What’s different for me than the other Bible Journal authors (and readers, I suspect) is that I am reading most of these scriptures for the very FIRST time. Maybe this will be my last week of journaling now that my secret is out! My process for reading and responding really begins with developing an understanding of the historical context of the scripture and then reading a few commentaries to deepen my knowledge of the surrounding text. I spend a lot of time thinking about the people in the daily readings and try to relate to each of them. Although today’s New Testament readings are rich with symbolism and connection to our modern life, I can’t get seem to let go of the story of Jethro and Moses in Exodus 18. This is the first time I’ve read this story despite three decades of Catholic education! I’m so excited to share the big message I found in a short exchange. So, in Exodus 18, Jethro, Moses’ father in law comes to visit him where “he was encamped at the mountain of God” (Exodus 18:5). They go into that tent we heard about yesterday and Jethro counsels Moses. At this time Moses has been patiently settling disputes among the people of Israel from sunrise to sunset according to God’s Law. Jethro says to Moses:
“…Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening? And Moses said to his father in law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statues of God and his laws” Moses’ father in law said to him” What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone”” Exodus 18:14-18
Some commentaries compare Moses at this time after leading the Israelites out of Egypt as a “type of Christ” or the way I like to think of it, a “preview” of Christ. Not to say that he is in any way an embodiment of Christ, but instead that he acts as a law giver or judge among them. The scripture describes him as doing this duty in a tireless manor with great care and kindness to his people. The people come to him all day, every day, seeking advice and asking him to settle their disputes. Then Jethro arrives and throws him off his game a little bit. He reminds Moses that indeed he cannot do it alone. The task of leading all of the Israelites under God’s law is too much for one man. Of course, Moses doesn’t throw a tantrum when his father in law speaks truth to him (like I would!) Instead he considers the advice, sees his error and makes a change. Essentially he relinquishes his role as top educator and dispute settler and delegates to a team of men as honorable as he is. How often do I want to do it all? How often do I consider myself an authority on a given topic and give tireless advice to anyone that will listen? God is sending us a direct message here that His word and law is meant to be shared among all of his people and ultimately judged by Him.
How often do we as Christians make judgments of others without first judging ourselves? Bible Gateway commentary for today’s scripture states, “Great men should not only study to be useful themselves, but contrive to make others useful.” Am I seeking each day to strengthen my vertical relationship with God before counseling and making judgments in my horizontal or earthly relationships? In other words, am I in conversation with God first before correcting my spouse, friend or co-worker? The commentary goes on to say, “Those are not wise, who think themselves too wise to be counseled.” Moses had God’s law on his lips but he wasn’t too wise to look within and be counseled on how to best share it.
Later in today’s readings Luke tells us about Jesus foretelling wars and persecution. In Luke 21:13, Jesus says:
“This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” Luke 21:13-15
Help us not to meditate on our words and set our answers before you speak truth into our minds and hearts. Help us to be patient with our modern “Israelites” as you have been so patient with us. Lord, we know the weight of your law is too heavy for any one man or woman. Help us to strengthen our relationship with you and avoid temptation to hand out injustice. Instead, tune our ears to the sound of your voice through others’ and help us to remember that we are never too wise to be counseled. Speak to us Lord through your word and through your people.