HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 20, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Accept Help – Rejecting Unrealistic Expectations”
Text – Exodus 18, Psalm 34, Genesis 2:15-24
Call to Worship – Psalm 103 – “Let All That Is in Me Praise God!”
Commemorating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be problematic for many. How many talks have we all heard glorifying motherhood? Yet when it comes to dads, the talks often focus on the failures of earthly fathers and their need to better reflect the qualities of our heavenly Father. I must confess that I am not really a fan of either day. Aside from providing an additional excuse to the retail world to slather on consumer-guilt, both celebrations produce almost as many feelings of guilt and regret over unrealized expectations, as honour of parents.
Today, rather than focusing on ‘fathers’ specifically, I want for us to examine this whole underlying concept of unrealistic expectations and how we set ourselves and others up for failure when we try to use a measuring stick God never intended for us to live by. When we attempt to live by a standard not set by God for His creation, we end up living with guilt and feelings of failure or of disappointment.
When I use the phrase ‘man’s man’ what mental image do you get? How about ‘womanly femininity?’ Let me be blunt…most of the ‘images’ we conjure in our imaginations are based on cultural stereotypes. According to many of our stereotypes, a drag queen like Rupaul is far more ‘feminine’ than I will ever be. And the beards sported by the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty prove they are more manly than the majority of men. To which I respond, “Garbage!”
It is my opinion that all men are masculine because they were born male—no matter their particular interests, skills, temperament or facial hair. Likewise, women are all feminine because they were born female—no matter their particular interests, skills, temperament or facial hair. Admit it ladies, we’re all hairier than the world tells us we should be…
Men can love babies and be fully masculine…women can prefer a career and still be fully feminine. Some men can excel in cooking and cleaning abilities and some women have greater skills when it comes to managing money and home repairs. Some men are fearful of snakes and spiders and some women keep these creatures as pets. Each are fully male or female with unique gifts, abilities and interests as designed by God, no matter what the world’s stereotypes say. In fact, here’s a thought. As the human race, if we could eliminate ‘gender stereotypes’ and embrace people as made by God, would the current move to change ‘gender’ even exist? Certainly not to the degree that it does today, I think.
Resisting stereotypes and unrealistic expectations is, however, challenging. Even Moses found himself struggling to be superhuman. It took his father-in-law to point out Moses’ own harmful expectations as the leader of the Israelites in the wilderness.
WE ALL NEED HELP SOMETIMES
Exodus 18:1-19a – “Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the Lord had rescued them from Egypt.
2 Earlier, Moses had sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons back to Jethro, who had taken them in. 3 (Moses’ first son was named Gershom, for Moses had said when the boy was born, ‘I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.’ 4 His second son was named Eliezer, for Moses had said, ‘The God of my ancestors was my helper; he rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh.’) 5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, now came to visit Moses in the wilderness. He brought Moses’ wife and two sons with him, and they arrived while Moses and the people were camped near the mountain of God. 6 Jethro had sent a message to Moses, saying, ‘I, Jethro, your father-in-law, am coming to see you with your wife and your two sons.’
7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. He bowed low and kissed him. They asked about each other’s welfare and then went into Moses’ tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and Egypt on behalf of Israel. He also told about all the hardships they had experienced along the way and how the Lord had rescued his people from all their troubles. 9 Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel as he rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians.
10 ‘Praise the Lord,’ Jethro said, ‘for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Yes, he has rescued Israel from the powerful hand of Egypt! 11 I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.’ 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. Aaron and all the elders of Israel came out and joined him in a sacrificial meal in God’s presence.
13 The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, ‘What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?’
15 Moses replied, ‘Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.’
17 ‘This is not good!’ Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 ‘You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you.’”
Moses’ father-in-law was on a mission. He had determined that it was time for Moses’ wife and sons to be returned to their husband and father’s care. The Bible doesn’t tell us why Moses had sent them back to Zipporah’s family. Had he feared for their lives while he contended with Pharaoh over the freedom of the slaves? Had Zipporah demanded to be allowed to return to her father with the boys? Scripture doesn’t tell us, only that once the Israelites were safe from the Egyptians, Jethro decided to bring them back together. I think that Jethro recognized that Moses needed to be with his family and, now that the immediate danger has passed, brings them back.
Jethro is very pleased to hear all that God has done on behalf of the Israelites and makes a sacrificial offering before settling down for the night. The next day, he observes Moses at work. The man is working himself ragged…and for what? By trying to do everything himself, Moses is not only wearing himself out, but the people are growing restless having to wait long periods with no resolution to their disputes…which given their temperament was probably frequent.
There is discrepancy concerning the actual number of Israelites that Moses led, but even if the group was no bigger than the population of a large town like Collingwood, with just slightly fewer than 24,000, imagine having to funnel everything through a single person. Not good!
Moses justifies himself, but rather than receiving Jethro’s support for all that he is doing, Jethro warns him that he needs to share the load. Yes, he’s the leader of the people, but this should not come with the expectation that Moses needs to function as the judge for every dispute, for all the people, all the time. Yes, God called Moses to the task, but that didn’t mean he needed to go it alone.
Jethro knew that it was best if Moses had his family to support him and brought his wife and two boys back to Moses. He also knew, after observing him over the course of a day, that he needed much more help to lead the people. Moses’ expectation that he should do it all by himself wasn’t even close to realistic, but he needed Jethro to point it out.
Moses was trying to do it all himself, but that’s a dead end…for both Moses and each one of us. This morning, I want to leave Moses having just received some wise council from his father-in-law, and consider a psalm written by David.
CONFIDENCE IN GOD ALONE
Psalm 34 - “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. 2 I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. 3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. 4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 6 In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. 7 For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. 8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! 9 Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. 10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. 12 Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? 13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! 14 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 15 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. 16 But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; he will erase their memory from the earth. 17 The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. 19 The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. 20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken! 21 Calamity will surely destroy the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. 22 But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”
At first glance, David appears to be a stereotypical ‘man’s man’…but, under a more in-depth look into his character, not really. He took on giants, yet was gifted in playing the harp. He was a military man, unafraid to shed blood, who refused to take matters into his own hands when he had the chance to kill the man who wanted him dead. He could be a hot-tempered man, but was willing to take a woman’s advice, Abigail, and changed his mind. He was a man tempted by lust, who willingly bared his soul and repented of his wrong doing when confronted. He killed lions and bears with nothing but a sling, stones and a shepherd’s staff, yet he was gentle and patient as a shepherd. He was a king, yet was also a humble servant.
In many of David’s psalms—songs and poetry—he shamelessly confesses his fears, his weakness, his need. He makes it clear that his confidence isn’t in his military might, his fearlessness, his past conquests, or even in his mighty men…it was in God. David knew that he couldn’t take credit for his successes. He repeatedly rejected the expectations of others and placed his faith and loyalty firmly on God; he wanted what God wanted and to be the person God had created him to be.
David wasn’t perfect; he made some pretty grievous mistakes. Yet, God declared him a ‘man after God’s own heart’…why? He was submissive; he loved God; he wasn’t afraid to make himself a spectacle before God (joining the people dancing before God, much to his wife’s disapproval); he trusted God; he admitted his mistakes; he was concerned for God’s name and reputation over that of his own.
What would happen if we were as concerned as David about our relationship with God rather than attempting to live up to other’s expectations, even expectations that come from within the Church? As Christ-followers, we must be careful that in our attempts to understand the Bible we do not place unreasonable expectations on people. And, as it is Father’s Day, I think we would do well to examine what I consider to be unrealistic expectations that we have placed on fathers.
In certain segments of the Christian Church, fathers are told they are to be the head and priest of their families. Unfortunately, I believe there are better ways to understand the Greek word ‘kephale’ than to define it as the ‘head’ assuming that it means being ‘in charge’ of the whole family. And, the notion that the father is to be the ‘priest’ of his family smacks as heretical in the face of the truth presented in 1 Peter 2:9 that all believers are priests through Christ. It’s just not true!
There is good reason to reject the expectations that fathers are to be the sole bread winners, must always be strong/decisive/fearless, are responsible for the spiritual health of every member of their family, have final say in all things and are held to a level of higher accountability before God than wives and children. No wonder so many men give up feeling like failures. To understand God’s expectations, we would do well to go back to the beginning…literally.
GOD’S INTENT FOR HUMANITY
Genesis 2:15-24 - “15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.’ 18 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’ 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. 23 ‘At last!’ the man exclaimed. ‘This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called “woman,” because she was taken from “man.”’ 24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
During the days of Creation, there is only one time when God pronounces, “it is not good.” It is not good for the man to be alone. Why not? Because the first man, all alone, needed a suitable helper. In a previous message, we discussed the meaning of ‘helpmate’ or ‘helper’ which comes from the Hebrew word ‘ezer.’ God looked at Adam and recognized his need for companionship and to share the work load of ruling. The woman was not created to be ‘Adam’s little helper,’ but rather a helper equal to the task, just as God is described as being our ‘ezer’ numerous times in the Old Testament.
After the woman was created, God knew that the creation was complete and declared it ‘very good.’ So what happened? How have we gotten so far away from God’s original intent for humanity and adopted our own faulty expectations? Short answer…sin. After the first man and woman disobeyed, God warned them that they would no longer enjoy the relationship that had existed between them. Man, typically stronger, ruled over woman. And the woman gave up God as her first love and put man in God’s place for her affections. The rest is history.
Thankfully though, it is not the end of the story. Jesus’ work on the cross resulted in the redemption of everything that was lost. We now have the freedom to enjoy living life according to the expectations of God—not other’s and not even our own.
So how can we summarize this morning.
· As a society we have adopted unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for people—including for fathers and men in general. [As an aside: The idea that each man is to be the ‘king of his own castle’ is found in the Bible as an historical footnote in the Book of Esther, not as a God-ordained dictum; it appears only in Scripture as a record of how a group of pagan men attempted to prevent their wives from following the deposed Queen Vashti’s example of disobeying her husband (but that’s another story for another day).]
· We need to put to death the expectation that the ideal ‘man’ is made in the image of a John Wayne, 007 or the Duck Dynasty stereotype. The image of the ‘man’s man’ (or womanly femininity) restricts the image of God found in each person. We are more than just our gender!
· Trying to live up to unrealistic expectations can lead us to burn-out, much like the trajectory Moses was on; failure to do so can lead to feelings of guilt which can then cause us to stop trying all together—feeling like dejected failures or becoming hostile as we reject those same expectations
· God never intended for people to ‘do’ life on their own—whether married or single it doesn’t matter. People were created for community—part of the reason why the past year and a half of dealing with the isolation brought on by the pandemic has been so difficult for so many.
· We need to stop expecting fathers to be perfect or to live up to expectations that God never intended for any human being. We have a loving heavenly Father and we are each His children. Let’s learn to be gracious and supportive of one another, recognizing the image of God found in each one.
References, Further Study & Encouragement
“I Am Loved” – Mack Brock - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--3eNmc_t1s
Sunday, June 27, 2021- “Hearing from God: The Ten Commandments” (Exodus 19-23) – In-person and Online
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” - Go to our website: hopechapelcollingwood.ca and click on the Youtube icon or click on the link below https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!