Gifted –

Part III:  Mentoring the Gifted

Moses and Joshua

Eli and Samuel

Elijah and Elisha

Jesus and His Disciples

Mordecai and Esther

Barnabas and Saul

Paul and Timothy and Titus

Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos

More "Gifted"

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Moses and Joshua

Exodus 17:8-16; 24:9-14 (11/8/10)

Today we’re starting a new section in our study of the Bible’s position on giftedness.  Although I had never thought about this before, mentoring of gifted children, youth, and even adults has a strong foundation in the scripture.  Few of God’s great leaders – either spiritual or political – appear out of nowhere with their gifts in full bloom.  (A handful of judges and prophets seems to be about the size of it.)  Mentoring seems to be the primary method by which great leaders are trained and their gifts developed.

Joshua came to Moses’ attention when he was a young man in the military and Moses selected him to lead the successful battle against the Amalekites.  It seems that Moses then took Joshua into a closer working relationship, because Joshua is referred to at least four times as Moses’ sharath, which means helper, servant, minister, or assistant.  It’s interesting that a distinction is made between the “leading men” and Joshua.  The leading men are selected to come to a special ceremonial meal, where they see God, but only Joshua is allowed to accompany Moses to the mountaintop when he is to receive the teachings of the Law from God.

Exodus 32:1, 7-8, 11,14-18 (11/9/10)

I am amazed.  How many times have I read the account of Moses on the mountaintop?  And only now have I noticed that Joshua went with him for much of the way!  We have to read this stuff over and over again, people! 

When I had interns, I gave them a desk in my own office.  My boss offered me other space for them, but I said, “What’s the point of having puppies if you keep them in the barn?”  Yesterday, we read in Exodus 24:13-14 that Joshua set out with Moses to go up the mountain, while Moses told the elders to “wait here for us, until we return to you.”  Today we see that when Joshua hears the sound of revelry from the camp – which had started some time earlier, while Moses was still talking with God – Joshua speaks to Moses as if they are both hearing it for the first time.  So it’s pretty clear that Joshua went up with Moses at least far enough to get out of earshot of the camp, and that no one else was allowed this privilege.

Now, as far as I know, Moses is universally believed to have gone to the top of the mountain by himself, so he must have left Joshua at some point on the trail.  While I’m noticing, however, I’ll also just notice that the scripture never says that Moses tells Joshua to wait, as he did the elders.  While Moses was mentoring Joshua, he kept Joshua in his own office as much as possible.

Exodus 33:7-11; Numbers 11:24-30 (11/10/10)

Here’s Joshua with Moses inside the Tent of the Presence, where I also never noticed him before.  This still goes on.  Sometimes I would take one of my interns with me to a meeting, and the other people in the meeting would act as if the intern wasn’t even there — all conversation was directed to me, even though typically my intern was doing a lot of the work. 

Anyway, I’m interested in vss. 27-29.  Once a co-worker made an unflattering comment about something I had done.  I was willing to ignore it, but when I repeated the comment to my intern, he said indignantly, “Do you want me to knee-cap him for you?”  Joshua and the other young man are much more jealous on Moses’ behalf than Moses is for himself.  One function of mentoring future leaders is to give them a sense of proportion.

Numbers 14:1-11, 30-31, 38 (11/11/10)

Joshua is developing well.  When the children of Israel were approaching the borders of the Promised Land, Moses decided to send a group of 12 men – one from each tribe – to reconnoiter and report back.  Ten of them said that the land was full of walled cities and giants.  Naturally, the people are upset, and they resume the whining that has been going on ever since they left Egypt. 

The remaining two men, Caleb and Joshua, file a minority report.  They say, “No!  This is a great place, and the LORD will give it to us.”  The people don’t believe them, and God says, “You insist on dying in the desert.  Fine.  Of all the men who came out of Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua will enter the land I promised to Abraham.”  Moses’ investment in Joshua is beginning to pay off.

Numbers 27:15-23; Deuteronomy 31:14-15, 23 (11/12/10)

Moses had developed confidence in Joshua over the years, and he relied on Joshua for assistance and support.  Nevertheless, Moses doesn’t feel that he can just turn the whole operation over to Joshua on his own initiative.  He asks for God’s guidance. 

God knows that even he can’t turn the operation over to Joshua just by telling Moses, yes, this is the right guy.  The people must have confidence that Moses’ successor has been chosen by God, and that he will be able to lead them almost as well as Moses himself.  To this end, God tells Moses to have a ceremony that will publicly demonstrate God’s decision and show that Joshua is Moses’ legitimate heir, both in authority and power.

Moses’ mentorship of Joshua, and Joshua’s apprenticeship, have been successful, and Joshua becomes the next great leader of Israel.

Eli and Samuel

1 Samuel 1:1-28 (11/15/10)

The Bible has much to say about giftedness and our obligations to use our gifts for the work of God’s kingdom.  It has less to say about gifted children.  Most of the gifted people in the Bible spring full-grown into our ken on their 21st birthdays, so to speak.  Samuel is one of the exceptions.  He was both a gift to his mother and a gifted child. 

The Bible also has much to say about mentoring.  Samuel’s mentor Eli was chosen for him before he was born.

By the way, “LORD of Armies” is the modern English translation of YHWH Sabaoth, more commonly translated “LORD of Hosts.”  A host, as we well know but need to remember on Christmas Eve, is an army.

1 Samuel 2:11-26 (11/16/10)

It’s a mystery to me why Eli’s sons turned out so badly, and Samuel – who was also raised by Eli, for all practical purposes – turned out so well.  Genetics, maybe.  Or maybe Eli had learned from the mistakes he made in raising his own sons.

According to the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 6, Samuel and his father Elkanah were Levites.  Levites, as you know, were (roughly speaking) the lay workers who performed all of the duties connected with the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant that were not reserved for the priests.  So to some extent, Samuel was trained in his family’s business by serving under the priest Eli.

1 Samuel 3:1-21 (11/17/2010)

We don’t know how old Samuel was when the LORD began to speak to him.  The Hebrew word na’ar can mean anything from a toddler to a young man (or a girl child or a servant, for that matter).  When Eli realizes that God is speaking to Samuel, he instructs him to respond that he is listening, which is good advice for us all.

Pay particular attention to vss. 19-20.  The way you can tell a real prophet from a false prophet is by whether their short-term predictions are correct.  Most prophecy recorded in the Bible was concerned with the near future, not the distant future.  When a prophet does make a prediction about the distant future, it’s helpful to have some current experience as a guide to his or her reliability.

Elijah and Elisha

1 Kings 19:1-21 (11/18/2010)

How often have you asked someone a question, only to have them answer another question entirely?  God has the same problem.  He asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” and Elijah answers “What’s been going on in Israel?”  God already knows what’s going on in Israel.  He wants to know why Elijah is pouting here in Horeb instead doing his job there in Israel!

Anyway, after getting the non-answer for the second time, God tells Elijah to get back to work.  In particular, he is to anoint Elisha as a prophet to take his place.  Elijah will serve as Elisha’s mentor until his own death.

2 Kings 2:1-18 (11/19/2010)

We aren’t told much about Elisha’s mentorship with Elijah.  As we read yesterday, Elijah anointed Elisha at God’s direction back in 1 Kings 19.  Presumably Elisha follows him around for a few chapters while Elijah deals with King Ahab, but the next time we actually see Elisha is on the day of Elijah’s death.

Elisha asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit.  The firstborn son received a double share of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17), so Elisha is asking to be treated as Elijah’s primary heir.  After God separates the waters of the Jordan for Elisha, as he had for Joshua, and as he had for Moses at the Red Sea, the other prophets acknowledge him as their head in vs. 15.  Wesley points out that they had been trained in the prophets’ schools, whereas Elijah had taken Elisha away from the plough and trained him privately.  Even so, they readily recognize that God’s Spirit is on Elisha in a unique way.

Jesus and His Disciples

Mark 1:14-21 (11/22/2010)

We have entered that season of the year when the readings are short, and the study tips are shorter.  We have the time to read together every day, folks.

Back in the days when I had interns, I was the envy of all my colleagues because my interns were so exceptional.  There are two tricks:  (1) Choose well.  (2) Start teaching immediately.  Maybe I learned these tricks from Jesus, who knows?

Notice that “immediately” is one of Mark’s favorite words.

Mark 2:13-17 (11/23/2010)

Levi = Matthew.  When Jesus saw him, he probably thought to himself, “Now, there’s a guy who really knows evangelism!”  Evangel = good news = gospel.  Under Jesus’ tutelage, Matthew started evangelizing his friends almost at once, and his gospel is the first book in our New Testament.

John 1:29-40 (11/24/2010)

I delayed my retirement for several months past my planned date, in large part because I was looking for a suitable new mentor for my current intern.  I wasn’t about to turn him over to anybody that didn’t meet my standards!  John the Baptist was mentoring a number of his own disciples, but I’ll bet he was especially happy when two of them left him to become disciples of Jesus.

John 1:41-51 (11/25/2010)

Remember that intern I had when I retired?  I hired him because my previous intern brought me his resume.  Others I hired because their father/mother/neighbor/teacher brought me resumes.  Mentors who do well for one intern are likely to get other good interns through the grapevine.

Andrew found Simon Peter and brought him to Jesus.  Philip found Nathanael and brought him to Jesus.

Mordecai and Esther

Esther 2:5-8 (11/29/2010)

The relationship between Mordecai and Esther is a complex one.  He is her cousin, her adoptive parent, and – as we will see this week – her mentor and advisor.  He gets her into a secure position in the palace, with opportunities for advancement. 

Esther 2:9-11 (11/30/2010)

Once Esther had moved to the women’s quarters (roughly, the harem), Mordecai could no longer visit her.  He did keep an eye on her to make sure that things were going well in her new position. 

Esther 2:19-22 (12/1/2010)

Mordecai’s intern Esther has advanced to the position of Queen of Persia.  She still remembers and practices all that he taught her, and he keeps a benevolent eye on her from a distance.  Naturally, when Mordecai learns about a plot against the King, he immediately makes use of his own palace connections – Esther – to report it.  

Esther 4:12-16 (12/2/2010)

The King, not knowing that his beloved Queen is a Jewess, has allowed the evil Haman to pass a law that all the Jews in Persia may be killed.  Mordecai sent a message to Esther, saying that she had better go see the King and plead for her people.  She answered that if she were to do that without being summoned, she might be executed.  Today we see Mordecai’s final instruction to his intern, and her response.  Mordecai did an excellent job of mentoring Esther.

Barnabas and Saul

Acts 4:36-37 (12/6/2010)

We usually have this idea that Paul got up from the Damascus road and immediately became a powerful apostle and letter-writer.  As a matter of fact, it took years of development before Paul became the figure we know of, and I think it’s fair to say that without Barnabas to sponsor and encourage him, the story would have turned out quite differently. 

Acts 9:26-27 (12/7/2010)

Here’s a rough chronology of Paul’s life, summarized from the text of Harper’s Bible Dictionary by Miller and Miller.  Note (without worrying about it) that Miller and Miller have a table that give three different sets of dates from three different sources. 

A.D. 34Conversion while on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), in his early 20s.
34 to about 47A period of preparation, spent partly in the desert, partly in Damascus, partly in Tarsus, and partly in Antioch.
47 – 48First missionary journey, initially under the leadership of Barnabas (Acts. 13).
49Paul and Barnabas attend the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).
49 – 52Second missionary journey (Acts 15-18).
52 – 56Third missionary journey (Acts 18-21).
56 – 58Imprisonment in Caesarea (Acts 25).
59 – 61Imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28).
Between 61 and 68Probably martyrdom, probably by beheading, probably in Rome.

No one now knows for sure what became of Paul, because the very early writers wrote various things (apparently they all agree on martyrdom).  Luke, who would have known for sure, didn’t tell us.  However, the real point for our story is that Paul spent some time – about 13 years – studying, practicing, and preparing to take his role as an apostle.

Acts 11:19-26 (12/8/2010)

Okay, everybody out there whose ancestors were Jewish please raise your hand.  Hmm.  Relatively few of our fellow-readers are the children of Abraham.  I personally come from a long line of tree-worshippers, i.e., far-western European Gentiles.  The first followers of Jesus were all Palestinian Jews, and at the beginning they all believed that followers of Jesus would always be mostly Jewish.  In fact, they believed that the Way (the original name of Christianity) was a kind of Judaism.

As the early Christians spread out away from Jerusalem, however, more and more Gentiles became followers of the Way.  The Church leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to find out what was going on.  He was excited to see the Gentile converts, and he decided that Paul (and you know that Saul is Paul) should be talking to them.  So he fetched Paul from Tarsus and put him to work.
Acts 13:1-4 (12/9/2010)

You’ve heard for years about “Paul’s first missionary journey.”  As we saw Monday and read below, Barnabas was initially appointed the leader of this journey.  Paul talked a lot, and Barnabas was quieter, so gradually Paul became more prominent.  In addition, Paul wrote a lot of letters, and Barnabas, as far as we know, wrote only a letter or two – and if two, we don’t have one of them.  So Paul is a lot more famous a figure than Barnabas.  Barnabas seems to have been a great mentor.

Paul and Timothy and Titus

1 Timothy 1:1-2; 2 Titus 1:3-4 (12/13/2010)

One of my hobbies for years was the professional development of young men.  A colleague once said to me about my interns, “You treat them like your own sons.”  My husband referred to one particular intern as “the son you never had” (in addition to the three that we did have).

Paul worked with two young men, Timothy and Titus, who followed him into the ministry, took instruction from him, and “worked for him” in the sense that he had them go to or stay at churches that he had founded.  Timothy and Titus were precious to Paul, and he wrote them letters (of which we have three) giving them detailed guidance on how to be good ministers of the Gospel.  He called each one his “genuine child.”

1 Timothy 4:6-10 (12/14/2010)

How are you coming with your Christmas letters?  Although I write individually to about a dozen people, I have exactly the same things to say to most of these friends and relatives.  After all, I’m writing about the same year.

The letter to Titus is so similar in content to 1 and 2 Timothy that some people have suggested that somebody other than Paul just copied out portions of Timothy and slapped Paul’s name on it.  My own thinking is that Paul had the same things to say to both of his beloved interns.  It turns out that 2 Timothy also repeats much that is in 1 Timothy – just as we repeat our teachings to our own children and interns. 

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (12/15/2010)

Youth has its advantages, but the automatic respect of older people is not one of them.  Paul tells Timothy that he should, first, be deserving of respect, and second, not allow the congregation to withhold their respect on the grounds of his youth.  Young people should pay particular attention the former, and boomers to the latter.

Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos

Acts 18:24-28; 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 3:4-7 (12/16/10)

Interns are not always young and without skills.  Medical interns, for example, have completed medical school; however, they need to spend some time in (usually) a hospital where experienced doctors can explain the practice of medicine to them more accurately. 

Apollos was already familiar with the scriptures, John’s preaching, and the basics of Jesus’ message.  Priscilla and Aquila took him under their wings and explained the Way more accurately.  Apollos went on to become prominent in the early Christian Church.  Unfortunately we have no known writings of Apollos, although Martin Luther suggested him as a possible author of Hebrews.

More "Gifted"
Who Are the Gifted?
The Gift of Wealth
Mentoring the Gifted
Gift Giving

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