14 November 2014

Exodus 18:13-26

“You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (v. 18)


The Bible is full of wisdom, much of it of a contemporary nature.

If you are someone who has a responsible job, where you are accountable to others and folk rely on you, it is easy to think that you are indispensable. You begin to feel that only you can do the job, or at least, that no one can do it as well as you, or in the way you want it done. I remember someone saying to me once, "The graveyards are full of indispensable people". He had a point. People die and even the most significant ultimately have their shoes filled by others. Those others may not be as gifted or talented as the ones who have died. But the work will go on if it is needed, and if not, better that it ceases.

This was a lesson for Moses and his father-in-law had to teach it. A father-in-law is older, has wisdom, and has already made and learnt from the mistakes that we are planning to make unawares! It could equally be a mother-in-law or an aunt or uncle. These people, older than us, can so easily be dismissed as being out of touch, for not understanding the pressures of the modern world. What they have that we lack is experience.

So Jethro speaks to Moses. He's seen people burn themselves out before, perhaps. He values Moses. Maybe his daughter has been talking... 'he's out at seven in the morning and not getting back from the office till after eight most nights', or whatever the equivalent was in those days. So wise words are needed from someone who is respected and has some authority.

History says that Moses listened, that he concentrated on those things in which he was gifted by God. He risked delegation. Work was shared and others got a chance to use their gifts and skills.

To Ponder

  • What are you doing that someone else might do better?
  • How can you make time and space to hear words of wisdom from those around you, young or old?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.