The eighteenth chapter of Exodus stands alone as a story within the story. It unfolds while the Hebrew folks were camped at Sinai, “the mountain of God” (Exodus 18:5). It’s not in chronological order. When the main saga continues in the nineteenth chapter, Moses led the nation from Rephidim to Sinai, where they “camped in front of the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Maybe it’s out of order because the story of Moses’s trek up the mountain and his interaction with God needed to be told without interruption. Maybe. Regardless... it’s God’s Word! I believe it!
Chapter eighteen, the story within the story, concerns the happy reunion of Moses and his family. It’s a happy chapter. The nation isn’t thirsting for water, griping and grumbling about manna, or facing a ruthless enemy. “Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and then kissed him. They asked each other how they had been and went into the tent. Moses recounted to his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardships that confronted them on the way, and how the Lord rescued them. Jethro rejoiced over all the good things the Lord had done for Israel when he rescued them from the power of the Egyptians” (Exodus 18:7-9). After months of separation Moses was reunited with his wife, Zipporah, and his two precious sons. Moses also gave his father-in-law a testimony of God’s gracious and miraculous liberation of the twelve tribes of Israel, about the ten plagues, the Passover, and the crossing of the Red Sea. Hallelujah! Chapter eighteen is happy.
Chapter eighteen is also instructive.
Following the reunion, Moses went back to work. From sunup to sundown Moses managed the affairs of the nation, two-million people with ten-million problems. Apparently, Moses, a.k.a. Judge and Jury, held small claims court. “He said... She said” “His goat ate my hat.” “I caught him kissin’ my sister.” On and on, the seemingly never-ending problems and troubles were dumped in Moses’s lap.
Jethro, older and wiser, was watching. “ ‘What you’re doing is not good,’ Moses’s father-in-law said to him. ‘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’ ” (Exodus 18:17-18).
Here’s Jethro instructions. “Select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating dishonest profit. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens” (Exodus 18:21). In other words: “You’re not the Lone Ranger! You can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Get some help! Let others assist! Delegate!”
Notice what Moses did not do. He didn’t get his feelings hurt. He didn’t laugh it off. He didn’t bow his back and get huffy. Rather, he listened. He considered. “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Exodus 18:24).
That’s good advice in the church where pastors and teachers are commissioned “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). It also works in corporate-America. And it works in the home. Share the load.