wife and kids had been living with him for a while (cf. Exodus 18:1-6). However, we do get Moses' side of the story. Exodus 18:8 tells us what Moses says, "Moses recounted to his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardships that confronted them on the way, and how the Lord delivered them." Moses does exactly the opposite of what so many of us do, when asked the same question, "How have you been?". Moses doesn't recount the long days standing before the people as judge (cf. Exodus 18:14), trying over and over again to teach the people the God's statutes and laws (cf. Exodus 18:16). Instead Moses recounts all that God has done for him and the people of Israel. He recounts to his father-in-law all the amazing, miraculous, and real ways that God had been active in his life and the life of the people he was leading. Moses' answer to the question, "How have you been?", was so inspiring that his father-in-law winds up taking a sacrifice to God (cf. Exodus 18:12) and saying, "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because He did wonders at the time the Egyptians acted arrogantly against the Israel." (Exodus 18:11).
Moses' answer to the simple standard question, "How have you been?" draws his father-in-law to God. It would seem that our lives and our answers to that question should do the same. Sabbath is a key factor in being able to answer the question, "How have you been?" in such a way that is orients people to God, and not to you or your problems or your successes. The first words of the commandment which deals with Sabbath is "Remember". When we stop, which is what Sabbath keeping really is, then we allow ourselves the time and perspective to remember.  Then and only then can we forget what is on our to-do list, the work that is piled on our desk, and the myriad chores that await us. Then we can remember all the Lord has done for our sake, the trials and hardships we have faced and how the Lord delivered us. Then like Moses we can answer the question "How have you been?" in a way that brings glory to God, and inspires others to worship him too.

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