Torah reading: Exodus 18:1 – 20:23
Haftorah reading: Isaiah 6: 1-13
In Exodus 18, Moses is faced with the challenge of change. And his father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro in Hebrew) is the source of the challenge.
Change is not easy– and many of us don’t like change.
Change is necessary– though all of us know down deep inside that change is important.
Change is a constant: “One man said that the only thing that you can count on is change.
After seeing many miracles and overcoming many obstacles, Moses and Israel were in a time of rest and recuperation when Jethro brought Moses’ wife and children to him. (Moses had left them behind when he was called to confront Pharaoh.)
When Jethro arrived, Moses took him into his tent and bragged on all that God had done for Israel. Jethro’s was so moved that he offered a sacrifice to the God of Israel. Then we read:
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them His decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” Exodus 18:13-23
There are both challenges and benefits to facing change in a godly manner. What do we learn from Moses in this situation? Three fears that leaders – and all of us – face come to mind.
Pride-Why should I listen to Jethro? God has been doing mighty things through Moses. Everything seems to be working for him. Suddenly here is his father-in-law giving him unsolicited advice.
It is easier to make changes when things are going poorly but much harder when things are going well. A wise leader or person makes changes and adjustments through out their lives. It is the tree that is producing good fruit that is pruned in order to produce even better fruit.
Fear-What if this does not work? Moses had to ask himself, what if this thing does not work? What is everyone going to say when I tell them that they need to go to someone else besides me?
One of the reasons we oppose change is fear; fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of being insignificant, fear of others doing better than we have done.
Insecurity-Is it a good idea to empower others? Moses was the leader. If you opposed him and God, bad things happened. Now Moses was advised to empower others and give them influence. This had to test his insecurity. Moses may have thought, “What if those whom I put over a thousand people end up opposing me?”
A very real question!
By contrast, what are the benefits to Moses for accepting Jethro’s advice?
Efficiency – vs. 17: “Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”
I think most rational people look at this story and conclude that this was a wise decision. The ability to delegate to the right people improves efficiency and productivity. More people were able to use their gifts and talents in a proper framework of authority and thereby fulfill their own callings and giftings.
Effectiveness – People were taken care of more quickly, and they were able to get a more personal touch. Jethro says, If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied. vs. 23 The wisest thing Moses did was to break up the people of Israel into smaller groups, so they could be cared for more effectively.
Excellence – Moses himself was able to do what he was called to do with greater excellence by having the ‘distractions’ of meeting with all the people delegated to capable men of integrity. Moses was called to deliver the people and to teach them and Jethro’s advice freed him to fulfill that calling more fully.
Jethro said to Moses, “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.”
Lastly, Jethro’s advice facilitated the training of future leaders.
Once Israel entered the promise land, they would need leaders to govern throughout the region. Raising up judges under Moses was a training ground for preparing the leaders that would be needed after Moses passed away. The benefit of wise change is that it prepares God’s people for the future.
In Tune with Torah this week = Changes that we may be facing in our personal lives may not be anything like what Moses faced. Nevertheless, change is a constant part of life and as we face changes, we do well to pay attention to both its challenges and its benefits. To resist change when it is pressing upon us is harmful to our spiritual growth. Let us embrace it and by the grace and wisdom of our Heavenly Father submit ourselves to the changes that will propel us on to the next step of our spiritual journey.