Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Humanity & Humility of Moses

Moses at bush

by Dennis Pollock

When we think of the men of the Bible who walked very closely with God, we often tend to think they lived on such a heavenly plane that they nearly lost all of their humanity. We assume they became such superior, heavenly-minded persons that they were immune to the faults, foibles, issues, and needs which all the rest of us experience daily. In this devotional study we shall look at a particular incident in the life of Moses which reveals both the humanity and the humility of the man God chose to deliver His people, the descendants of Abraham, from a life of slavery and hard bondage in Egypt. The story we will study is found in the eighteenth chapter of Exodus, and it has to do with a visit paid to Moses by his father-in-law, Jethro.

Moses was in the wilderness at the time, leading two or three million whining, complaining Israelites. He had initially taken his wife and children with him as he made his way to Egypt to liberate the Jews, but at some point he had decided they would be better to go back to Midian and live with his wife's father. Now, Jethro, his father-in-law had heard about the great exodus from Egypt, and had come to Moses to bring his wife and sons to him. Here is our first insight revealing that Moses, the man who talked with God face to face, the man who lifted his rod and initiated plagues throughout Egypt, the man who stood up to the mighty Pharaoh, the man who split the Red Sea, was still human, and not as different from the rest of us as one might think. Moses had a family!

This doesn't come as earth-shattering news to most of us, but when we stop and think about it a little, it does help us to bring Moses back down into the realm of common humanity. On the days when he wasn't performing miracles, Moses was doing things all husbands and fathers do. He no doubt got into minor spats with his wife, told stories to his children, spanked them when they misbehaved and praised them when they did well. Moses was not so spiritual that he lost the romantic and sexual feelings that more ordinary men possess. After fleeing from Egypt, he had been attracted to one of the daughters of Jethro, named Zipporah. They were married and lived together as husband and wife. They had their times of sexual intimacy and two sons were the result, Gershom and Eliezer. The family of four shared meals together, and lived in that messy, imperfect, happy, frustrating, exasperating, joyful, experience that family life affords. Like Elijah and Abraham and Noah and Joseph and Peter and Paul, Moses was a man of God – but he was also a man.

Meekest Man in the World

As Jethro drew near the camp where Moses and his millions of followers stayed, Moses came out to greet him. The Bible tells us: "So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him" (Exodus 18:7). With marriage comes in-laws, and Jethro was more than a former boss to the great prophet; he was his father-in-law. In the Middle Eastern culture of those days family was extremely important, and showing respect for one's in-laws was expected. Moses did not wait for his father-in-law to come to him, but went out to him and bowed before him as custom dictated. Leading millions of people and hearing the voice of God like nobody else had not gone to his head. In fact the reverse was the case. The Scriptures tell us that Moses was the meekest man on earth. Titles, money, and power may tend toward arrogance, but a genuine walk with God never does. The great prophet had spent so much time enveloped in the Shekinah glory of God that compassion, humility, and courtesy had been ingrained in him.  Moses may have known a great deal more about God than Jethro, and was certainly far more spiritually advanced, but Jethro's position as his father-in-law still demanded a show of respect, and Moses was not too proud to give it.

As he spent the next few days with Moses, Jethro began to see something that made no sense to him. Watching his son-in-law spend all day long judging the Israelite people's disputes and settling questions of law, Jethro was appalled. Early in the mornings the Israelites were forming long lines, waiting for a chance to get an audience with Moses and share their problems and issues with him. From a stolen pair of sandals to a broken pledge of matrimony, there was a never-ending litany of complaints to be addressed. Moses patiently sat all day long and sometimes long into the evenings listening to one after another, and giving them counsel based on the commands of God and his own sense of who God was and what He expected.

Jethro exercised his rights as father-in-law and spoke plainly to Moses. He started with a very simple thought: "The thing that you do is not good." His opinion was not based on laws written by the finger of God or deep spiritual revelations given in times of spiritual ecstasy. It was a very pragmatic observation based on the simple reality that Moses was senselessly and needlessly overloading himself and would eventually wear out if some changes were not made. Jethro went on to say: "For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself."

With all his amazing walk with God, with all his experiences of being enveloped in the glory of God, with all those times when he heard the voice of God speaking to him as clearly as one man might hear another, Moses still couldn't see that he was doing neither himself nor the Israelites any favor by personally attending to every controversy and issue that arose among the millions of his followers. Ironically, it took an outsider, a practical, elderly man like Jethro with the wisdom to see it and the courage to challenge Moses about it.

Jethro told his son-in-law to choose leaders under him and delegate authority to them to judge the people's simpler and more common issues. The difficult, thorny cases could be brought to Moses, but all the others should be settled by the delegated leaders. Jethro was gracious with his advice, and qualified it with the words, "If God so commands you…"

Recognizing a Good Idea

Moses and JethroTo his credit Moses immediately saw the wisdom of what his father-in-law was saying, and soon began to implement a system of delegated leaders, teachers, and judges. His work load dropped tremendously and the huge, long lines of accusers, defendants, and witnesses became a thing of the past. Here again we see both the humanity and humility of Moses. As a man of God Moses excelled magnificently, but as an administrator over a nation of people, he was just getting his feet wet and still had a lot to learn. It took a rebuke from his father-in-law to shake him free from his attempt to rule Israel single-handedly.

We see Moses' humility in the fact that he was open to good ideas and willing to change his leadership style at the suggestion of a man who couldn't touch him on a spiritual level. Sometimes we are open to correction from those we consider our superiors or our equals, but disdain even listening to any advice from someone we feel is much lower on the rung than we, whether in a spiritual, social, intellectual, or achievement sense. Moses had the wisdom to recognize that a good idea is a good idea, no matter what its source, and cared more about the well-being of the people he led than his own ego.

Jethro departed not long after this, but the few short days he spent with the people of Israel proved most profitable, both for Moses and the multitudes. Efficiency is defined as: "the ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort." Moses was getting the job of ruling Israel accomplished, but it was at a great cost to himself and the poor Israelites who were being forced to wait for hours or days to be heard. God graciously sent his astute father-in-law to let Moses know of a better way. He who used mighty miracles to defeat the Egyptians, used a simple word of wisdom by Jethro to overcome an administrative challenge.

Lessons for Us

We who are in Christ have been entrusted with the greatest task the world has ever seen. Souls and eternal destinies are dependent upon how well or poorly we fulfill Christ's call upon our lives. When we are first born again we feel the need for spiritual life and power. We learn that it is not by might, nor by power, but "by My Spirit," says the Lord. We pray and plead for the anointing of the Spirit and earnestly seek a walk with God that is dynamic and life-giving. This is as it should be.

But we greatly err when we think that if we can become spiritual enough, if we can attain to a certain level of anointing, if we can just walk closely enough to God, we can forget about those mundane details of administration, organization, and efficiency. God is an efficient God. Anyone who can create the universe and everything in it in six days is operating at peak efficiency, to be sure! And as His children, proclaiming His Son Jesus as the only way to God, we must be efficient as well.

Many years ago, while I was pastoring a church in Wylie, Texas, one of our members gave me a computer. This was in the very early days of the personal computer, and for the life of me, I could not imagine what a pastor would need with a computer. It didn't take long, however before I was completely sold on computers. I quickly learned that it was a whole lot easier to delete a poorly worded sentence or paragraph than to take a sheet of paper out of my typewriter, throw it away, and start again. I marveled at a computer's ability to create a database, and print out hundreds of names and addresses on mailing labels in a few minutes, rather than spending many hours writing them out by hand, as ministries had been forced to do before computers.

As my ministry moved forward I prayed, I fasted, I read the Bible over and over again – but I also spent significant amounts of time learning computer programs and developing skills to improve myself. Being spiritual does not do away with the need to learn practical skills and work efficiently. Jesus Himself demonstrated the importance of good organization and efficient ministry when He organized the crowds in groups of fifty and had them all sit down on the grass. As with His Father, He wanted all things done decently and in order.

Doing everything yourself is never the smartest course. Most men who rise to significant leadership roles are very capable individuals who probably could fulfill most positions in their company or ministry better than those who work for and under them. But this by no means suggests that they should do all the work themselves. Delegation often means letting people of lesser skill, lesser ambition, lesser motivation than yourself play a significant role in the organization you lead. But still it must be done. Perhaps Moses' delegated leaders weren't as spiritual, weren't as knowledgeable, and weren't as totally devoted to God as he was. But still he must delegate, for even Moses was incapable of doing everything for everybody.

What we sometimes don't realize is that our Lord Jesus does this very thing in His church. Jesus could be a far better evangelist than any of us, He could make a far superior pastor to any pastor on the planet, He could write better books, build stronger churches, preach better sermons, teach better classes, heal more sick people, win more souls, touch more lives, and do far more good if He would only dispense with us, His people, and do all the work by Himself! But this He refuses to do. Not because it would wear Him out, but because Jesus Christ has sovereignly ordained that we His people are to be His hands and feet on this earth, and that anything He does must be done through us. Yes, it is Jesus living in us, but still we must participate. Without Him we can't, but without us He won't. Let us be about His work joyfully, proclaiming His gospel, and fulfilling the tasks He has ordained for us. And when, like Moses, we feel overwhelmed, let us be careful to listen for His voice through whomever He may send to us, as He shares with us words of wisdom that can make all the difference.

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.


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