Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." Exodus 18:17-18
When you are busy and can't seem to find your way out of a sea of responsibility, it is hard to take advice from another person. It could be a boss that walks in when you're buried, and they tell you how you can be more efficient with your time. You could be slaving away at your yard work, and you have a neighbor who stands in the shade and shouts instructions. It might be that your in-laws are in town for the holidays and they try to teach you about how to raise your kids. Sometimes in those moments, it is hard to control both your tongue and your reaction to the situation.
That was the situation for Moses. He was responsible for the welfare of the 2.5 million Israelites who are wandering through the desert. He is their leader, spiritual director, and judge for this mass of humanity during their Road Trip. When they had an issue or needed help spiritually, they got in line to talk to Moses. From morning to evening, they wore themselves, and Moses, out with their concerns.
Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, arrived at the base of Mt. Sinai to meet the Israelites. Jethro also brought his daughter and grandchildren and reunited them with his son-in-law. Jethro comes and celebrates the way that God intervened for the Israelites, but it is in this busy moment for Moses that he gives a piece of advice. Jethro shares that the work Moses is taking on is more than one person can bear. He refocuses Moses on what is most important and puts him on a path towards breaking the chains of busyness. The guidance that Jethro gave wasn't disregarded, minimized, or dismissed by Moses. Instead, Moses took the advice to heart and made the changes that were necessary to put God first above everything else.
This story about Moses and Jethro is humbling for many of us who are busy. We tend to let the things that are urgent crowd out what is most important. Busyness ruins relationships, wastes energy, and, worst of all, pulls us away from God. We have to take an honest look at how much time we are wasting on things that won't matter in the next 5 to 10 years, and relentlessly eliminate them from our lives. Where it all begins is taking an inventory of your personal busyness and inviting God to take control. Will you release your busyness today to make time to focus on God?
This weekend we gave you some homework to do as you process the message. The challenge was to Evaluate, to Eliminate, and to Elevate. We asked you to evaluate where you are spending your time and energy. We would like for you to make a list of the things that are getting your attention and focus. Be specific with this list so you can make progress. Then we would like you to eliminate the things that are less important (video games, hobbies, Netflix, relationships that don't help you, etc…). The final step is then to elevate what matters most. Take some time to do this exercise today and to elevate your relationship with God.
Read Exodus 18:13-27 (NLT)
The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening.
When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”
Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”
“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”
Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.
Soon after this, Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, who returned to his own land.
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