The seasons of life can ebb and flow. Sometimes, life’s waters are smooth and calming. Other times, when we’re buried in diapers or deadlines, we may feel like we are smashing up against the rocks. Are your responsibilities crashing over you like rough sea waves, while you strive to keep your head above water? Do you wonder if you are failing, or meant to do any of the things God has called you to? In these choppy tides, we need a life-speaking friend.
We naturally look for mentors: teachers who correct our grammar and help us to think critically; colleagues who point out the fastest printer and the slowest elevator; family members who teach us love, money management, and grace. We crave connection and our hearts long for a voice of comfort. We all need wise and compassionate companions to speak into our chaos. We pray for people to be placed in our lives who would point us to God, His will, and the ultimate pursuit of His glory. To be human is to need help. Even Moses—who parted seas yet was drowning in his responsibilities—needed this!
Here is the scene. Moses had led God’s people out of Egypt and they were all camped in the desert. Jethro, Moses’ father-in law, had heard all that God had done through Moses and planned to escort Moses’ family—his wife and sons—to the encampment. Upon his arrival, Moses greeted Jethro with joy and shared with him the awe and wonder of how the Lord had set the Israelites free. Jethro rejoices and worships The Lord with a burnt offering and a sacrifice. He celebrates with Moses and lifts his voice in praise as a response to the victory won.
Jethro praised God and worshipped Him with Moses and the elders. There’s a principle here: there is great joy in celebrating what God is doing in the lives of His children through praise and unified worship. When our friends are experiencing God’s movement in their lives, we get to cheer loudly and with abandon! Take time to celebrate.
As the passage continues, we read that Jethro observed Moses. He looked on as Moses sat among the people, judging civic disputes “from morning until evening” (Exodus 18:13). Jethro asked, “What is it that you are doing for the people?” and listened as Moses explained that he must help settle disputes and reveal the will of God. After asking questions to understand, and listening, Jethro gave a response. He says “ What you are doing is not good”(emphasis added).
At this point, Moses might have been caught off guard. He had just parted the Red Sea and led the people of Israel out of Egypt. He was doing his best to meet the needs of the people. Moses could have been offended by the statement “what you are doing is not good!” Frankly, some of us would be, too. But instead, Moses eagerly awaited his father- in-law’s solution. In Exodus 18:19, Jethro says, “Now obey my voice, I will give you advice.” Can you just imagine Moses leaning in intently? He wants to hear his friend. He trusts Jethro and knows that his advice is coming from a place of love; love for Moses and a deep love for the Lord. Jethro holds no judgement, no condemnation, and no desire to see Moses fail. There is simply compassion and a heart to help.
Moses set such an example of humility and willingness to receive genuinely constructive criticism. When the advisor is trustworthy, we are free to lay down our pride and our tendency to be in control, and instead heed her wise counsel. When anyone offers constructive feedback, our knee-jerk response may be to get defensive or argumentative. Let’s pray that we can discern opportunities to listen to the will of God, even (or especially) when it is through the words of a trusted friend.
When we find ourselves recoiling in response to constructive advice, we can take a moment to search our hearts for pride, and ask ourselves why we feel hurt. It helps to consider the source of the counsel or advice. Are they critiquing your character, or a specific circumstance? What’s their history of advice-giving? Do they have experience evaluating your situation? Is there value to what they said? Take a deep breath and ask God for ears to hear.
Because of Jethro’s sound and timely advice, Moses appointed judges to share the burden of shepherding the people. He was relieved from tirelessly striving to meet needs, and as a result, Moses was refreshed, the people were assisted, and God was glorified.