Exodus 18:23 (HCSB)
23 If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”
This pericope, “Jethro’s Visit”, which also happens to be all of chapter 18, is basically comprised of two parts. First, Moses and his family are reunited, and he recounts all the great and wonderful things God has done to Jethro, his father-in-law. Jethro rejoices (Exodus 18:9), his faith is deepened as a result (Exodus 18:11), and he makes a sacrifice to God (Exodus 18:12).
The second half tells how Jethro provides insight into how Moses structures the system of judges in Israel. As it was, Moses was spending all day among the people, handling every single dispute that arose, and teaching God’s statutes to the people (Exodus 18:12, 16). Jethro, standing outside the whole thing, sees that this is an unsustainable system (Exodus 18:17-18). He suggests that Moses appoint men to handle the “easier” cases, from smaller groups of Israelites, and only as the disputes have no precedence, or are too difficult for them to issue a judgement, those cases be brought to Moses, thus lightening the load on Moses, and allowing him to focus more on being the representative for the Israelites before God.
Two things to note in Jethro’s suggestion, which Moses does accept and implement:
- The system remains based upon God’s ways, and is God approved. In Exodus 18:23 Jethro slides in the phrase “and God so directs you.” This is not a mistake, and it is not just a tacked on religious thing to say. Jethro is saying, “Here is this plan I have, but only do it if God says to.” A system of law based upon God’s ways would fail if it was implemented in a way that God did not approve of.
- The system only works if it is put in place with trustworthy, God-fearing, and able men. Oh if we only adhered to the same policies in our politics today! Again, God’s law is implemented only when those implementing it are followers, seekers, of God! And it is ok to delegate, to share responsibility. Moses would have burned out had Jethro not suggested this. We are no different, some of us have a problem releasing responsibility to others, yet we must in order for our own effectiveness for God, and others growth and effectiveness.
Lord, thank You for the wisdom You embed in others, who can see things and shine light into our lives and the way we do things at times. I pray for the humility to accept input, filter it through Your word, through prayer, gain Your stamp of approval, and implement ways to better serve You, Your people, and the world. Amen.