The next day Moses sat to judge the people. And the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone and judge and all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”
Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to learn God’s will. When they argue, they come to me. And I judge between a man and his neighbor. I teach them the Laws of God.”
Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will become tired and weak. For the work is too much for you. You cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will tell you what you should do, and God be with you. You speak for the people before God. Bring the troubles to God. Then teach them the Laws. Make them know the way they must walk and the work they must do. Also, you should choose from the people able men who fear God, men of truth who hate to get things by doing wrong. Have these men rule over the people, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Have all the big troubles brought to you. But have them judge the small troubles. So it will be easier for you. They will share the work with you. If you do this and God tells you to do it, then you will be able to keep your strength. And all these people will go to their place in peace.” Ex 18:13-23
When faced with difficulties, we often tend to cope with them by using strategies or unhealthy emotional coping mechanisms that we know rather than using new, healthier methods to deal with situations. I found that out recently when faced with a sudden onset of chest pain.
Yep, I should have gone directly to the ER but fear caused me to deal with it the way I always had in the past – I waited out the pain in silence, alone, unable to open my mouth to talk about what was going on in my body.
With a lot of prayer and introspection, I finally realized that I dealt with my current circumstance much like I had dealt with the childhood abuse I faced – by pretending it wasn’t there. If I didn’t acknowledge the chest pain, then it wouldn’t be real and I’d be ok. Not!
When I walked through the healing process for the childhood abuse years ago, I learned that silence and pretending were not healthy ways to deal with frightening life experiences. Rather, I had to break the silence and chains of the hurtful secrets I kept by talking about those hurts with safe, supportive people. Those caring friends and counselors helped me to recognize and confront those lies of the enemy.
But sometimes as we uproot those damaging lies, a few pieces of the root are left in the ground and years later we find a new aspect of the old problem to deal with as I did with my chest pain.
Thankfully, things turned out all right – I lived to tell about the chest pain and to examine my reaction to figure out why I froze, unable to do what I needed to do to be safe. God sent several wonderful friends to encourage me through this time – all of whom were willing to read me the riot act about going to the ER.
In this wilderness journey story, Moses has reverted to an unhealthy way of coping with Israel’s neediness. He was ruling the people alone, as if he had all the answers and there was no one else qualified to help them. In a sense, he was trying to be God to the people, just like the pharaoh had been.
But the people had too many needs; too much emotional brokenness. It proved to be too much for one man to handle. Eventually Moses would have burned out and the people would have become co-dependent on him. Thankfully, God sent Moses’ father-in-law – a trusted ally, to confront Moses. Jethro basically read him the riot act about trying to do things alone, using the faulty ways of coping he had learned. Then he modeled a healthier way which spread the responsibility out among Israel’s clan leaders. There were people among them with leadership gifts who had learned the lessons God was teaching them on the journey. They needed to prove their leadership abilities and Moses needed to let them!
God’s goal was to raise up a strong, independent people who would worship him and become a beacon to all surrounding nations of the glory and power of God.
What unhealthy ways of coping has God confronted in your life? How has he used others to confront you when you used these methods? How did you react to their prodding?
Father, open our eyes to the ways our old nature still affects our lives. Use those trusted friends who are willing to read us the riot act and help us choose new, healthy ways of coping. Amen.