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Distribution of Responsibility — Exodus Chapter 18

This blog post will cover the devotionals #78-81 for Exodus Chapter 18.


**Pictures will be added at a later date.


Please note that this devotional book WILL SOON be for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.


Verse 1 says that Jethro had heard about what God had done in Egypt, which means that word had indeed spread of His miracles and wonders. Moses had sent his wife and two sons back to Jethro when he returned to Egypt in order to keep them safe during his huge task. It was time for them to be reunited. Thus, Jethro took Moses’ little family—Zipporah, and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, and met up with Moses in the wilderness at the mount of God. If you recall from devotional #16, Exodus 3:1-9 shows us that when Moses was in Midian, he’d come to the mountain of God (in Horeb) at the backside of the desert (in the wilderness of Sinai). Thus, Israel had reached Midian again (which can be seen by their location in Horeb in Exodus 17:6), which is where Jethro lived. Note that Midian, Mount Sinai, and Rephidim are all considered to likely be [in] present-day Saudi Arabia. Moses came out, greeted him, and brought him into his tent. One thing to notice is that verse 8 says Moses ‘did obeisance’ to Jethro. Strong’s Concordance defines that as ‘bowing’ or ‘prostrating’ oneself. It was clear that Moses had a great deal of respect for his father-in-law. Though I believe this respect had some impact on Moses’ choice to heed the advice Jethro would soon give, I believe Jethro’s godliness had impact on Moses’ respect towards him. Now that they were together, Jethro could get a first-hand account from Moses himself about all that God had done and/or allowed in Egypt and on their route through the wilderness for the physical and spiritual salvation of Israel. Jethro praised God for all of His goodness towards Israel and said that he knew the Lord was greater than all other gods, because He was above them in all their proud acts. Then, he made a burnt offering and sacrificed to God, and Aaron and the elders came to eat bread with him.


The entire next day, Jethro watched Moses in action. People came to be judged by Moses all day. Jethro was disturbed by the heaviness of Moses’ burdens and asked why Moses did that all alone. Moses replied that the people come to him to enquire of God—when they have an issue, they come to him to settle the matter, and he shows them God’s statutes, laws, and principles. Moses was the humblest man on Earth, according to God. He was full of generosity, nobility, and balance. His qualities were fully developed, making him a representation of what God can do with a man—who he could / should become, and what God expects them to accomplish, etc. Thus, he was able to counsel others well—to instantly discern the needs of those around him with the greatest instincts. He allowed the people to come to him because it was a chance to teach them God’s ways. Jethro said that wasn’t good, because they’d wear him out, and they’d also be worn out. The task was too great for one man to accomplish on his own. It’s interesting that Moses had said similar things to God when He called him to go lead the people. Jethro then took the opportunity to offer his advice to Moses. He told him to teach them ordinances and laws to follow and give them direction and work to do. He also instructed Moses to set up ranks of rulers to deal with different magnitudes of issues within smaller groups of people. There’d be a leader among each group of ten people. These groups of ten would be joined with four other groups of ten to make fifty—and each of those groups would be led by the next rank of leader. Then those groups would be paired into a hundred people, with the next rank of leader above them. Then these groups of a hundred would be grouped together with nine other groups of that size to make a thousand—which would be led by the highest-ranking leaders under Moses. Then Moses would be the highest in command (under God) over all these groups of thousands—which made up about two million people. There’d be roughly 200,000 groups of ten, forty thousand groups of fifty, twenty thousand groups of one hundred, and two thousand groups of a thousand. Jethro created what was basically a military or court system. The local groups would work out their issues, and if they couldn’t, it’d be passed on to the next level, and so on. Therefore, a problem would have to go through four other leaders before coming to Moses—so that he’d only have to deal with the most serious of issues—which he’d present to God. There was great wisdom in dispersing the load like this—not only for the sake of Moses’ health and sanity, but also for the sake of time. Most importantly, it’d teach the people to govern themselves under God’s principles and not depend so heavily on other men to show them what was right.


The rulers that’d be selected must be God-fearing, truth-loving, greed-hating men. We can read more about this in Deuteronomy 1:12-18, and specifically the fact that they were to judge righteously. God chooses experienced men to bear responsibilities in His work—and they’ll have a special influence among people. Not everyone can be given such power. These men can’t be rash, self-confident, or selfish. The Holy Spirit’s influence should mold all who bear any responsibilities in God’s work—otherwise, they’re unfit for, and should be dismissed from, the position. We can’t expect them to do the work He requires if they don’t understand it and its needed qualifications. God’s work must be advanced without craftiness, hypocrisy, or envy. They can never use their influence to increase unrighteousness. Ideas that will introduce anything less than a special influence to God’s work should never be advanced. The sacredness of His work should be kept and increased—and the truth should be magnified in every way. God’s appointed guardians are to always make His will and way understood. Recall that Jethro had said that not only would Moses be worn out, but also the people? He also said that if Moses followed his advice, the people would go to their places in peace. What did he mean by that? Well, there’s a good example we could use to parallel this story from Acts 6:1-8. In this situation, the Greeks has started mumbling against the Hebrews because their widows weren’t being tended to in the daily ministration. So, Jesus’ twelve apostles called the ever-growing crowd of disciples to them, saying, “It is not fit that we should leave the Word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, scout out seven men among you of honest reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Thus, Stephen and six others were chosen and presented to the apostles, and the Word of God increased, the number of disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. So, not only were the ‘leaders’ (the apostles) in this situation able to continue their ministration of God’s Word, but the people’s physical needs were taken care of, and the priests heeded the Gospel. Note that Strong’s Concordance uses another term directly associated with ‘look out’ (or ‘scout’) in this passage. It says ‘distribution’. Thus, the work was appropriately distributed among godly men (who wouldn’t betray sacred trusts)—they weren’t overburdened, and the people were satisfied (that their needs were being met) and convicted (of the truth).


Not only was Moses relieved of a large portion of his burden, but good order was established in Israel. Though Moses was God’s chosen leader, he wasn’t too proud to accept counsel from others. Recall that, though Jethro was a worshipper of the one true God, he wasn’t an Israelite. He was the priest of Midian. Yet, he was wise and godly, and Moses gladly accepted his advice and did what he instructed—and it worked well for Israel. When God decides it’s appropriate for a man to be qualified for a special work, He intends that the man gives that work special attention. He isn’t expected to bear many responsibilities, but just that which has been appointed to him. There shouldn’t be confusion in God’s work in relation to what each person’s responsibilities are. We shouldn’t seek to add burdens to ourselves that belong to others, but we’re to focus on perfecting the skills and work that God has qualified us to do. Moses was called by God to free Israel from bondage. He wasn’t the law-giver. Jesus had redeemed Israel through Moses. He gave Moses the words to speak to the people from God’s law. All Moses was to do was to answer questions and declare God’s will. If Moses was overburdened, he’d be too weary to relay God’s Word to Israel or to ensure the elders did their work in relaying that word from him to the people. He would’ve quickly worn out from trying to carry burdens too heavy for himself. That’s why Jethro counselled the distribution of responsibilities. He should represent the people before God—bringing their cases before them. He was to let other men, who were qualified to handle small issues, free him up for the heavier matters requiring special wisdom. On an interesting sidenote, in Exodus 24:13-15, when Moses was going up the mountain (for forty days), he specifically left Aaron and Hur (the two that had held up his hands at the battle with Amalek at Rephidim) in his place to deal with serious matters that would arise in his absence.

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