Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for June 4

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Roy Ciampa, Ph.D. 
Armstrong Chair of Religion, Samford University


Exodus 18:9–11, 14–21

Moses was in an untenable situation and needed help from a wise mentor. Jethro was a good listener whose heart was responsive to the news of God’s great work on Israel’s behalf.

Acknowledge where you see the hand of God at work. (9–11)

Although he was a priest of Midian, Jethro came to recognize that there was no god like the Lord (Yahweh), who had redeemed His people from all of their enemies.

Moses’s testimony of all God had done for His people opened Jethro’s heart to the truth about the God of Israel.

Jethro’s affirmation that God was powerfully at work through Moses reminds us of the importance of acknowledging God’s work not only in and through us, but in and through those around us.

Offer constructive criticism. (14–18)

Only a special person will take the important risk of offering constructive criticism in the most helpful way possible. Surely Jethro wasn’t the first person to perceive that what Moses was doing was unsustainable.

Moses might have thought that he alone could do what needed to be done and failed to recognize the opportunity to delegate much of the work to capable people around him.

You may also find yourself in a situation where people around you have wisdom they could share if they felt you were truly open to hearing it from them.

The people “stood around Moses from morning until evening,” waiting for their cases to be adjudicated.

Notice all the first-person references: “They come to me;” “I make a decision;” “I teach them” (vv. 15–16). Jethro shares the hard truth: “You will certainly wear out.”

Moses’s father-in-law did not offer uninformed advice. Jethro didn’t say anything until after he “saw everything [Moses] was doing.” And even then, he wisely began not with suggestions or advice, but with questions.

Starting with thoughtful questions allows for the possibility that there is a good reason for something that seems wrong. Jethro doesn’t understand why Moses is trying to judge all the people by himself, so he asks Moses what is going on and why he is doing things the way he is.

This gives Moses the opportunity to explain his concern about giving direction that is truly informed by “God’s statutes and laws.”

Jethro advises a different approach but also makes clear that his ultimate concern was for Moses himself and for those whom Moses cared so much about. Jethro was able to tell Moses, “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.”

Encourage with sound counsel. (19–21)

Jethro offered sound counsel and also reminded Moses to rely on God. He encouraged Moses to find men of integrity who could take on all but the most difficult cases.

Moses would continue to be the primary leader and the teacher of God’s laws and expectations. However, by establishing a scalable strategy and large-scale delegation, Moses found a way for multiple qualified leaders to be part of the system in a way that would keep any of them from being completely overwhelmed, including himself.

That kind of counsel and encouragement can lead someone from deep discouragement to dramatic relief.