Bible Society of South Africa

Jethro: practical mentor – 20 August 2021

By Xanthe Hancox

Bible text(s)

21But in addition, you should choose some capable men and appoint them as leaders of the people: leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They must be God-fearing men who can be trusted and who cannot be bribed. 22Let them serve as judges for the people on a permanent basis. They can bring all the difficult cases to you, but they themselves can decide all the smaller disputes. That will make it easier for you, as they share your burden. 23If you do this, as God commands, you will not wear yourself out, and all these people can go home with their disputes settled.”

Exodus 18:21-23GNBOpen in Bible reader

Jethro cared about his daughter’s family. His son-in-law Moses had a big job but was burning his candle at both ends. In compassion, Jethro offered Moses advice to help him work in a healthier way: “What you are doing is not good. … The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18)

Exodus 18:13-27 describes Jethro’s supremely practical suggestion for Moses to divide his labour into tens, his fifties, hundreds, and thousands to reduce his leadership burden and delegate responsibility to the people of Israel.

Jethro said if Moses followed his suggestion, he would prevent himself from burning out and his people would all be much happier with the outcome. It would free Moses to focus on a overarching strategy, so to speak, and not be held up with trivial matters. And the system would empower his people to work simple matters out themselves.

Jethro was ahead of his time, this is a leadership structure that still holds true today.

Jethro offered his wisdom to Moses in love and Moses, thankfully, had a teachable spirit. He could have ignored his father-in-law’s wisdom and continued down the path toward exhaustion, but Moses chose instead to follow Jethro’s advice. He could have received this as criticism of his work, but instead Moses heard it as a gift from a wise mentor.

Sometimes we become irritated when people offer unsolicited advice. “Who are they to tell me what to do?” But God calls us to care about the people around us. Sometimes caring means sharing our wisdom, and other times it means being willing to be taught.

Prayer: Lord, we can be so stubborn when it comes to accepting the advice of godly mentors who seek to care for us. Give us the courage to listen to those who speak your Word lovingly into our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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