Sunday, September 09, 2007

Exodus 18:13-27 -- Jethro's Wise Counsel

Opening thought:
Do you remember the Beverly Hillbillies? Remember the dumb ox of a boy named Jethro who ate whole boxes of corn flakes for breakfast and was dumb as a box of rocks?

Well, today we are going to watch another Jethro at work, but this man is the other end of the spectrum. He is older. He is extremely wise. And he counsels, the great lawgiver himself, Moses, and helps him avoid both burnout for himself and anarchy for Israel.

Contextual Notes:
With Moses’ family together again at Rephidim after many months, Moses gets back to his hectic pace of judging cases which have come up since their last encampment. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, an older man than Moses who is 80 at this time, watches Moses through the day, and is concerned by what he sees. He makes up his mind to talk to Moses about his concern. Jethro means “excellent” and his personal name was Reuel, meaning “friend of God,” which gives us something of his character. Apparently, this Arab sheikh Jethro had, during Moses’ sojourn in Midian, come to faith in Israel’s God.

Pray and Read: Exodus 18:13-27

Sermon Points:
1. Moses the Judge (18:13-16)
2. Moses the Shepherd (18:17-23)
3. Moses the Leader (18:24-27)

Exposition: Note well,

1. Moses the Judge (Exodus 18:13-16).
a. Irony: In Exodus 2:14 – When he interposed between two Hebrews, they smarted off, “Who appointed you a ruler and judge over us?” Now he rules and judges a nation of 2 million Hebrews.

b. Jethro was able to watch Moses as a concerned older leader, and Jethro saw blind spots in his leadership that Moses himself did not see. Jethro comes along side Moses and counsels him. Jethro is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

c. Moses a type of Christ – Christ will one day sit and judge the nations. Joel 3:12, 14. He will need no assistance, but we will rule and reign with Him. He is a greater judge than Moses. Joel 3:12, 14 – Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

i. Who checks your blind spots for you? All of us need someone we trust to help us see them and correct them.
ii. Christ will come one day and sit in judgment over the nations. Where will you be? Will you be with the sheep or the goats?

2. Moses the Shepherd (Exodus 18:17-23).
a. Be the Representative to God(18:19) This is prayer and intercession. Moses was to stand before God on behalf of the people. He was to function as a priest. In whatever we have charge of, we are called to this same shepherding role.

b. Teach and show the Word of God – (18:20) As a shepherd, Moses had both to teach the Word and demonstrate it in his life.

c. Select able leaders – (18:21-22) Moses needed to find good leaders for the people. Jethro suggests several qualifications for these leaders. Acts 6:1-4

i. Are Strong (Capable) – Can stand up to pressure and will do the right thing because it is right, not go the easy route.

ii. Fear God -- Men who would lead based on their relationship with the Lord rather than with other men, based on faith rather than on self-reliance. Nehemiah 5:14-15: Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor. 15 But the former governors that were before me laid burdens upon the people, and took of them for bread and wine above forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants lorded over the people; but so did not I, because of the fear of God.

iii. Have Integrity. Trustworthy. 2 Timothy 2:2: And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

iv. Hate dishonest gain. These leaders would not worship money. They would rule on the basis of principle and not by bribes or good-old-boy politics. Isaiah 33:15-17: He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from looking upon evil; 16 He shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; his bread shall be given, his waters shall be sure. 17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they shall behold a land stretching afar.

v. The same thing done in the New Testament with the institution of deacons. Acts 6:1-4 – And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

d. Stand the Strain – (18:23) Moses could better stand the strain if the load was lightened. He was happy to let that load be lightened. He was not insecure as a leader.

i. A pastor is to shepherd through prayer, teaching the Word of God, and demonstrating that Word. Any leader, a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, a parent, a supervisor, a business owner also have that responsibility.
ii. As leaders, we must be people who fear God, can stand up to pressure with integrity, and do not worship the almighty dollar. It is also a criteria for selecting leadership in the church.

3. Moses the Leader (18:24-27)
a. He Listened -- He was teachable. He was not a know-it-all. He was willing to learn from a wise man whom he respected and who knew him well.

b. He chose – The people chose their own leaders (this is congregational government (Deuteronomy 1:9-18) – and Moses appointed them – this is ordination). This calls for respect of leaders (Hebrews 13:17)

c. They served – Moses was not a controller. He was not afraid of empowering others. He did not worry what power he would lose if someone helped him. He was not insecure as a leader. He was glad to share his leadership with others.

i. Great leaders remain teachable and are life-long learners.
ii. Great leaders want to help others become leaders.
iii. Great leaders are not insecure control freaks.