Guess Who is Coming to Dinner?
Please read Exodus 18+24 in your favorite Bible.
In his farewell address to the nation, President Ronald Reagan said, “And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table."
I believe his point had to do with the importance of family as the context for the formation of good citizenship. It’s been shown time and again that families who eat together have a better chance of staying together and that children grow up better adjusted when families share at least one meal a day. Some have made the case that the pandemic did us a favor by restoring family meal time to its proper place as a daily ritual.
In our house, we find meals at home to be less stressful as we can never agree where to eat out!
Today I wanted to offer a message related to Lunch is Served. My mind immediately went to the wonderful passage in Exodus 24, where God feasted with the leaders of His people. In the course of study, I found a more important truth; God confirmed the role of leaders among His people.
God affirmed the wisdom of lay leadership for His people.
1. Following some in-law advice, Moses set up the Seventy. (18)
Jethro’s visit served a couple personal purposes. First, he reunited Moses with his wife and sons. Exodus 4:20 tells us Moses took his family along to Egypt when he returned, but we have no biblical record of when he sent them back to Midian.
Second, he affirmed and celebrated God’s work among the former slaves. Jethro was THE PRIEST OF MIDIAN, which was a faith that traced its origin back to Abraham’s son Midian (Genesis 25:2). Moses and Jethro didn’t share exactly the same faith. Even so, Jethro recognized “that the Lord is greater than all other gods.”
Jethro demonstrated his approval in two ways: One, he offered sacrifices to the Lord. Two, he provided a family dinner and invited the ELDERS of Israel to join the festivities. It was on this occasion he got to meet the leaders of the people.
Jethro’s visit served a divine purpose: he got some administrative relief for Moses. Jethro demonstrated his wisdom in observing the problem. “What you are doing isn’t good.”
First, Moses had an impossibly large responsibility; he had been the sole teacher and judge to 6 million people. “There’s too much work for you.”
Second, the people were not getting good service; they waited all day for instruction and judgments to be given.
Third, the leadership abilities of qualified men were not being used. “Choose men of ability from all the people.” Jethro’s qualifications included the following:
- “They must have respect for God.”
- “You must be able to trust them.”
- “They must not try to get money by cheating others.”
Delegation of authority made a lot more sense: “Let them serve the people as judges. But have them bring every hard case to you. They can decide the easy ones themselves. That will make your load lighter.”
Moses demonstrated his wisdom by agreeing to Jethro’s solution. “Moses listened to his father-in-law. He did everything Jethro said.” This set of seventy elders were a model for the Sanhedrin, a governing body instituted in 79 BC, in place when Jesus came along, continuing until 70 AD.
2. The Seventy were honored to see God. (24)
On the occasion the Covenant was confirmed, God affirmed the selection of the Seventy. God had commanded the leaders to come worship Him, but only Moses was to come NEAR to do so - this indicates the special place Moses had in the heart and plan of God.
Moses erected a place to worship, setting up the PILLARS. Like the cardboard cut-outs put in stadium seats during COVID athletic events, these 12 PILLARS were stand-ins for the 12 tribes. Next, sacrifices were offered in worship of God.
In his capacity as teacher of the nation, Moses read the Book of the Covenant to the people. Their response was to commit themselves to doing EVERYTHING THE LORD had told them to do. That lasted eight chapters, when they sinned by making a golden calf idol.
Lastly, Moses sealed the deal by sprinkling blood from the sacrifices on the people. The importance of the action is revealed by his words, “THIS IS THE BLOOD THAT PUTS THE COVENANT INTO EFFECT.”
To celebrate, they were treated to a dinner with God! As instructed, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders gathered in God’s presence.
As John did in Revelation and as Isaiah did in his vision, they do not describe God directly, only his surroundings. In this case, the bright blue floor under God’s feet. It is a glorious description without getting anywhere near idolatry.
Note God did not DESTROY the leaders of His people. Later, in Exodus 33:20, God told Moses, “NO ONE CAN SEE MY FACE AND LIVE.” In an act of mercy, God spared their lives. Imagine! Not only did these men see God, but they ATE AND DRANK with Him! (I wonder what was served; maybe the Bread of Life and Living Water!)
The LORD commanded Moses to join Him up on Mt. Sinai, where God would give Moses more instructions, a 40 day retreat. A “summit meeting” with God! What a mountain top experience that must have been!
God affirmed the wisdom of lay leadership for His people.
I believe that more important than the meal itself is God’s presence at the meal. We invite God’s presence at table when we begin with a prayer of thanksgiving. We celebrate God’s presence at table when have uplifting conversation and love on one another.
“Four-year-old Josh and his family were visiting grandparents for a meal, and Grandpa asked Josh if he wanted to say the blessing. So Josh and everyone else bowed their heads, and Josh started mumbling the blessing at such a low volume that Grandpa couldn't make out what he was saying.
“When grace was over (with a louder AMEN), Grandpa said, ‘Josh, it was very nice of you to say the blessing for us, but I couldn't hear what you said.’
“Josh replied, ‘I wasn’t talking to YOU!’
In order to be God’s people, we must bring God to the table. Then no matter how humble the home or the meal, we will experience the joy of true love.
Message #939 and #952