Jethro: Wise Words in the Desert

In October of 2012, I wrote this lesson on Jethro (not the one pictured) for a weekly study on interesting characters from the Bible. Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed. I have a tendency to try to do everything myself and, as you will see, that is not good. This lesson is a reminder that God has surrounded me with good people for a purpose. If you enjoy this, please feel free to share it with others. I’m sure I am not the only one who needs a little perspective now and then.

“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!
Exodus 18:17-19

Many people wander for years looking for their purpose unaware that the things they do along the way may be preparing them for a task greater than they could have imagined. Moses worked for his father-in-law, Jethro, for 40 years tending his flock in the desert before God, appearing as a burning bush, spoke a different message into his life.

We all know the story of Moses. He was found adrift and raised by a royal family in Egypt as a younger brother to the future Pharaoh. From infancy, he enjoyed a life of luxury until he fled into the wilderness after killing a man.

Can you think of a time where God has taken you out of your comfort zone and you just didn’t know, or couldn’t see, where he was guiding you? Discuss.

Moses was 40 when he first fled Egypt but, as they say, life begins at 40. He spent another 40 years working as a shepherd until God sent him on a mission. Can you imagine starting a new career at 80? Moses set out to lead an entire civilization at that age. You have to wonder what questions were flying through his mind.

Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”

Moses returned his wife and sons to the care of Jethro and left for Egypt. We all know that he brought them out of captivity and wandered with them in the desert for another 40 years. Early in this wandering phase, Jethro visits Moses and brings him his wife and sons. Clearly, they weren’t lost in the desert yet. If they had enough faith, perhaps they would have walked straight from Egypt to Jerusalem. We all spend our time in the desert at some point. It build perspective. It strengthens faith.

While they were in the desert, the people sought counsel from Moses constantly. It was here that Jethro offered some advice that has had an impact on the world. “What you are doing is not good.” Jethro saw Moses holding court and warned him that he was trying to do too much on his own. He told him to find good people he could trust and delegate authority.

You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves.

Without meaning to, Jethro introduced the corporate structure into the world by creating a system of management levels. The lesson here is more than a simple business lesson. There are always best sellers out there telling you about the next great way to run your company, your life, your family, etc. The truth spoken from Jethro to Moses was this: YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING.

Do you try to take on too much responsibility in your life, your ministry, your work, or your community? Discuss.

It would have been so tempting for Moses to hide from God and not go back to Egypt, but God wanted his people delivered from slavery. If not Moses, someone would have delivered them.

Jesus said “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. “ (John 6:38) When we answer God’s call and use the lessons he has given us in our lives – and all of our struggles are preparing us for service – we will glorify him. However, we cannot fall into the trap of placing our will ahead of him and we cannot fall into the trap that Moses, and the world, falls into and believe we are the answer to every problem. This leads to STRESS which is FEAR. God has given us people in our lives who are equipped to serve him in different ways. Work together for his good.

You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans.
— Rick Warren

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
— Helen Keller








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