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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 30, 2017

Exodus  18:1-27

  1. In today's lesson, we will deal with ministry delegation or lack of, balancing family and work, and accepting constructive criticism. All three of these are areas of challenge for many.

    1. Some ministries are suffering because the work is done by only a few, and those few become overwhelmed by the load of the work.

    2. Too often people struggle to balance home and work. Some give work too much time and family not enough time. When this happens, families usually suffer.

    3. When people are having challenges in life, they are not always open to constructive criticism. And before we think we can just say anything to anybody, let us remember that constructive criticism needs to be given a certain way and the advice needs to work when applied.

  2. Verses 1-6. Jethro, Moses's father in law, hears about all that has happened with Moses and the Children of Israel. Jethro heard about how God delivered the people from the hand of Pharaoh and all the other miracles. Jethro probably heard all this after Moses had sent his wife and children away. We don't know why Moses sent them away and exactly when he sent them. This is not spoken of in scripture so we can only speculate. What we do know is that Jethro was given an account of what happened by someone who knew the story. We can assume that Zipporah, Moses's wife told him when she arrived back home. At some point Jethro decides to go see Moses bringing his daughter and grandchildren with him. The text says that Jethro sent word ahead that he was coming and that he was bringing Zipporah and the kids with him. I suspect that Jethro wanted Moses to be ready for this reunion and not surprise him. Whenever you need to discuss something with someone that might be of a delicate nature, try to give them time to get themselves ready for the discussion. It is hard to have a meaningful discussion with someone who has not been given any time to prepare. It is my opinion that Jethro comes to see Moses because Moses and Zipporah needed some reconciliation. It is my contention Moses sent Zipporah away because he felt he didn't have time to be a husband. Jethro will deal with this time management issue.

  3. Verses 7-12. Upon Jethro’s arrival, Moses greeted him with respect and honor. They had a meal, and Moses shared all the things that had happened to them since the last time they saw each other. Jethro was excited and pleased to hear all that God had done for the Israelites. Jethro’s response was a declaration that the Lord was greater than any other gods. They also burned sacrifices of thanksgiving and ate a meal with the other elders.

  4. Verses 13-14. The next day, Moses goes out and takes a seat among the people like he did every day and the people bring all their disputes to him. This is like all the people of Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield coming to have their grievances heard by one man. Moses would be there from morning to night. This was an incredibly inefficient system of management. Jethro saw this and immediately questioned Moses why he thought he had to do this by himself. This brings us to the issue of handling constructive criticism. Jethro had a legitimate concern about Moses’s management style. It wasn't working. It was clear to Jethro and possibly to Moses that this system wasn’t working. Sometimes it is hard to admit that our way is not the best way. It might not be a bad way, but not the best way. Are you open to learning things a better way? On a scale from one to ten, how open are you to criticism? What are some things in your own life that you know aren’t as efficient as they can be? What do you think you can improve in your own life?

  5. Verses 15-16. Moses explains that the people come to him to seek God's will. The big issue here is that Moses just assumed he was the only one who had enough wisdom to advise the people. I suspect that Jethro noticed that many of the issues that came before Moses were not issues that required an encounter with the supernatural. Some stuff that came before Moses required nothing more than a seasoned person with some wisdom to answer correctly. Moses was the leader, but he wasn't the only person in the camp who had common sense. Leaders need to be careful not to take too much ownership in an organization to the point they forget others can serve as well and need to. Moses fell into the lone ranger leadership style trap. "I will get it done myself.” That might be okay for a moment, but it is not sustainable.

  6. Verses 17-23. Jethro hears Moses’s explanation and tells him that his plan will only wear him out and wear the people out. Jethro tells Moses that the work is too heavy and that he cannot do it alone. Moses required a great level of humility to receive this criticism. This is the guy who God used to do miracles, but that didn’t mean he was a great administrator. Moses was humble enough and smart enough to know wisdom when he heard it. Jethro shared with Moses some advice about how to manage his time better. Moses could have resisted this coaching, but instead he welcomed the coaching from Jethro. Jethro shared with him that he should continue teaching the people and showing them how to live and behave, but select men who have a good reputation and have them judge over the people in groups of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. Jethro instructed Moses to set up a system of delegated authority. In this way, the small issues could be resolved quickly and the more weightier matters could be solved by Moses. Jethro gave Moses a management model that would help the people and help Moses. Now this model required trust, communication, and honesty, but if done right would be a blessing to the people. This is a great lesson for the church. We should be working smarter not harder and the loads are easier to carry when carried together. This is also a charge and challenge for people to get involved and help. This is also a challenge to let others lead.

  7. Verses 24-26. Moses followed the advice and things went well. We have no recording of Moses resisting this advice. We only have him receiving it with joy. Moses was now able to balance his work and his home life. He now had more time and the people had more time. I am sure that initially some of the people wanted to only deal with Moses, but over time they learned to trust the other leaders as well. That required Moses to get out of the way and let other lead. Some leaders struggle to get out of the way because they like the attention they get by the fact that people trust their opinion. A leader must have a good self-image that doesn’t require their ego to be massaged.

  8. Verse 27. What we notice in this verse is that Jethro goes home without his daughter and the grandkids. A lot of scholars try to overlook this issue, but it points out that Jethro came to Moses to drop off Moses’s family. Moses sent them away, but Jethro brought them back. Moses probably sent them back saying that he didn't have time because he was doing God's work. Don't blame God for your time mismanagement.

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