So long, Jethro! Exodus 4
We're still at the burning bush, but we continue in the conversation in Exodus 4 (link) and the bush itself doesn't really come up again. I wonder if we make a bigger deal of the bush and its burning but not burning situation than prior generations did, including Moses' generation.
This chapter deals with the conversation between Moses and God. The conversation where Moses tries all the various and sundry excuses he can come up with not to do what God is telling him to do. The conversation where God patiently provides Moses a few answers, then puts His anthropomorphic foot down and says, essentially "I am God. Get to it."
For those of us who are Christians, this point comes home to us. Start thinking of the last difficult thing you knew you God had told you to do. Maybe it was something easy, like becoming a brain surgeon. Maybe it was harder, like loving your enemies. The latter, of course, we know God has told us all to do, while the former is more of our decision based on wise application of the Word of God.
We make excuses and list our reasons why we cannot possibly do it. We do this in churches: we're too small, it's too hard, our 'leaders' won't let us, our leaders didn't teach us to do social justice, our church is 'too big' for congregational accountability, and so on and so forth. We do it in our lives: it's going to take too much time, it's too hard, I'm hurt too bad, 'they' were too mean, or any other excuse we can concoct. By the way, many of our modern excuses have too much "they" in them: whether it's a church member blaming the unclear "them" for why they can't come back to or can't leave a church or an individual so desperate for the approval of "them" that he cannot do what he most wants and feels is right. There's a case to be made for owning your own behavior. This is not that case.
Rather, this is the point I wish to strike: there comes a time in life when we have to decide if we're willing to say "So long, Jethro!" and hit the road or stay put on the hillside minding the sheep. In all honesty, it's our choice to make.
Now, truthfully, it ought to be a no-brainer. God has not appeared to us in a burning bush or even a pillar of cloud and fire, but rather by placing the Holy Spirit within us and the Word of God in our hands. He has provided both the forgiveness of our sin debt and taken the punishment for our crimes against his holiness while also crediting us with being righteous.
So we ought to be quick to pack it up and follow in obedience without really debating the issue, but we do debate it, don't we?
Yet for many of us, it's really past time for having the discussion and looking for loopholes to avoid obedience. It's time to load up the wagon, stop by the house and say "So long, Jethro, I'm off to do what God commands. There are people in bondage: bondage to sin, bondage to tyranny, bondage to fear, bondage to oppression. And I will carry the message of freedom in Christ and put my effort into that."
Today's nerd note: Exodus 4:24-26 troubles some of the great Biblical scholars. Since it troubles them, I'm nowhere near going to explain it fully and adequately in a blog post. I think the better angle of interpretation here is this: circumcision was a mandatory part of the covenant with God. It was a critical outward obedience that marked a father's commitment to raise his sons to be godly men. Moses had not taken that action. He was, in essence, about to go lead the covenant people of God without obeying the covenant himself.
That never works. If someone is not going to honor the commands of God themselves, then they are not fit to be the leadership of God's people. Not that we await perfection in our leaders: sin happens, mistakes happen. Rather, we expect our leaders to strive to do the best they possibly can and to certainly not take blatant steps of disobedience to God's Word. It's a big deal: one does not lead others in the body of Christ if one is not following Christ yourself. Holding on to that would solve about 78.3% of church problems. Although it will not solve the problem of made up statistics.