Friday, April 15, 2022

2022.04.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 18:13–27

Read Exodus 18:13–27

Questions from the Scripture text: On which day does Exodus 18:13 occur? To where have they returned (cf. Exodus 18:5, Exodus 19:2)? What does Moses do with them? What do they do before him? What does Jethro see (Exodus 18:14)? What does he ask? How does Moses answer (Exodus 18:15)? When do they come to him (Exodus 18:16)? What does he make known to them? What does Jethro say about this (Exodus 18:17)? What expected result makes it not good (Exodus 18:18a)? What will result in this (verse 18b)? What does Jethro now say (Exodus 18:19a)? Who will be with Moses if he listens? Who must do the difficult part, before Whom Moses will stand (verse 19b)? What must Moses do with what he learns (Exodus 18:20)? In what two things must they be instructed? What two things must they be shown? What four qualifications identify the men whom Moses must select (Exodus 18:21a)? Despite Israel already having what (cf. Exodus 18:12)? How will this leadership structure be organized (Exodus 18:21b)? How will the cases be administered (Exodus 18:22)? With what result for Moses? For it to work, what two things have to occur (Exodus 18:23a,b)? If those two things happen, what will Moses be able to do? And what will all the people do? How does Moses respond (Exodus 18:24-26)? What does Moses do with Jethro in Exodus 18:27?

In Exodus 18:23, Jethro says, “If you do this thing, and God so commands you.” In other words, he is giving the best advice that grace enables him to give, but he recognizes that this plan will only be good if it is the command of God, not merely the wisdom of men. A parallel account in Deuteronomy 1:9–18 makes it plain that this did come via Jethro as a command of God to Moses and via Moses as a command of God to Israel. Israel already had elders, but this is how they came to have judges (Exodus 18:21-22, cf. Deuteronomy 1:16). 

It is a humbling thing for men in leadership to admit to the limits of their wisdom and their vigor. Both of these limits are seen here. 

Moses lacks vigor to continue what he has begun—sitting and judging the people all day every day, Exodus 18:13-15. “Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out, for this this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself,” Jethro tells Moses in Exodus 18:18. In other words, “you lack the vigor for this.” 

Moses also lacked the wisdom to see this problem himself. He doesn’t seem to have thought there was anything wrong with what he was doing. In fact, it doesn’t take much inference to read a sense of dignity and responsibility in the end of Exodus 18:16, “I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 

But Jethro could see it. “What is this thing that you are doing for the people” (Exodus 18:14). “The thing that you do is not good” (Exodus 18:17). “So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he said” (Exodus 18:24). Here Moses was supposed to be giving wisdom to all Israel, and he didn’t even have the wisdom to see his own situation properly! Jethro did.

But it wasn’t just Moses who was weak and finite; the people as a whole were. That’s why they needed judges in the first place. The first formal assembling of the church is about to occur at Sinai, and here we have the first selection of officers for that church-state. They were to be chosen not by popularity but by ability, spirituality, honesty, and integrity (Exodus 18:21). They were to be organized in progressively broader/larger groups (Exodus 18:21Exodus 18:25). And they were to have an appeal system (Exodus 18:22Exodus 18:26). The need for judges and the existence of hard cases reminds us God’s people as a whole are sinners, and they’re not always able to figure out what’s right.

Each of us individually are weak and finite. So we must be willing to accept the help of those whom God puts into our life and of His design for His governing His people. And all of us collectively are still sinful, weak, and finite. So, we must look ultimately to Him as the One Who gives not just judges but the providence of the judgments… and ultimately He will give final judgment at the end.

What are you called to do in life that you need others’ help for? Whom has God put in your life and/or appointed over you to help? How are you availing yourself of that help? What is your ultimate hope for your responsibilities being carried out and being fruitful?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your almighty power and perfect wisdom! Forgive us for being overconfident in our own ability or wisdom, and for being under-willing to admit when we lack it. Make us those who know our limits, receive help, and work contentedly within the governing structures that you have established in home, church, and state. For, we ask it through Your infinitely able Son Who humbled Himself for our sakes, even Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP5 “Listen to My Words, O LORD” or TPH5 “Hear My Words, O LORD”

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