23 April 2012

Exodus 18:1-27

"So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said" (v. 24)

"So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said" (v. 24)


"The mountain of God" (verse 5), the place of meeting between Moses and Jethro, is Mount Sinai, also known as Horeb. It has a highly significant place in faith history. It was at Sinai that Moses had the encounter with God that changed his life, when he received his call to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:1-12). At the time he was caring for his father-in-law Jethro's sheep, but now as he meets Jethro, Moses is the shepherd of a nation.

When the two men meet, Jethro is glad to hear how God has delivered the Israelites from slavery, and makes a sacrificial offering to their God. It looks as if Jethro now shares the faith of his son-in-law, as Aaron and the elders of the nation would not have eaten bread with a priest of other gods.

As shepherd of the people, Moses is in danger of wearing himself out through overwork, as he sits in judgement on their disputes (verse 13). By his actions, he is also depriving the people of a rapid solution to their problems. The wise older man gives him sound advice which will relieve him of some of the burden of responsibility (verses 17-23). He is to continue to act as the ultimate authority, mediating between the people and God, but he is to appoint other men of faith to deal with more mundane matters. Rather than fall into a trap common to charismatic leaders, and being the only source of authority, delegating responsibility will provide the people with the justice they need, and enable others to exercise their gifts of leadership and discernment.

Moses, the great leader, has the humility to accept advice, and the remainder of the chapter (verses 24-26) tells how he put the advice of Jethro into action.

To Ponder

How do you accept advice from others? Do you think that doing so is a sign of weakness or strength?

Sometimes in churches, a very small number of people take responsibility for most of the work. Is this true for your congregation? How might you explain this passage to them?

What can you do to enable others to maximise their potential and use their gifts to the full?