For the week of January 29, 2000 / 22 Shevat 5760
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 18:1 - 20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1 - 7:6; 9:5

God Did It

Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt (Shemot / Exodus 18;1).

When Moses recounted the dramatic events surrounding Israel's departure from Egypt, he gave God the credit. According to Moses, it was the LORD who brought Israel out of Egypt. But wasn’t Moses the one who led the people? Did he not risk his life by going to Pharaoh and demanding their freedom? Wasn’t he the one who organized the Exodus?

It certainly would not be correct to say that Moses had nothing at all to do with this. God called him to confront Pharaoh and lead the people. Moses delivered God’s word and announced the beginning and end of the plagues. It is not as if he simply watched these spectacular events unfold or was driven by the circumstances. He was actively involved throughout the whole process.

So maybe Moses was just being humble. After all the Torah does say that he was the most humble man on earth (Bemidbar / Numbers 12:3). So was he being overly modest? Maybe, the humble man he was, if someone would have congratulated him on a job well done, he would have blushed and said, "Ah! I didn't do anything. God did it all!"

But I don't think that this is what Moses was doing.

When Moses said that God brought the people out of Egypt, that’s what he really believed. He certainly did his part, doing what God told him to do. But what did he actually do? Pharaoh didn’t let the people go because of Moses’ persuasive negotiations. He wasn’t intimidated by Moses' political or military clout. Far from it. Pharaoh actually increased Israel’s suffering as a result of Moses’ demands.

Moses understood that it was God’s great acts of power that finally persuaded Pharaoh to release the people. Moses certainly had a role to play, but he knew better than to think that he was the one who made it happen.

The relationship between what God does and what we do is very hard for most of us to understand. Whether or not we are ever involved with anything as dramatic, sensational, or miraculous as Moses was, we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can take the credit for our accomplishments.

Besides the great many factors that affect anything we do, none of us can ensure that our efforts are truly effective. I may speak a kind word, but only God brings joy to a heart. A doctor may prescribe medication, but only God brings relief. A teacher may instruct a student, but only God gives understanding. A mother can love a child, but it is God who provides comfort and security.

Once we accept that it is God who is at work to do his will through us, then we will notice him at work more and more. And once we understand our role in all this, then we will more readily be available to be used by him. Then as he works through us, we will be able to say along with Moses, "God did it!"

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