Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Category: Exodus

Adam wasn't from Eden

When I was studying for last week’s post, I found something in the text that I hadn’t noticed before.  I have read or heard the Creation account numerous times, but I had missed a certain detail about Adam’s beginnings:

Genesis 2:7-9, 15
Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed.  The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.

So looking at these verses – we find that Adam was created out of the dust from the ground in one place and then was taken east to where God had planted the beginnings of what would become the famous “Garden of Eden”.  Adam’s creation location also comes up after Adam and Eve disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  After God kicked them out of the garden, look for where Adam and Eve went:

Genesis 3:22-24
The Lord God said, “Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove the man out…

When I finally noticed these references to Adam’s land of origin, I began thinking about the God’s theme, throughout the Bible, of choosing individuals and people groups for specific service – and that their origins do not negatively impact the kind of work God has for them.

To be clear – I’m not talking about “salvation” here.  God didn’t “save” Adam when He took [him] and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.  (Nor was Adam “unsaved” when he was kicked out)  God was calling Adam to a specific type of work and service, and this call-to-work theme repeats itself countless times in Scripture.

Look at what God told Abram when He called him:

Genesis 12:1-3
The Lord said to Abram:
Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

God had a mission for Abram – start a new nation in a new land.  And from one of Abram’s descendants, a nation would be chosen to serve.  God corporately called them to work:

Exodus 19:5-6
Now if you will carefully listen to Me and keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.

Paul also mentioned Israel’s purpose in the beginning of his letter to the believers in Rome:

Romans 2:19-20
and if you are convinced that you [being a Jew] are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and truth in the law…

There are numerous examples of God calling on individuals (Noah, David, Jeremiah, Paul) and corporate groups (Aaron’s priestly family, David’s kingly descendants, Jesus’ 12 disciples) to do specific work.

While I do not know what specific work you may be called to, or even if you’re not sure if God has personally given you a “specific mission”…know that we, corporately as believers, have been chosen by God:

2 Corinthians 5:19-20
That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us.  We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”

I’m certain that your backstory doesn’t begin in Eden.  But it doesn’t matter how your origin story began – we have a job to do.  God has called us to work, so let’s get to it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A front row seat

One of the greatest benefits in a mentoring relationship is the unique access the protégé has with their mentor.  There is the opportunity for private life moments to be shared between them, if the mentor is willing to be completely open.

Moses has now taken on an assistant, or protégé, named Joshua.  One day, while the nation of Israel was camped at the base of Mt. Sinai, Moses receives an invitation to bring the priests and tribal leaders part way up the mountain to fellowship with the Lord.  Moses also brought Joshua to this meeting.

Exodus 24:9-14
Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of Israel’s elders, and they saw the God of Israel.  Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire stone, as clear as the sky itself.  God did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank.

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and stay there so that I may give you the stone tablets with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.”

So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and went up the mountain of God.  He told the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you.  Aaron and Hur are here with you.  Whoever has a dispute should go to them.”

God personally invites Moses further up Mt. Sinai to receive the law directly from Him.  This meeting will be one of the biggest moments in the young history of the nation of Israel.  This was big-time stuff, definitely not for those who hadn’t left the kiddie table.  Not even the nation’s elders were going.  If there ever was a time to leave the trainee behind, this was understandably one of those times. 

Instead, when God invited Moses, Moses essentially turned to Joshua and said, “That means you, too.”  Moses’ words to the elders were pretty clear: “Wait here for us until we return to you.”  Joshua was going to have a front row seat to watch his mentor interact with God.

This wasn’t the only time, either.

Exodus 33:7-11
Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting.  Anyone who wanted to consult the Lord would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.  Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent.

When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses.  As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent.  The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend.

Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.

Every time Moses spoke to God, Joshua was there to watch and listen.  Think of the conversations he overheard.  Imagine the discussions between God and Moses that Joshua was able to witness.  Joshua was able to see what God is like and he was being taught about leadership, governance, and God’s expectations – all personally by God – because of his special mentoring relationship with Moses. 

Joshua could observe God and Moses interact, away from all the noise of the people.  The lessons he learned would affect how he would one day lead the nation.

If you have a mentor, be sure to observe how he or she interacts with God when no one else is around.  If you are a mentor, don’t withhold these moments from your protégé.  Allowing them to observe you pray and wrestle with God will be just as impactful as your teaching.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Doing too much?

Ever have that overwhelming feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?  If yes, you can relate to this story.

After the Israelites left Egypt, but before they received the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro met with them.  The night he arrived was filled with celebration for everything God had done to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  However, the next day Jethro noticed a problem – and took the opportunity to advise and mentor Moses:

Exodus 18:13-16
The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening.  When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people?  Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”

Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.  Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another.  I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”

Moses mistakenly believed that since God spoke to him and he was the one who knew God’s law the best, then he had to be the one to settle all the disputes among the people.  From the outside looking in, doesn’t it seem a little absurd that an 80-year-old Moses would try to justify being the only judge/advisor/teacher for 2 million people?

However, it probably started out small – with a few people bringing their issues to Moses.  He’s the God-appointed leader, so it would make sense to get his opinion and his decision.  However, by the time Jethro came to visit, the situation was well out of hand.  What’s important to note is that Moses’ mentor didn’t just point out what was wrong with the situation, but Jethro also offered a good solution:

Exodus 18:17-23
“What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you.  You can’t do it alone. 

Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you.  You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him.  Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.

But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes.  Place them over the people as officials of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  They should judge the people at all time.  Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. 

In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you.  If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”

After spending just one day observing Moses’ work schedule, it was quite apparent to Jethro that how Moses managed his responsibilities was not sustainable – Moses was getting worn out and it was impossible to decide on every person’s case every single day.

Isn’t that what happens to us?  How many times have we justified our unwillingness to delegate by saying:

If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself

When we insist on lifting more weight than we can physically carry, we pull a muscle and have to be side-lined until the injury heals.  When we take on more responsibility than we are capable of handling, we will quickly become burnt-out, which also leads to being side-lined.  Jethro saw that Moses was heading straight for a burn out, and if that happened, Moses would no longer be an effective leader for the nation of Israel, nor would he be able to represent the nation to God.

As a mentor, Jethro stepped in at the right moment with the right advice.  Also notice that Jethro still left it up to Moses to decide how to handle the situation – he could continue on as he had, or he could humbly accept his mentor’s advice.

Afterward, Moses did exactly what Jethro suggested, and everyone benefited.  Moses’ example proves that we’re never “too old”, “too accomplished”, or even “too spiritual” to need wise counsel from a mentor.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Celebrate good times

At 40 years of age, Moses was on the run.

He had killed a man, and Pharaoh wanted Moses dead for it.  So Moses fled hundreds of miles east to the land of Midian.  One day at a well, Moses came to the rescue of 7 shepherdesses who were being prevented from watering their flocks.  In gratitude, their father invited him to a meal.  The dinner event began the relationship between the two men, with Moses marrying and starting a family with Jethro’s oldest daughter.  During the next 40 years, Moses and his family stayed near and worked with Jethro’s family – Moses was actually shepherding Jethro’s flock when God met him in the burning bush to appoint him as the one to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt.

Now let’s hit fast forward...Moses has successfully led the nation out of slavery.  Egypt has been soundly defeated by the plagues God had sent and their military was obliterated during the Red Sea crossing.  However, before they meet God at Mt. Sinai, there is a family reunion. 

Before we read about Moses and Jethro, let’s stop and think about their relationship.  Moses arrived at Jethro’s house as a man who was hunted and looking over his shoulder.  Moses had grown up in Pharaoh’s palace, the richest of the rich in all of Egypt.  The Bible doesn’t mention the extent of his Egyptian education and training, but it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Moses was a little out of place when it came to rural life.  Over forty years’ time, Moses learned the ropes of leading and shepherding.  Little did he know, God was using his time under Jethro’s supervision to prepare him for the task at hand.

With this in mind, let’s look at their meeting.

Exodus 18:7-12
So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and then kissed him.  They asked each other how they had been and went into the tent.  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 had delivered them.

Jethro rejoiced over all the good things the Lord had done for Israel when He rescued them from the Egyptians.  “Blessed is the Lord,” Jethro exclaimed, “who rescued you from Pharaoh and the power of the Egyptians, and snatched the people from the power of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because He did wonders at the time the Egyptians acted arrogantly against Israel.”

Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in God’s presence.

This meeting was a joyous occasion.  You can see that they were excited to see one another, and they were excited about the things God had done.  It is a great moment when a mentor can truly celebrate with his protégé about the success God has had in their lives.  I’m certain that evening was full of “remember when” stories, with Moses thanking Jethro for his help all those many years ago, and with plenty of rejoicing over God’s part in all of it.

As mentors, we need to make sure we’re celebrating the successes of our protégés.  As someone being mentored, we need to make sure we’re telling our mentors about the victories God has won in our lives.  A public celebration will serve as an encouragement to both people and give God the proper recognition He deserves.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Called, by God's will

Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.

Paul is an apostle…by God’s will.  He didn’t choose this for himself.  God appointed him to specific service.  An apostle is a delegate or messenger.  Someone who is an apostle has a specific function – that person is chosen by Christ to be His ambassador. 

Notice also that Paul doesn’t identify himself as a believer by God’s will.  Trusting Christ for eternal life is something that Paul chose to do; however, the work we do in God’s family is something that God chooses for us.

There are many examples of God choosing both groups of people and individuals for specific service to Him.  Moses told the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 7:6
For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God.  The Lord you God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

Even then, from among the Israelites, God chose the Levites to serve as His priests.  God also chose individuals who would be the leaders, judges, prophets, and kings for the nation.  Some served faithfully (Joshua, David) but others struggled in their appointed positions (Samson, Jonah).  Even though none of them were perfect, each person God chose had a specific responsibility toward the people.  They were to aid the people in fulfilling God’s desired purpose for the nation of Israel:

Exodus 19:5-6
Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.

When the nation of Israel was in right relationship with God, they became a shining example to the rest of the world.  The groups and individuals which God chose for specific service were to help guide the nation toward this end.

Paul sees his apostleship in the same light.  He also sees that Jesus calls others in the church family to specific kinds of service:

Ephesians 4:11-12
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son

We all have our roles, and Paul is doing his part.  As an apostle, he has specific insight from God to share with those in Colossae – which we can also benefit from as we read his letter.

Whether you find your calling in the list above, or you are one of the saints being trained in the work of ministry, God has work for us to do.  By God’s will, some of us work to build up the body and some of us work to minister to those outside of the body.  Either way, we have the opportunity to partner with the Creator of Everything in His most important mission.

Do you know what service you are called to?  If not, ask God to show you.  His answer might surprise you…but you can trust that He knows where you belong.

Keep Pressing,
Ken