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D'varim/Deuteronomy 1:12 How am I to carry, I alone, your trouble and your burden and your quarreling?
Moshe here describes the Israelites in less than flattering terms as he recounts the travails of leading the people from Egypt. You can sense his frustration in the way he uses those three slightly overlapping Hebrew words to picture the behaviour of the people: load, burden, trouble, dispute, quarrel. As David Stern translates it: "But you are burdensome, bothersome and quarrelsome!" (CJB). Hardly complimentary words to describe the nation of Israel that he was bringing, under G-d's command, from Egypt to retake their inheritance in Eretz Yisrael and be a witness for G-d to the nations. Yet the words are an accurate reflection of how life can be in the desert and also how life can be among the people of G-d.
A slightly cryptic proverb explains: "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox" (Proverbs 14:4, NASB). If you want a perfectly clean byre, then don't let the cows get anywhere near it, but much can be achieved by harnessing the power and strength of the ox. There seems to be a trade-off here: you can't expect to accomplish very much without accepting that there will be some mucking out to do. Growing the kingdom of G-d requires the involvement of people - for the kingdom is made up of people - and where there are people, there will be issues accommodating individual likes and dislikes, personal relationships and coping with the mess that most people make of their lives before coming to know G-d. The world has a pithy saying: Stuff happens! Yeshua confirmed this when He told the talmidim, "It is impossible that no offences should come" (Luke 17:1, NKJV). We may not like the stress of dealing with people, their problems and the baggage that they bring with them, but discipling people is the fundamental call of the kingdom (Matthew 28:19-20).
Rav Sh'aul wrote, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Messiah; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of G-d, to be a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Messiah" (Ephesians 4:11-13, NASB). We are a team, all playing our part and working together until we all become like Yeshua. If I have a bad day, then you help me or cover for me; when you are weak, then I or others stand alongside you until you can take your place at the coal-face. Together we help counsel, train, encourage new believers and they in their turn build up and encourage others, both old and new in the kingdom. Moshe was right - he couldn't possibly carry the whole people of Israel, but together - with G-d - we can and will build the kingdom.
Further Study: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; 1 Kings 19:14-18
Application: If you have been discouraged and feel that you are the only one involved in your corner of the forest, remember that we are called to be part of a team and ask G-d to show you your fellow-workers in the field so that together you can bring in the harvest of the kingdom.
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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