I am working on my Sunday School lesson this week and our passage is Exodus 18. Our previous lesson was on how our sin nature is contentious. God has promised victory to us, we simply have to walk in that victory daily.
As we have been following God’s eternal plan of bringing about the Promised Messiah to mankind, we have discovered two very important truths that are pertinent to all of us. God continues to invite people to join Him in accomplishing His eternal plan and, as He works in human history, He also works in the life of the individual who answers His call to accomplish the earlier mentioned plan.
As God empowers us to do His ministry of accomplishing His eternal plan, He challenges us to equip and empower others to join in with us. This is a lesson that Moses had to learn the hard way. It is often difficult for us to empower others to do ministry because it makes us vulnerable. You have heard the motto, “if you want something done right the first time, do it yourself”. This is not God’s motto. Although He could do all things by Himself, He chooses to invite us to join Him and empower us to minister to others.
Moses was a great leader because he was a servant leader. He had a heart for the people of God. In fact, he was so dedicated to serving the people of God, night and day, that he was not able to spend time with his wife and children so he sent them to stay with his father-in-law. Another aspect of Moses’ character that made him a great leader was the fact that he had a teachable spirit. He was willing to learn. Not only was Moses willing to learn from God, he was also willing to learn from others, elders who had more experience in life and wisdom to impart. In this lesson, we are going to take a look at Moses’ teachable spirit, how he teaches others, and how he empowers others to minister. As leaders, we must constantly seek to invest in others, equipping them to serve and empowering them to serve. Moses is a great example in this but, he had to learn to do it, just as we all need to learn to do it. Let’s see what we can learn from Moses’ example in Exodus 18.
I. Moses’ Teachable Spirit
Moses was a great teacher. One of the marks of a great teacher is that he or she is always willing to learn. Jethro sees a teaching moment that needs to take place in the life of Moses and he intervenes to teach. We learn a great deal about Jethro and about Moses in this interaction. The name Jethro means “he excels abundantly, or, he overflows abundantly”. Jethro has a wealth of knowledge because of his life experience and Moses will do well to learn from that experience.
14 Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”
17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good.
18 “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.
19 “Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, (Exodus 18)
Moses was the leader of probably close to 2 million people yet, he was never above receiving advice. Jethro has to rebuke (point out faults) Moses and after pointing out his faults, Jethro corrects Moses. This is very important. When a person points out problems (faults) without offering viable solutions, it is simply complaining. We learn that when a leader does not empower the people around him to serve, he wears himself out and he also wears the people out. This is not the calling that Moses has received. Moses is to teach the people as he receives instruction from the Lord and he must empower the people to serve with him. Many leaders make this mistake. They simply try to do it all and as a result, they wear themselves out and they wear the people out. Moses has a teachable spirit, and as a result, he listens to the advice that Jethro gives to him. This advice is for Moses’ own good and for the good of the people.
II. Moses Teaches Others
Moses was a teacher at heart. He just needed to move one step further and equip people so that they could be empowered to serve. We see that Moses was a natural teacher in the way that he named his children.
3 and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
4 The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” (Exodus 18)
Every time Moses called one of his children by name, he was reminded of all that the Lord had done. He also let the people around him know what all the Lord had done. The children, as they grew and understood the meaning of their names, were reminded of all that the Lord had done. This was a brilliant teaching move. Moses also taught his father-in-law, Jethro, all the things that the Lord had done.
8 Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how the LORD had delivered them.
9 Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. (Exodus 18)
Obviously Moses was a good teacher because what he taught Jethro prompted him to action.
10 So Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11 “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” (Exodus 18)
Jethro blessed (praised) the Lord. A good teacher passes on information that leads the students to action. Moses was a good teacher. After being corrected by Jethro, Moses does not lose heart and get upset. He applies what he was taught and continues to teach the people.
20 then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.
21 “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. (Exodus 18)
The part that was missing from Moses’ teaching was the empowering of the people to serve. That needed to be corrected and it was corrected. In the next section we will discover the benefits of not only equipping people to serve but also empowering them to serve.
III. Moses Empowers Others to Minister
Like any good teacher, Moses corrects his mistakes and improves his craft. He goes from simply teaching the people (equipping them) to empowering them. How does he do it? Moses has to give them practical, specific assignments to accomplish.
22 “Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. (Exodus 18)
Moses learned how to delegate. Giving others personal responsibilities is very important. Delegating a task or assignment does not mean that you simply pass it off to someone else and forget about it. The one who delegates must always continue to give oversight to those under his leadership. The leader will have to help the people evaluate and course correct along the way. Delegating does not mean washing your hands of an assignment. How did empowering the power through delegation work out for Moses?
26 They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. (Exodus 18)
It worked out very well. Moses stopped wearing himself out and he stopped wearing the people out. Moses formed a team and as the old saying goes, “many hands make light work”. As a leader, are you empowering people to serve? Do you delegate practical, specific assignments for them to accomplish to help you accomplish the great calling that God has called you and those under your leadership to attain? Or, are you trying to do it all and wearing yourself out, along with the people under your leadership? We all have a lot to learn from Moses and Jethro. Do you have a Jethro in your life? You need one. I need one. We all need one.
May the Lord help us understand this clear teaching in His Word and apply it to our daily lives!