Jethro: Wise Adviser

KEY VERSE: “Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.” —Exodus 18:18


AT THE first stop after their deliverance from the Red Sea, the children of Israel found they had no water to drink, for the waters of Marah were bitter. The Israelites immediately began to complain against Moses, so he went to the Lord. Moses was instructed to cast a certain tree into the waters and the water became sweet, and the people could drink. There God made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and he said, “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.”—Exod. 15:26

After they had been in the desert for about a month-and-a-half, the food supply apparently began to dwindle and the people again complained to Moses, saying, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exod. 16:3) Then Moses again went to the Lord, who said: “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.” (Exod. 16:4) The test was that the people were to overcome their greed and each family take only the amount allowed. Any quantity taken over the allotment spoiled, and it had a very pungent odor which revealed the greedy one to his neighbors. Many of them failed to pass the test.

The children of Israel were not a happy people because the new life in the desert was a rigorous existence when compared to the relative comfort of Egypt. They were constantly complaining to Moses, blaming him for their plight. The people seemed easily to forget the mighty demonstrations of power that God had made in their deliverance and his subsequent provision for their well being. Associated with the general unrest were a large number of disputes among the people. There was no court system set up to handle these disagreements and most of them required an arbitrator. Since Moses was the Lord’s representative and spoke with authority, they came to him to arbitrate and settle their disputes. This, in addition to his other responsibilities, was an almost unbearable burden. It was this situation that Jethro recognized when he spoke to Moses. Jethro said: “The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: and thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide [select] out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens; and let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law.”—Exod. 18:17-24

There is a lesson for the Lord’s people now in this experience of Moses. God does not expect that his work, with its varied responsibilities, will be carried by one person. The Lord’s work is a cooperative effort. Every member of the body should be included in its function. When we are confronted with a situation that is too much for us to handle, we should ask the Lord’s guidance, and then we should make what we consider to be the proper arrangements to handle the problem, the objective being to conduct the Heavenly Father’s business in the most effective manner. Then we should proceed, asking his blessing on our efforts.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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