Bible Devotion Week 10

This week we read the story of Jethro visiting Moses in Exodus 18. Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law and he came to Moses to bring his daughter and two children back to him. While there, Jethro observes Moses’ leadership among the people. In particular, he notices that he sits alone with al the people from morning till evening (v. 14). Moses explains it is because he inquires of God for people, he settles disputes, and he explains God’s statutes (vv. 15-17). After hearing the explanation, Jethro concludes, “What you are doing is not good” (v. 17). Why is it not good? Jethro goes on, “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” (v. 18). Praise God for good father-in-laws! Jethro is 100% right. This type of leadership, one guy over everyone doing everything, is terrible leadership. It might not be because the leader is terrible, Moses had his flaws but overall he was a pretty strong leader. It is terrible leadership because he and the people will get worn out. It is “too heavy” as Jethro said. What is the solution? Jethro says Moses should represent the people before God (v. 19) and warn them about the statutes and laws so they will know how they must walk (v. 20). At the same time, he should “look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” (vv. 21-22)

A recently heard a PCA pastor share about preaching through Exodus and when he got to Exodus 18 he gave an intensely presbyterian sermon. This is because we see the beginnings of what we know as presbyterian government of the church. Presbyterian is from the Greek word presbuteros or “elder.” Presbyterian simply means “elder led” or a system of government led by elders. We see the work of leading God’s people is too much for one man, even Moses. I want to highlight a few points from this passage that should serve to encourage you:
  1. Qualified leaders - Jethro doesn’t say, “Grab a few guys you come across and set them up as leaders. He doesn’t name specific people. He gives qualities Moses should look for: God-fearing, trustworthy, and hate bribes. This is close to Paul’s qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3, “an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-3). Something important in Exodus 18 and 1 Timothy 3. It is not true that any man can be an elder. It needs to be men who match these types of qualities. 
  2. Plurality of leaders - in v. 21 it says that there will be lots of these leaders overseeing smaller and smaller number of groups. Our church session is not made up of just one guy. It is a plurality of elders. The work is done better when it is spread out. 
  3. Leaders with a purpose - They have a specified purpose, “Let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves” (v. 22). They know their assignments and perform them. They also know when they need to bump an issue up the chain of command. 

I chose this passage for this week’s devotional because I think it is such a kindness of God that we are not left to figure out on our own how to run the church. He has given us instructions on how to do and who should do it. I want to challenge you all to choose an elder every week and pray for him, his family, his business, and his ministry. Their work is often done behind the scenes and late at night. Their labor is great and I know they need the prayers of the saints. 

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