In next Sunday’s text we reach the second scene of two involving Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, before the epic encounter with the Lord at Mount Sinai. In the first scene we saw how Jethro heard what the Lord had done for Israel, believed the Lord, proclaimed what he believed, and ultimately worshipped the Lord. Now in this second scene, which takes place the next day, Jethro observed Moses dealing with the people of Israel around him all day long. He said in verse 14 of chapter 18: “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the decrees of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.” You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Jethro saw that all Moses did was not good, so he gave him godly counsel to seek help from other men who feared God. Jethro’s counsel was both for the good of Moses as well as all of the people. Moses heeded his counsel and Jethro went back to his land.
First this text teaches us that no man, not even Moses, can handle everything. We see something similar today in our churches where pastors, deacons, teachers, and evangelists are getting burned out from doing all the work of the ministry. Much wisdom comes with godly people helping those whom the Lord has ordained as under-shepherds. All of us in the body of Christ need to serve where we can. But this scene is also profound in its meaning and place just prior to Israel’s reaching Mount Sanai, where they will receive the Law of God. The people needed to know the Lord’s decrees and laws. They were having disputes without knowing how to resolve them. At Mount Sinai the Lord would formally give all of the people His law (Exodus chapters 20-23). There they will find out how to respond to one another, as the Lord reveals to each of them how they should live. But, as we’ll see as we continue in Exodus, even this will fall short; as ultimately their need is to have the law written on their hearts.