Day 11

Moses and Jethro

from the The Life of Moses reading plan


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

Post Comments (19)

19 thoughts on "Moses and Jethro"

  1. Jesse Weaver says:

    At our lowest points, God send people into our lives to build us up and offer encouragement. He is a loving God who wants what is best for us. But only he knows what is best.

  2. Jesse Weaver says:

    Man tends to try and resolve problems on our own, and often it’s not until we fail that we turn to God for counsel. Man is prone to becoming easily offended because we are proud, but we need not be proud when we have God.

  3. Jesse Weaver says:

    I will respond with an open heart. One that is not quick to shut others out, or not listen to other opinions because I think they are less than my own. I will also try to listen to my in-laws with an open heart. Sometimes when I am tempted to brush their advice off because it is not my own, I know they only offer it because they care.

  4. Jesse Weaver says:

    The Gospel encourages us that in all circumstances, just like in Moses case, we can not do things on our own. We need our communities, the friends and family that support us. But most importantly we need God, he is our provider, the greatest and only food for our soul.

  5. Jesse Weaver says:

    God, be with me not just today, but everyday. I need your wisdom to be patient in times of stress, and I need ears that listen, not a mouth that speaks. Give me the strength I need when my arms are exhausted, and the patience to endure even when I have reached the end of my rope. Bless this earth and this country, for we are a lost nation that needs you. And be with my wife in her job interview today, fill her with the words she needs to answer questions honestly. And give her direction as to whether this is the right position for her or not. Help her to know the direction you want her to go, all these things I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

  6. Terry Constable says:

    That God did not create us to go it alone. We are made to be a community and to support each other and to lean on God for support.

  7. Terry Constable says:

    We want to be good, but we couldn’t do it on our own. So God sent us Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help care for us and help us care for others.

  8. Terry Constable says:

    God created us and knows us better than we know ourselves, so He often sends us help and advice through others.

  9. Terry Constable says:

    I will seek solid counsel from others and not try to do it all myself.

  10. Terry Constable says:

    Lord, lead my heart to be humble and that of a servant. Send me Your advice and guidance and help me to remember that I am made by you for your work.

  11. Scott Schulman says:

    We have much to learn from older, wiser people in our lives.

  12. Scott Schulman says:

    The Gospel gives me the humility needed to accept correction.

  13. Scott Schulman says:

    Choose to listen to advice from the people that God has placed in my life.

  14. Scott Schulman says:

    Lord, help me to be a humble man that will accept criticism and correction.

  15. Scott Schulman says:

    God uses all kinds people to accomplish his will.

  16. Weston DeMarco says:

    God can give advice in the most unexpected ways.

  17. Weston DeMarco says:

    I will pray that God will give me support in any situation.

  18. Weston DeMarco says:

    Even leaders like Moses need to rely on people and God.

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