“We admitted we are powerless…” are the words commencing the 12 Steps – AA.
Step two & three: “came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves” and “became willing to turn our lives over…”
Churches and Pastors we know of resist the wisdom and even fear “secular self-help” programs that messy people attend. Elsewhere in the blog we’ve discussed “moral reform” versus “spiritual recreation” and we hope the contrast is evident.
And so, we listened recently as a favorite teacher denounced Moses for being weak when he prayed:
“I am not able to bear <all these people alone>, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!” Nu. 11:14-15
The <> brackets are my insertion. (I refer to these just below.)
Astonishing as it is, we as church-going believers in “recovery” as our programs call it (or re-creation, as we prefer to know and understand the process) encounter teachers, preachers and elders who are unaware of their condemnation and judgmental postures. We find ourselves outside the fellowship “clique”. The sense of Us and Them, is sometimes so thick it can be cut with a knife. But perhaps that’s a digression…
Here’s how to understand Moses’ prayer, and the biblical basis of those crucial 12-steps: Moses was “broken”. What does it mean to be “broken?”
“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit…” Mt. 5:3 is reflective of Moses coming to the end of himself:
“I am not able to bear <(insert any trouble here)> alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.”
“Blessed are they who mourn…” Mt. 5:4 is reflective of Moses in his hopelessness:
“… Please kill me here and now…”
“Blessed are the meek…” Mt. 5:5 Is an image of Moses’ self-awareness:
“do not let me see my wretchedness.”
I cannot live as I have, that life is dead to me. I must be reborn into a new spirit.
“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” Nu. 11:5
Before we accuse Moses, we might remember:
” (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Nu. 12:3-8
And so, is it correct to accuse Moses of being weak for heeding the advice of a worldly, secular adviser, namely Jethro? As priest of Midian, Jethro was also known as Hobab, Reuel, or “Friend of God”, a venerated leader who Moses had known for many years. Jethro became Moses’ father-in-law and taught him to be a skillful, patient shepherd — preparation for leading Israel? A-yup.
Said Jethro, “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.” Nu. 18:18-19
Moses was humble enough to listen first to Jethro. Then after going to God, he willingly shared his authority and gave of the Spirit to 70 other men. (Note, importantly, that the 70 plus Moses and Aaron makes 72 serving as the Lord’s men.)
“Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.” Nu. 11:16-17
Where else did we see 72 commissioned? It was Jesus.
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” Lu. 10:1
In as much as Jesus himself appointed the same number, it seems to affirm that Moses was not weak. Nor a whiner. He was broken. And God met him right there, and provided. Jethro was the messenger. God gave the resources.
“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Heb. 2:1