The Life of Moses

Day 11: Moses and Jethro

Exodus 17:8-16, Exodus 18:1-27, Proverbs 19:20


Nobody really likes unsolicited advice from his in-laws. It often feels intrusive and even insulting, but maybe that’s a matter of attitude and perspective more than anything.

In Exodus 17 and 18 we find Moses in a tough spot. The weight of a nation seems to be sitting squarely on him and him alone. He upholds them in prayer during a key battle, raising arms to God. But when he tires and his arms droop, the Israelites begin to lose until two young men come to Moses’ aide and hold up his arms.

A few verses later we see Moses dealing with disputes and judging the people all day long, from dawn until dusk. He is dealing with every squabble, every question, every everything. Moses is the spiritual leader and the legal authority. He is a one-man show.

Just when he is at his breaking point, exhausted and stressed— oh goodie—the in-laws roll into town. But Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, is a wise man and a religious leader himself. Consider how he approaches Moses.

First, Jethro praises all that he sees God has done in Israel and he declares God’s greatness. This must have been a breath of fresh air to Moses and a reminder of God’s goodness. Instead of nitpicking or criticizing, Jethro encourages him.

Then, building on that encouragement, Jethro offers some counsel. He sees how hard Moses is working to serve and lead the people, and he doesn’t criticize. Rather he says, “you will wear out yourself and your people” if you continue on like this.

So Jethro proposes a plan – select a number of trustworthy, godly men and appoint them as judges to handle the lesser disputes and questions on Moses’ behalf, so that Moses will be free to handle the significant disputes and actually lead instead of being bogged down in the details.

We can see some significant things about God’s design for Christian leadership in this story. Moses was a strong leader, appointed by God, but even he could not lead alone. He grew tired. He could not resolve every issue and carry every burden. Moses needed help. He needed to trust godly people to lead with him.

Moses followed Jethro’s advice. He was humble enough to listen and to lean on others. That’s not an easy thing for people in authority to do.

What made this easier was the manner in which Jethro came to him. He came praising and encouraging. Jethro did not criticize or tear down but rather proposed a plan to help. Few things are as encouraging to leaders as praise paired with good proposals.

Both Moses and Jethro exhibited great humility. Both showed a desire to honor God and care for the people—a leader’s truest responsibilities. These are key leadership traits because they’re foundational character traits. Do we exhibit them?  

Written By Barnabas Piper

Prefer to study offline?

Leave your mark with the Life of Moses Legacy Book complete with scripture, guiding response questions and tons of space for notes and reflection.

Legacy Book also includes 3 scripture memory cards and 4×6 prayer card.