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Daily Devotion for April 5, 2013

Moses and Jethro, engraving by Wm. Swanenburg ca. 1606. Moses, Jethro and Miriam with her two sons are in the foreground. Moses can also be seen sitting as a judge in a small figure on the left.



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


When I hear the expression "voice of an angel", Kathleen Battle is the first person who comes to my mind. Heard here in St. Peter’s Cathedral singing the Agnus Dei from Mozart's Coronation Mass.

Prayer for the Morning

For the bird who sings outside my window,
 For the tree that stands outside my door,
For the neighbor who waves and says "good morning",
I give you thanks dear God, for these and more,

Your blessings every morning know no limit,
Yet I often rush by not seeing them, I fear;
Let me take a moment this and every morning, God, I pray,
To remember all of them, and know that you are here.

Prayer for Life

O  God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant me so to die daily to sin, that I may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Prayer for Peace

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live together in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day and evermore.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

Illuminated Sacramentary, Figeac
Illuminated "T" from the Sacramentary of Figeac (French, 11th century).

Psalm 90:10-12 (NKJV)

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Blue Latin Cross

Exodus 18:13-27 (ESV)

Jethro’s Advice

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”

Moses by Tissot
Moses (by Tissot)

Moses' father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.

Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.

Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.

If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves.

Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

Notes on the Scripture

Moses is a prophet, perhaps the greatest prophet of Israel, but he is unprepared for the absolute leadership that has been dropped into his lap. We have seen him seek help. He is not an orator — he possibly has a physical speech impediment — and even before he accepted Yahweh's commission, Aaron became his spokesman. Aaron has more and more come to act like a minister, in both senses of the word: a subordinate political official, as well as the high priest of Yahweh. So Moses has much-needed assistance for one aspect of his rulership.

We have also just seen Moses delegate another important function of governance, for it was the young, vigorous, and capable Joshua who acted as the Hebrews' general in their first battle, against the Amalekites at Rephidim.

But it is, surprisingly, an outsider who first organizes a judicial system. The claims of later kings to be divinely ordained notwithstanding, God has generally seemed impartial to temporal politics; to organize a government, Moses is on his own. His father-in-law, an experienced leader (as the priest of the Midianites), gives him good counsel.

The division of the Israelites into thousands, hundred, fifties, and tens will endure. Likely, this hierarchy and terminology was already in place. Jethro strengthened it, and possibly modified it, rather than inventing it. The use of numbers were more descriptive than proscriptive. That is, the Hebrews were organized organically into kinship units that we might call tribes, clans, extended families, and immediate families of approximately the numbers of one thousand, etc.

Oddly, recounting that the judicial organization of Israel originated with a non-Hebrew man, rather than a commandment of God through Moses, lends credibility to Exodus as an historically accurate work. For if Exodus were a biased or fictionalized account seeking only to convince readers of God's power, it would never credit the intelligence and experience of a human mind with such a major role, much less the advice of a Midianite.

endless knot

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