Before Moses sat and learned on Sinai…

He learned at the feet of his father in law.

Jethro was a Midianite priest, who cared for his daughter Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer; whom Moses sent away at some point during the judgment of Egypt.

Jethro hears of all the Lord has done on behalf of Israel, by the hands of Moses and Aaron, and rejoices:

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God” (Ex. 18:11-12).

Many rabbinic commentators believe that by confession, and the act of sacrifice, Jethro converted to faith in the God of Israel. I find no basis for disagreement.

Immediately, Jethro involves himself in community. He observes Moses’ manner of leadership, and says, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Ex. 18:17-18).

“Not good” draws our attention back to Genesis 2, when it was not good for Adam to be alone. Adam needed a helpmate, Eve. Moses, also needed helpmates, other learned leaders (Ex. 18:19-23).

Did Moses reject this direction? After all, he was the called, appointed, and established leader of God’s people. No, Moses listened:

“Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Ex. 18:24).

Before Moses would receive the Sinai revelation, sit in the presence of God for 40 days and nights, he had to sit at the feet of his father in law, his third father figure in life, and learn from him.

Jethro was a gentile; and a pagan priest at that! Yet, the Lord allowed his wisdom to stand. Jethro’s wisdom reverberates in the Body of Messiah as well. While the language is different, the principles remain the same (Eph. 4:11-16).

Moses was the leader of millions. Jethro, the leader of a few. Still, Moses humbled himself, and learned from him, and all were blessed.

The plurality of leadership model remains, even today. Disciples of Messiah disciple others, as they themselves are humbled in continued discipleship. I am a leader, but I am also being led. I have elders and fathers in life and ministry, whose feet I sit at, in order to be properly prepared to hear at Sinai. Each of them are men in submission, humbled and accountable.

When we follow the order given by Peter, and Paul, from the mouth of Yeshua/Jesus, we see that it is traced back to Sinai, and even further, down to the base of Sinai itself, from the wisdom of one, who rejoiced at the power, mercy and grace of God: Jethro.

We have much to learn from this interaction between Moses and Jethro. The only way forward in the Body of Messiah is according to the order and pattern given in the Word. There is a spirit rising up today that would have expelled Jethro from the camp, refusing to listen.

Still, when we do this faith life in His way, we all flourish. It is hard. It is humbling. At times embarrassing. Yet, submission to godly authority is exampled by the great cloud of witnesses around us.

Moses led a nation through the greatest display of heavens power since the creation! Then Moses humbled himself to be corrected by a priest from the backside of nowhere. From that humility, the people would flourish.

Consider closely this interaction. I know you will be blessed.

Be well. Shalom.

The Abased King

Matthew 25:31-46 describes a day like no other. The final judgment. The gathering and separating of the nations, as sheep and goats before the Messiah, and His throne.

To those on the right, “Come, ye blessed of my Father…” To those on the left, “Depart from me, ye cursed…”

Upon hearing the charitable acts done or refrained from, both ask, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison…” Still more, those on the right will ask when they did these things, while those on the left will ask, when did they not do those things.

There is a curious verse in Proverbs that helps us to understand what Yeshua is conveying: “He that is kind to the poor lends to the Lord; He will repay him for his kindness” (Prov. 19:17; cf. Prov. 14:31).

Kindness to the poor is reckoned as a loan to the Lord Himself, a loan which He will guarantee and repay. Why? How? Kindness a loan? Considering the depth of meaning to kindness in Hebrew, He is making a marvelous promise, but that’s for another time.

The incarnation of Jesus brought Him closer to us than we can fathom. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

What we learn from Scripture is that the Lord is not only close to the poor, but also the sick, the broken-hearted, the hungry, the thirsty, the widow, the orphan, the lost, the abused, the afraid, even the bold, every facet of human experience.

What does that have to do with you and me? Christ.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).

Righteousness is not a sedentary condition of those faithing in Messiah. God’s righteousness in us leads to life changing relation (Eph. 2:8-10).

To Proverbs again, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked” (Prov. 11:10-11).

Why would a city rejoice at the blessing of the righteous? It all has to do with what the righteous do with the blessing.

The righteous are those, following and faithing in Messiah, who lower themselves in order to benefit the community: the poor, the needy, the outcast, the lost, the broken, the messed up, the suffering, the hungry, the thirsty, the oppressed, the stranger, etc. They do not rest on their advantage.

The way you can access the condition of your relationship with the Lord is not only by your attitude, but also your involvement in the lives of those the Lord identifies with. What is your involvement with life around you? Do people rejoice to the Lord because of you? Humbling isn’t it?

Yet the judgment pictured above is even more striking when you consider where Christ became “hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison…” At His arrest, His trial, His judgment, His crucifixion, and His death.

“When did we see You?” He is pointing to His cross. The Lord is in all of those human conditions. Seeing Him on the cross, we see God relating to man, and becoming the worst degree of suffering.

Christ died with nothing, even His robe taken. He suffered the greatest injustice beneath the lash of religious and governmental authority: naked, beaten, scorned, rejected, alone, thirsty, reckoned among the worst of humanity. The righteous One, the King of glory, abased beyond our imagining.

What should our response be? A calm, passive assurance of acceptance in heaven on that day? Or righteous involvement to help alleviate the suffering Christ identified with? “Whatsoever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did to Me” … or “you did not do.”

Our sin nailed Christ to the cross, but what does our cleansing by His blood do? “Come, ye blessed of my Father…” those blessed by the Father, because of the Son are moved to action when previously we would have been spectators and scorners: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matt. 27:42).

I am in no way judging you dear reader, as I am first writing this to myself. In a season where many are giving up hope, losing faith, or enduring the most excruciating torment, what can we do, but be Christ to a people in need. That is our mission, not self-preservation – for we are already dead to the flesh, and alive in Him.

Be well. Shalom.

“Love covers …”

When studying the Book of Acts, it’s easy to go from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), right to the missionary work of Paul. Doing so, however, leaves enormous gaps in the narrative Luke records; and in those gaps is the human frailty of the apostles themselves.

In one such gap we find Paul … and Barnabas … and well, John Mark.

Barnabas arrives on the scene in Acts 4:36-37. He is a well-placed Levite, by birth, from Cyprus. According to Luke, he is a good man, filled with the Spirit, faith and wisdom (Acts 11:24). By rebirth he is a disciple, and apostle of the Messiah.

Barnabas is there in the beginning, in Jerusalem. He is one of the many brethren gathering, sharing, and laboring for Yeshua/Jesus. After he ministers in Antioch, he travels to Tarsus to look for a man, Paul. He probably never expected to have cause to seek Paul out, since Paul was seeking Jews like Barnabas out only a short time before.

When these two join together in Gospel ministry, nations begin to change. The record of their travels inspire; but the record of their sharp dispute, and split makes one wonder.

Why such a sharp dispute? Why a split? Over a young man named: John Mark.

John Mark, commonly known as Mark, yes, that one, was also well-placed in Jerusalem: perhaps similar in social standing to Paul and Barnabas, only younger. When Peter is freed from prison, he goes to the house of Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12). It is speculated that Mark was born-again under the guidance of Peter, with whom he had a lifelong relationship (I Pet. 5:13). John Mark’s “Gospel” account is widely accepted to be the apostle Peter’s witness, just by his hand.

Then, as Paul and Barnabas are sent out from Antioch, John Mark travels with them as a helper (Acts 13:5). He does so, however, for a very short time (13:13). Scripture is silent as to why John Mark left Paul and Barnabas; and it would be foolish to offer speculation. Paul, according to Luke, considers John Marks departure desertion (Acts 15:38); a rather serious accusation.

As Luke records, “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose ta sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

Can you imagine the anger here? Among brethren? Paul and Barnabas? It happened. For many years, before and after the dispute, there must have been tension. Until, grace changed them.

While we do not see the reconciliation between Paul and Barnabas, it is undoubtedly there. Especially with evidence of Paul’s reconciliation with … John Mark.

We find a general time period of about eleven years before John Mark reappears in the biblical record. He is mentioned by Paul in Colossians 4:10-11, and Philemon 1:24, as he is with Paul. The very one that caused the uproar. The one Paul refused to travel with, was with him once again.

Here is Paul’s words to another disciple, Timothy, “Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (II Tim. 4:11). This is, perhaps overlooked, a warm and rather glowing remark: John Mark is useful to him.

In his youth, John Mark deserted Paul. Now, with time and maturity, grace and love, he endeavours to to travel from Ephesus to Rome, to be with Paul.

Did Peter have John Mark, Paul and Barnabas in mind, when perhaps Mark wrote these words for him, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8)?

Yes, Luke records a bitter split between brethren; but the Holy Spirit led, and then recorded their reconciliation as well.

When we put flesh and blood on the names we read in Scripture, acknowledging their struggles and victories, we recognize that in our own situations of dispute, and division, the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation in Messiah is present.

Paul, even as the apostle, was far from perfect, as he let the sun go down on his anger, and his friend sail away; but he gives us a perfect example of what happens when Christ takes center stage in your life.

Keep pressing in beloved, and trust in the One through whom all things are possible.

Be well. Shalom.

The Request: “teach us to pray…”

“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1).

Jews, even the unlearned, knew how to pray. Among Jews of the first century there were prayers common to all, that crossed the social and religious divisions.

When Yeshua/Jesus called His disciples, he called average men. While many Pharisees would become disciples, those closest to Him were not scholars or well placed in the community. Average.

This request made by the disciples reminds me of stories associated with Rabbi Yisrael Ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

For many years of his life, he kept the depth of his learning and revelation of God quiet, assuming a manner and position of a humble, ignorant clay digger and wagon driver. He lived among the Jewish masses, impacting their lives by example, and being present.

When he did begin teaching publicly, he taught unlearned Jews how to draw close to God, how to infuse holiness and meaning in their daily lives – encouraging them to not to be something they were not: learned. Just keep God before you.

He taught them how to pray.

This, of course, did not gain the approval of Jewish religious academies. Yet, those who followed his teaching, both scholar and pauper, flourished in learning, even while segregated by oppressive regimes.

“Teach us to pray … “

We must note the respect the disciples had for Yeshua; as Luke includes this detail, that the disciples waited for Him to finish praying (Lk. 11:1). Then, they made their request.

It was common practice for disciples to make requests of their rabbis. This request, “teach us to pray,” was not due to a lack of familiarity with prayer. Jews had some standardized prayer, and often practiced spontaneous, extemporaneous prayer; but mentioning John tells us, and we know this from other sects as well, that teachers often taught disciples a prayer that was unique to them, their practice, and their teacher.

There is a Talmudic teaching that says, “A man should associate himself with the congregation,” (BT Berakhot 30a) meaning, man should not pray alone.

As I noted in a previous meditation on the Disciples Prayer: “Can we pray it alone? Certainly, but our hearts and minds must be aligned with our broader setting: covenant community.”

Yeshua authored a unique prayer that His disciples, past and present, could pray and unite with, even when apart. Imagine the comfort the apostles felt, when thousands of miles from the Promised Land, their culture, and the congregation of Jerusalem, that they had the words of their Rabbi and Lord, penetrating the isolation and uniting them with distant brethren.

These few, but powerful words kept the Kingdom, His will, His provision, His faithfulness and forgiveness, His power and presence, and His eternity ever before them.

It kept the voice of Jesus, Who answered a humble request from His disciples for a prayer unique to them, speaking in their hearts and mind.

The fruit of that request is our heritage: the Disciples Prayer. The prayer authored by the Word made flesh, the author of life, our Savior. Hallelujah.

It matters not your position in this life, He is your value, and when you pray His words, He is there, praying with you, His disciple. So pray it; and keep Him before you.

I’ve prayed this prayer in several nations, and languages; and it is still weaving His disciples together, even across languages and cultures. His Word, to His disciples. Amen.

Be well. Shalom.