Monday, March 31, 2014

Jethro Decides Its Time To Speak Up -- Exodus 18:1-6

 
Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.  And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”  And the other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”  Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God.  And he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”
As I come to this passage of scripture, I must provide what is referred to as “full disclosure”.  In the business world, Farlex defines this principle as follows according to “The Free Dictionary” online:
“The need in business transactions to tell the "whole truth" about any matter which the other party should know in deciding to buy or contract. In real estate sales in many states there is a full disclosure form which must be filled out and signed under penalty of perjury for knowingly falsifying or concealing any significant fact.”
So, based on that, please note I am indeed a “father-in-law” three times over and I have often been in situations where I felt I must speak up.  This continues to be the case at present.  Thus what is going on in this passage of Exodus is most relevant to me, and my own experiences will definitely reflect my comments.
Prior to this 18th chapter of Exodus, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had only been mentioned in two other verses by name.  In Exodus 3:1, he is mentioned as Moses’ employer in Midian where Moses had fled from ‘downtown’ Egypt after he had killed an Egyptian.  In Exodus 4:18, we are told that Moses went to him and asked for permission to return to Egypt to see how his Israelite brethren were coping, and Jethro bade him “go in peace” while his wife and children remained behind.  Earlier in Exodus 2:16-21, between the two references above, we read of how Moses and the “priest of Midian” (a.k.a. Jethro) came to be related through marriage.
So here we have Jethro, his father-in-law hearing of all God had done for Moses and the Israelites, bringing them out of Egypt.  The Midianites including Jethro and Moses’ wife Zipporah and his sons by her were not part of this migration.  They had remained in Midian with Jethro, Zipporah’s father (although some argue Jethro may also have been her brother since the translation for both father- and brother-in-law in Hebrew is similar according to some scholars).  Zipporah had possibly been sent back with the boys because of the argument she and Moses had gotten into on their way back to Egypt (as recorded in Exodus 4:24-26).
Moses had named one of his sons ‘Gershom’ recognizing his own state or condition of having spent much of his life in a foreign land as per its translation.  It would be good for all Christians to at least think sometimes as if they had a son called ‘Gershom’ for we too are simply sojourners or those that tarry in a foreign land.  Our real home is heaven.  His other son’s name, Eliezer, completes the scene for Moses providing all that he needs as he remains away from home.  ‘Eliezer’ means ‘God is my help’ and He delivered Moses from the sword of his enemy, Pharaoh.  Maybe a son called ‘Eliezer’ would be good for all of us as well in order to remember that God is our help and He can deliver us from the sword of our Enemy.
So having heard about all that was going on in Moses’ life, Jethro decides to pay him a visit in the wilderness (at the mount of God where he was camped) and he brings along Moses’ wife and two boys.  But whether out of custom, or common courtesy, or not wanting to catch him by surprise, Jethro sends word in advance that he was on his way.  Can you imagine, if you had left (not divorced) your wife and your children several years ago, getting a message from your father-in-law (or maybe your mother-in-law) saying, “I’m on my way and I have your wife and children with me”?
What was Jethro up to and how would Moses react?  As always, the life of a Christian is not about what “comes across our path” but “how we react to it”.  Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Promise of God We Sometimes Forget -- Exodus 17:14-16


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial, and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”  And Moses built an altar, and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
 
What a day of battle that must have been.  Was it the power of Moses’ arms being held up in the air that defeated the Amalekites at the hand of the Israelites?  And is that what God wanted Moses to write in his books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)?  I do not think so.   I believe obedience, action, and reliance were all critical in their success.  First, there was the obedience of Joshua to put an army together and fight the Amalekites.  And note, he did not have a long time to do so for Moses told him the battle would occur ‘tomorrow’ (vs. 9).  And then there was action on the part of Joshua for the Scriptures say “Joshua did as Moses told him” (vs. 10).  But the leader Moses also acted.  He took two of his key assistants (Aaron and Hur) and went up to the top of the mountain with a plan.  Finally, Moses relied on the instrument that God had taught him to use to tap into God’s almighty power – his staff.  He knew that God would act through that and he knew that only God could win this battle for the Israelites.  It took Obedience, Action, and Reliance (OAR) to succeed in what God was willing to deliver for the Israelites.  It is with this OAR in our hands that we can manage to cross any turbulent waters that lie ahead of us in our lives.
This is what God wanted Moses to write down and have told to Joshua down the road.  We will see later in the book of Joshua after Moses is long gone, that Joshua relied on this very experience to know that he could count on the presence of God in his own life as a leader.  God knew how He was going to use Joshua for His people and He knew what Joshua had to learn while he was still young.  So, God says to Moses, “Write it down; recite it to Joshua.”
The Bible says God was going to blot out “the memory of Amalek from under heaven”.  Amalek was the grandson of Esau.  Genesis 36:12 tells us that he was born to Esau’s son Eliphaz by his concubine Timna, and thus Amalek also represents the ‘flesh’.  He is a representation of the ‘flesh’ that gets in the way of Israel moving towards the Promised Land.  God said He would erase them from memory and sure enough there are no Amalekites today called by that name.  Some cases have been made to identify originally the Armenians, then the Nazis, and finally the Palestinians as the descendants of the Amalekites.  From a scriptural perspective, I Samuel 15:7–8 implies that they were totally destroyed. A later story in I Chronicles 4:42-43 implies any that escaped were finished off in the days of Hezekiah.  As I studied this portion and what has been written about it, I came to the conclusion that the Amalekites represented the “enemy” of God and thus today the nomenclature has come to be applied to the “enemies” of God.  It may be a people group, it may be a religion, or it may be our own simple fleshly desires – the Amalekite within.
Whatever it is to mean for us, Moses built an altar as a memorial to that day.  And Moses named it “The Lord is My Banner”.  The battle with our own “Amalikites” will go one for the Christian from generation to generation, but God is our victory in battle.  There was no altar or statue built in honor of Joshua.  God wanted Moses to ensure that Joshua knew the victory was the Lord’s, not his.  Something that Joshua relied on later in life.
Matthew Henry indicates that idea of there being war against Amalek from generation to generation was a warning to Israel never to make peace with Amalek.  If the present-day Amalekites are indeed the Palestinians, then Henry’s idea may be one of the traditional causes for the situation in the Middle East today.  As an observer, it seems to me that whenever Israel moves towards peace because of the pressure put on her by the world, it ends up being weaker.
Finally, we note that the word ‘banner’ is used in the Scriptures three times.  First here in Exodus it is the “banner of victory”.   Later in Psalm 60:4, it is the “banner of truth”.  And then in the Song of Solomon 2:4, it is the “banner of love”.  My prayer today is that God has given you the ‘victory’ over sin and that His ‘truth’ has made you free, enabling you to both receive and then share His ‘love’.   Your life can be full of joy as you live under Him, “your banner”.  Know that God will keep His promise of eliminating all our Amalekites from our memory.  But in the meantime, He is sufficient for us.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Maybe Not a "COLD WAR", but a War nontheless: the GLOBAL BULLIES are winning.

NOT a COLD WAR, agreed . . . but a NEW VERSION of WAR:  and we are NOT STANDING UP TO THE BULLIES:

I take issue with Thomas L. Friedman's article on "Taking a pass on a new cold war."  I maintain that he is wrong on at least two counts, maybe more:

It is true this is not a "cold war" we have entered between Russia and the West.  He explains why in his article below.  I am not convinced, however, that we won the cold war and thus can be smug about doing so.  In the enemy's eyes, his job is to find another way to beat us even if he changes the rules.

Putin wants to be all powerful and he needs other states to help him achieve the resources he needs and, to force them to do so, he has the backing of his "nukes".  He does not care about his people being prosperous.  Fair enough.

America and many countries in the west are focusing on being prosperous.  But here's one problem -- America is bungling it big time.  And in so doing, is making itself either an irrelevant "non-player" in games that others play differently (i.e. Putin and his grab for power), or ultimately an easy target for takeover.  Already, through the help of the current President, America has been taken over psychologically -- more and more not seeing it as the great country it used to be.  And the fall?  Well, as the song says, "We've only just begun."

Meanwhile Friedman's third category of states, the ones who find themselves in "disorder" continue to struggle and even grow in numbers.  Bottom line, the Russia-type players take advantage of them and the new-American types just can't be bothered with them.  All makes for a wonderful world, doesn't it?

Friedman asks the question, "So what do we do?"  But, alas, his answer is lame.  He simply declares the U.S. incapable of providing a fix to these situations albeit because of the things he has listed.  But he fails to mention one more -- the unwillingness of the current administration to stand up to the bullies.  Great leaders of the world stand up to bullies in defense of the weak.  And they don't threaten them with noodles like barring them from a G8 they never really cared for.

Friedman has no solution.  He would only agree with a solution that is "self-sustaining".  Well, I have news for you Thomas -- bullies are raised in every generation.  They are a constant thing to be dealt with.  Your easy and everlasting fix, short of a Divine Intervention, does not exist.

And he ends by simply saying, we should have learned to let them (the weak, the disordered ones) solve their own problems.  Not exactly the position the enemy is taking these days, is it?

I was bullied as a kid once and chased home regularly after school.  Then one day my dad happened to be home.  He saw my distress and picked up a broom and just stood behind me, ready to do what every father does who loves his kid.  He didn't have to do much, as I found my courage with him at my side.  And I also found my fists and my legs, reversing the chase.  The bully never bothered me again and actually protected me on occasion.  In my books, the best deterrent to bullies is a good shellacking or the threat of one.

But hey, you're likely a liberal and may well want to read Friedman on this.  So here's his column:
 "Don't Just Do Something.  Sit There."   Actually, the title says it all.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

As a Leader, You Can Stand Out But, by Definition, You Cannot Act Alone -- Exodus 17:8-13


 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.  So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek.  Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”  Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other.  Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.  So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
 
While being camped at Rephidim where God provided water out of the rock for the Israelites to drink, Amalek came and attacked them.  The first time we heard of this name was back in Genesis 36:12 where we are told that Esau’s son Eliphaz had a concubine named Timna that bore him a son which they named Amalek.  This son became a chief in the land of Edom.  The word is translated “dweller in a valley”.  He and his tribe were part of the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau.  And interestingly, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon tells us that Edom was another, less common, name for Esau.  So here we have the descendants of two brothers, Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac, in combat with each other.  The Israelites were from Jacob’s lineage and the Amalekites from Esau’s ancestry.
So Moses calls on Joshua, someone heretofore not mentioned in Scripture, to lead the defense against Amalek.  His name is translated “Jehovah is salvation”.  Later on we learn he was the son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim.  The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon tells us he ministered to the personal needs of Moses as well as being his armor-bearer.  Later, of course, he went on to be Moses’ successor as leader of the Israelites.
Moses ordered Joshua to choose an army to fight Amalek and shared with him the battle strategy.  Joshua had only one day to fulfill that order for the next day Moses was going to go on top of the hill (likely the same one as Horeb, or Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, from which God had provided the water) with the staff of God in his hand, and oversee the battle that was to take place.  Moses had learned to rely on the staff of God in his hands and would not go anywhere without it.  God could exercise His power through it and Moses knew it based on past experiences.  So, he became inseparable from it, holding it tightly in his hand.  What has God given you that can be used as an instrument through which He can exercise His power and show His glory?  What do you have in your possession (your money, earthly goods, home, connections, His Word, your talent)? Have you ever thought of using it as an instrument for God?  Moses was about to do so again. 
Joshua got his army together and together they fought against the Amalekites with Moses, Aaron, and Hur, we are told, watching from on top of the mountain.  Moses and Aaron we know, but who was Hur?  The translation of the Hebrew word is “hole” but no one seems to explain why or how that came about and what it depicted.  He was a chief assistant to Moses and Aaron.
At the top of the hill, Moses held his hand up over the battle going on in front of him down the hill.  As long as he did that Israel was winning, but when he would allow his hand to drop down, the enemy Amalek began to win.  The secret, for Israel, was in Moses keeping his hands outstretched.  Is not that the secret for many of us -- keeping our hands outstretched to the heavens, seeking God’s blessings in all that we do?  Is that not the secret for some that you and I are praying for – that we keep our hands outstretched seeking the mercy and protection of God upon their lives?  Is that not what we need to do with our jobs, our politicians, and all our involvements – keep our hands outstretched to God?
The text says that Moses’ hands were heavy.  That is, he became tired of holding up his arm over the land.  He became tired of reaching out to God, all alone, on behalf of his people.  It is natural that we become weary in our responsibilities.  We become weary in our prayer life, in our private devotions, and in our worship.  Aaron and Hur arranged for Moses to sit on a rock.  But they did not just say to him, “Hey, take a break.  Everything is going well, they will do okay. Don’t worry; be happy.”  No, while Moses sat to rest, Aaron and Hur supported his hands and held them steady, outstretched over the land so that Israel would continue to prevail over their enemies.  And they did this until the sun set.  As a result, Joshua defeated Amalek and his people.  God had given the Israelites the victory.
Do you get tired?  Do you let down your outstretched hands to God and start breathing easy?  Those are the moments, the days, the Enemy is waiting for.  It is in those moments he starts to prevail.  And if you are weary and get tired, engage others to help you in your cause.  Involve them in raising their arms to God in prayer for whatever it is you decide together.  In some cases, you will need to drive that involvement.  In other cases, true Christian friends in tune with your life and goals, and the spiritual desires of your heart, will join you on their own.  Welcome them.  Include them.  You will get tired at some point and they will need to take over.  Good leaders stand out but they do not act alone.
What we do not know is whether the strategy that Moses had shared with Joshua included the fact that Moses would be holding his hands outstretched over the battlefield.  Moses did not get direct instruction to do this – he just knew it would be what God was looking for.
Scripture says they did this “until the sun set”.  Once the sun set, either the job was done, or Israel’s brave warriors could not see Moses’ uplifted hands.  Either way, Moses, with Aaron and Hur’s help, remained faithful to the end of the task.  And God gave them the victory.  What about you and me?  Can it be said of us that we will remain faithful to our responsibility to cry out to God in prayer for something or someone until the sun sets on us?  I pray so.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.