Exodus 18:13-27 God uses unconventional and seemingly unworthy vessels to counsel His children

Exodus 18:13-27 God uses unconventional and seemingly unworthy vessels to counsel His children

It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land.

Background

Moses settled into his roles as priest, judge and teacher of the Law. However, the way he went about fulfilling his responsibilities is untenable. Jethro, being a foreign priest came to his counsel. By delegating the tasks of judging to reliable men, Moses could preserve his strength for more important matters. Moses, despite being the closest to God, having continual access to divine wisdom submitted to Jethro’s advice. Today’s devotion teaches us that God uses unconventional and seemingly unworthy vessels to counsel His children. At the same time, we are reminded of the importance of spiritual leadership. Christians are called as priests to provide a timely word to those who seek the Lord. Christians are also called to serve as magistrates of peace and teach the laws of God to the world.

Observation

It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.

Jethro observed Moses working the roles of priest, magistrate and teacher as one man. As priest: the people came to inquire of God as Moses spoke a timely word on God’s behalf. As magistrate: the people came to settle disputes. As teacher: he made known the statutes and laws of God to the people. The people waited to be heard and taught by Moses from morning until evening.

Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you.

Jethro, in realising the untenable situation that Moses was in intervened with timely counsel. Moses was to appoint qualified men to share in his responsibilities. These judges are to be “men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain”. And they would preside over the people through a hierarchical structure. In the division of labour, Moses would see to matters that were either too major or complex for the appointed judges to handle. This administrative reorganisation will result in preserving Moses’s strength for things of greater importance. Jethro put it to Moses as one inspired by God: I will give you counsel, and God be with you.

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

Moses, who had spoken “mouth to mouth” with God depended on the counsel of a foreign priest. Even for matters of such importance as the national administration of justice, Moses submitted himself recognising Jethro’s words as divinely inspired.

Truth

God uses unconventional and seemingly unworthy vessels to counsel His children.

God used Jethro, the foreign priest to counsel Moses on matters of national importance. In the gospels, Jesus is seen using the centurion, a gentile’s exemplary faith to coach His disciples:

Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel…” – Matthew 8:10

Man tends to evaluate another’s spirituality and righteousness by looking at the appearance. But God appraises all men by looking at the substance of their hearts. Indeed, a pure heart responds to the truth and to Christ but not to religious norms. Unfortunately, those who carry an air of religious culturedness, who pepper their words with quotes from the bible are often highly regarded. The apostle Paul disagrees and asserts that one’s righteousness is not determined by one’s appearance of religiosity but by the attitudes of his heart. Paul said concerning the gentiles (who were considered unclean by the Jews), if they instinctively obey the Law show the work of the Law written in their hearts (see Romans 2:14-15). And God will use even the gentiles to judge the Jews who boast in the Law while breaking it (see Romans 2:23).

Similarly, God uses non-christians, the likes of Jethro, who are seekers of the truth to counsel Christians. By virtue of their uprightness and wealth of experiences, they become ready vessels for God’s use. Therefore, believers must free ourselves of religious bias and be ready to listen with divine discernment what others have to say. The Old Testament does not seem bothered by this issue of Moses accepting advice from a foreign priest. We will do well to rid ourselves of this prejudice. Indeed, God can use any person regardless of their age, status and background to make known His counsel.

The Christian is called to give oracles, to judge and to teach the truth to the world.

The calling of the Christian is exemplified by Moses in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus not only fulfilled that calling perfectly, He became a model for all Christians to emulate.

The Priest

Indeed, Jesus is the Priest, the Oracle of God. In declaring Himself as God’s Oracle, Jesus said,

”… For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” – John 12:49-50

Thus, Jesus became the Father’s mouthpiece to speak and to do all that He has commanded. During Moses’s time, when the people needed a word, they came to Moses. During the time of the gospels, they came to Jesus. Today, people do not go to the Christian minister but to the diviner and soothsayer. Why? Because most Christian ministers lack the spiritual temperament to commune with God. For they have been functioning as Administrators and managers, not as spiritual directors. If they can’t hear God for themselves much less speak on God’s behalf. But Jesus is the Priest who provides a timely word to those who seek wisdom and direction. The apostle Peter said concerning the priesthood of believers,

But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Therefore, Christians must be properly discipled to function as oracles of God to give a divine word to those who need it.

The Judge

In declaring Himself as Judge, Jesus said,

“…For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,… I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” – John 5:22, 30

Jesus judges by the truth (the will of the Father), not given to pragmatism. Jesus responded to the man who asked him to help settle a dispute with his brother concerning family inheritance,

“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15

Jesus discerned greed within the man and judged him by the truth. That said, some leaders when called to judge, to resolve a dispute opted to gloss over it in the pretext of love and tolerance. Such leaders do not wish to address the problem at its root because it does not contribute to their organisation’s “bottom line”. To them, resolving disputes is bad business. Regrettably, many unresolved disputes are buried resulting in the weak being continually marginalised.

Therefore, Christians must always be ready to serve as judges, to bring peace and justice to the world.

The Teacher

In declaring Himself as Teacher of the truth, Jesus said,

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:31-32

Jesus teaches the truth that exposes the darkness within men. Because He is the Light, He is spurned by all who desire to do evil. And He calls sinners to repentance and be adopted as sons of God. In contrast, the Scribes teach to exalt themselves with endless quotes and opinions by various prominent rabbis. Consequently, they attacked Jesus for exposing their deeds and hypocrisy. But Jesus cared not for His life and spoke the truth with authority. Many believers and ministers alike, do not dare to teach the truth for fear of incurring the ire of men in higher places. Indeed, speaking the truth and making people feel uncomfortable is neither conducive to “personal career growth” nor to “church growth”. So they resort to speaking politically correct messages along denomination lines to be praised and accepted by all.

Therefore, Christians must always be ready to speak the truth in love. That means not using the truth to condemn, but to make known the way of life while holding their hand.

Application

Do you despise the opinions of those who are either non-believers or who are young in faith? Do not despise their words, for God could very well be speaking through them. However, in matters that pertain to the divinity and Lordship of Jesus, stand firm and unmovable as a rock. But be open to consider their opinions on matters pertaining to the wisdom of life.

Which aspect of the calling of Christ do you desire? If you desire to function as God’s oracle to provide a timely word to others, spend more time conversing with God concerning yourself and the world around you. If you desire to serve as a wise magistrate to solve disputes, spend time listening to people as they talk about their issues. By listening to people, God will show you the secrets of their hearts and how to judge with righteous judgment. If you desire to teach, spend time reading the word while allowing God time to speak. The seed of the word will germinate bringing forth fresh and new revelations for abundant living.

Dear Lord, cause my mind to be open to whomever you will use to bring me counsel. As I humble myself, cause me to become your oracle to bring divine encouragement and direction to men. Give me wisdom so that I may function as a magistrate of peace and justice among men. Use me to teach your truth in my family, church and workplace. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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