“Be thou for the people to God-ward”

17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

-Exodus 18:17-23

In both congregations and seminaries, I’ve heard the name Jethro more than you might guess. Yes, Jethro is only mentioned a few times, way back in Exodus; he’s one of the few “good guys” in Exodus who doesn’t actually take part in the exodus. Nevertheless, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, is popular these days because he taught Moses to delegate.

Why did Moses need to delegate? Without help, Moses would have worn himself and the people out. What’s wrong with wearing yourself out? What exactly was Moses unable to do alone?

“Represent the people before God,” or, in the KJV, “be thou for the people to God-ward.” Maybe Moses could have continued to clock in every day. Maybe he could have closed every case that came to him. Maybe he could have even kept the society running. Yet, that was not his job. In fact, it was keeping him from his real responsibility.

Moses was the unlikeliest of leaders, but called and used by God. He was not responsible to weigh in on the cases; he was responsible to see that God’s will was done. The society was not formed by the will of the people; it was founded by the God who brought them out of slavery. Thus, the problem was not that Moses couldn’t clock in, close the cases, and keep society going. The problem was that Moses would fail to keep the people before God and God before the people.

We too, are unlikely leaders, called and used by God. We are responsible for God’s will, not ours. The Church is formed by God’s redeeming power. If we are trying to do it alone, it means we’ve forgotten these things. If we are trying to do it alone, we will fail. Fail to keep the people before God and God before the people.

Elders, pastors, seminarians, ask for help. Enlist help so that you can be God-ward for the people. Do not neglect the Logos for logistics. Do not trade “Thy name…Thy kingdom…[and] Thy will” for your email, your calendar, and your to-do list. Who will pray, study the Scriptures, and seek God for this generation? Not those who think they can do it alone. Those who seek people as partners and God as God.

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