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  • Writer's pictureDeborah

Jethro’s Leadership Advice

Understanding good leadership is like figuring out a difficult puzzle. There is a lot written about leadership today and every time someone writes about a new way of understand it, something will happen that creates a paradigm shift. As a result, the puzzle gets scrambled. Take business for example. Just when we define a good business leadership model, the stock market crashes and the model needs to be reconfigured. That seems to be the case in all walks of life.

Moses led Israel through the time of the plagues. Moses led them into the wilderness. Moses led them to the foot of Mt. Horeb. Each step of the way his leadership model changed. Today we pick up in Exodus 18 with Jethro visiting Moses at a time when Moses needed a mentor.

Do you remember when and why Moses left Jethro’s house, leaving his wife Zipporah and her two sons behind? After the burning bush experience God directed Moses to go to Egypt (Exodus 4:18-20). At that time Moses took his wife Zipporah and their two sons with him. We know at some point Zipporah and her sons Gershom and Eiezer returned to Midian because in Exodus 18:2-4 when Jethro met Moses in Rephidim he brought Zipporah and her sons with him. Scripture does not tell us when or why Zipporah left Egypt and went back to Midian.

It seems to make sense that when Moses realized he was going to ‘battle’ with the Pharaoh to convince him to let Israel go, he realized his wife and sons would be safer back in Midian with Jethro. Once Israel crossed the Red Sea and headed toward Horeb, Moses could have sent a messenger to ask Jethro to bring his wife and sons to meet them in that region.

In Exodus 18:8 Moses tells Jethro about the great things God has done for them. He would have talked about the plagues in Egypt, the exodus out of Egypt, and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.

Exodus 18:10-11(NKJV) we read, “And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”

Jethro was known as the Priest of Midian. He was well-respected. Moses went out to meet him and bowed before him as a sign of great respect. Scholars believe at this time Jethro has now converted to the Jewish faith* Certainly hearing about all the miracles God did in Egypt would have spread by way of traveling caravans.

Jethro was already convinced this God was the one true God!

In Exodus 18:12, NKJV, “Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.”

And they worshiped God.

While Jethro was visiting Moses he saw his son-in-law sitting for long hours judging the people who came to him for help. Whenever a dispute arose among the people, Moses would hear the account from both parties and decide what was to be done (Exodus 18:13-16).

When Jethro saw what was happening he told Moses he was doing too much. Jethro knew what Moses was doing was not sustainable long-term. He bluntly told Moses in Exodus 18:18-19, NKJV, “this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.”

Jethro was a wise man. Leaders who are not able to recognize their own limits can burn out quickly. God sent Jethro to train Moses to change how he practiced leadership.

Jethro helped Moses understand that setting up a leadership structure was a win-win for Israel and for Moses. Jethro also picked up on another element in Exodus 18:20, NKJV, “you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.” He knew Moses needed to teach Israel so they would grow in faith.

Remarkably, Jethro gave Moses a great leadership structure for Israel in Exodus 18:21-22. Moses recognized Jethro being part of God working in his life.

You know how when you’ve “been on the planet” long enough you start seeing a pattern in your life? When I was younger, people started coming to me to ask me to pray for them. They would often say they didn’t want their name published on the church prayer list, they just wanted the request to remain private. So...I would pray. I assumed it was because I was the pastor’s wife. Then, one day I was no longer a pastor’s wife. I started attending a mega church where I lived because “I thought I could hide and not be noticed.” They had a healing prayer ministry and I would sneak in and sit in the back because it felt like a healing place.

A while after I started attending, random people would ask me to pray for them. I thought, “sure, I can do that.” Later I was approached by the director (and others). She was moving away and asked me to take over as director. Wait...I thought I was ‘hiding’? Apparently God had other ideas. When God calls you to lead, you don’t need to declare it. Within a year God tapped me on the shoulder and told me He wanted me to go to Seminary. I didn’t see that one coming...

Neither did Moses. When he left Egypt and settled down in Midian he thought it was for life. Then one day he saw a bush burning that didn’t burn up. A voice spoke to him from the bush. Suddenly, Moses was in charge of leading Israel back to their homeland. He didn’t ask for it. He didn’t want the job. He would have been happy to raise his boys in Midian. God had other plans.

Jethro came to Moses (probably for the last time) and gave him great advice to lead by. In Exodus 18:20 we read that Jethro went back to Midian. When he left he knew Moses would be a good strong leader who would accomplish the task God gave him.

Today’s Spiritual Practice is: your GIFT

Today, practice using or praying about one of your Spiritual Gifts. If you do not know what your Spiritual Gifts are, ask God to show you.

And Prepare to BE BLESSED! Deb


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