What Doest Thou?

Exodus 18: 9 – 12 (Moffatt Bible) Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness of the Eternal to Israel, in rescuing them from the Egyptians. "Blessed be the Eternal," said he, "who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from the Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the grip of the Egyptians! 11I see now that the Eternal is stronger than all other gods, for he has routed the haughty foes of his folk." 12So Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, brought a burnt-offering and some sacrifices for God, and Aaron and all the sheikhs of Israel came to join the sacrificial meal made by the father-in-law of Moses before God.

Something seems to be amiss in this chapter. Something just is not right. Moses gives a wonderful testimony of all God has done. His father-in-law Jethro praises the Lord. Jethro, Moses and Aaron offer a sacrifice to the Lord. So far things seem reasonable. Having a season of thanksgiving as a way of celebrating God's leading is positive and appropriate.

But let us stop and think through the events of Chapter 19. Jethro, Moses father-in-law comes to visit. He brings Moses' wife and children with him. Moses recounts the things God did for the children of Israel. His father-in-law, Jethro, is impressed. There is a celebration of God and all God has done. The next day, Moses is working as a judge in the court. Jethro notices Moses is working in the court all day. Notice his reaction to Moses' dedicated service to God.

Verse 14. What is this you are doing? Why sit alone as a judge, with the people all round you from morning until night? The discussion continues, as Moses defends his actions. Jethro zeros in. Picking up the conversation between Moses and Jethro with verse 17. You are not doing right. Then Jethro tells Moses how God is able to help him.

I am not sure if you've caught what is wrong with the picture. Reflect on this for a moment. There are a couple of things wrong with the picture.

First, Moses' priorities need to include his family. He has just been reunited with his family. His father-in-law is visiting and he spends all day working. There needs to be balance in our lives. Moses' life appears to not have balance. He is spending all day serving God and serving the people, while personal and family needs are not being met.

Moses gives God all the credit for rescuing the children of Israel. But somehow Moses seems to feel that the God who rescued the children of Israel is not God enough to help with the day-to-day affairs. God is able to rescue the people, but God cannot maintain God's people! This is not a good belief system. Of course, Moses would deny believing something that twisted, but that is how he was living out the faith.

Moses' own testimony of God's protection and of God's leading was not good enough to help Moses' heart understand that God did the work. Moses still felt he had to do all the work. Any time we feel we must do the work, that we are the best person to do the job, or the only person to do the job we exercise a lack of faith in God and in God's ability to do what is needed.

The queer community has many people in it who are trying to earn love and acceptance. There is a very strong desire to be loved and accepted by people. While the desire to be loved and accepted is healthy and normal, that desire can become so strong it is not healthy. An unhealthy desire to be accepted might have its roots in being rejected by family, loved ones, and friends. The desire to be loved and accepted is unhealthy when people attempt to do too much to be accepted by others. The result can be professional, community volunteer, or church workaholics.

Rabbi Dovid Feinstein points to another possible problem. That problem is easily seen in the old King James translation. Verse 14. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people?

Feinstein's concern is that Moses gave people the impression that for all time only Moses could be the leader of the children of Israel.1 When try to do it all for God, we act like we are the only ones who can serve God. That is not just unhealthy for us; it shows bad theology and it is unhealthy for God's people.


1Yissocher Frand. Rabbi Frand on Parshas Yisro: Knowing the Difference Between a Complainer and a Truth-Seeker. Torah.org (internet web site: URL http://projectgenesis.org/learning/ravfrand/5766/yisro.html).

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