Things were looking good for the Israelites. They had just won their first battle and were being fed daily with God’s gift of manna. However, as with any group of sinful people gathered together, conflict arose among the people. So while everything seemed to be going great, Moses was stuck listening to the complaints of the people and judging between them day in and day out. Not a very exciting task! But being the servant leader Moses was, he didn’t complain, but tirelessly sat and judged the people each and every day
While this was very well and good, it was not sustainable. As the leader of over one million people, there were many tasks and duties he needed to perform. So to spend his days judging between the petty disputes of neighbors was not a good use of his time. However, who was going to do it? At this point, Moses was the sole leader of Israel. And he was a very capable leader, but he couldn’t do the work alone; there was just too much to do. However, since Moses was new to leadership he wasn’t familiar with delegation. So he needed some friendly advice on how to be a leader of leaders. And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had some advice for him.
“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. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.’”
I believe that there are three lessons for us about leadership in this text.
1. Good leaders know that they cannot lead alone.
Notice the first thing that Jethro tells Moses. “This isn’t good for you!” While Moses was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt as the sole leader, the day to day operations of governing such a large population was too much for one person to carry. Jethro recognized this and was quick to point this out to Moses.
2. Good leaders know how to recognize and select other good leaders.
Moses couldn’t do the work alone, but he needed to be able to recognize and select others who could lead under him. He needed to be able to discern men of good character and good leadership skills. From our last study in Exodus, we know that Moses had already spotted Joshua as a good leader, but he needed to choose more men to delegate leadership to. And he needed wisdom in picking those men. Note Jethro’s requirement list for leadership: they must fear God, are trustworthy, and hate bribery. We would do well to follow these prerequisites when looking for leaders today.
3. Good leaders listen to the wise counsel of others.
Moses didn’t solicit Jethro’s advice, but he didn’t reject it either. He listened and then followed the wisdom his father-in-law shared with him. This shows Moses’ humility and teachable spirit as he accepted correction and implemented the advice of his father-in-law.
May we learn from Moses and keep in mind that good leaders can’t lead alone but know how to recognize and select other good leaders and have the humility to listen to the wise counsel and correction of others.
“So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.”
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