Summary: Do you need help? We rarely like to think that we do. How did Moses respond when someone said that he looked like he needed some help. Moses’ example is a great reminder of the help that God provides for us in those whom God has placed around us in our church to carry out the ministry together.
“Do you need some help?” When someone asks you that question, what is your natural reaction? I think that our natural response might be a bit defensive, “No. I’ve got it. I’m fine” whether we really are or not. Why is that? There is a little part of us that doesn’t want to admit that we need help. We don’t need to ask for directions, we don’t need help with our parenting, we don’t need help preparing that holiday meal. We’d like to think that we can handle it ourselves, that we’ll figure it out. But sometimes, that point comes, when you finally realized that you are completely overwhelmed and it’s no longer a QUESTION, “Do you need help?” but it’s the declaration, “You need help!”
Moses found himself at that point. Moses, one of, if not, THE greatest leader of the nation of Israel, had his father-in-law Jethro, come to him and say, “Moses, you need some help.” And Jethro was absolutely correct. Moses had to be exhausted. Over the last year, Moses had returned to Egypt, the country in which he had grown up with a God-given mission. Lead God’s chosen people Israel out of Egypt to the land promised to them by God. However, the Pharaoh of Egypt was not so eager to simply allow his free slave labor to leave and so God sent 10 plagues upon the Egyptians and their land. After that final plague, Moses led the millions of Israelites out of Egypt. But quickly Pharaoh changed his mind and sent the mighty Egyptian army after the Israelites. God opened up the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to pass through on dry ground, but when the Egyptian army pursued, the walls of water came crashing down, crushing one of the greatest militaries in ancient history. The Israelite’s gratefulness to God and his representative Moses was short-lived. They relentlessly complained to Moses about food and fresh water which God miraculously addressed. Most recently, the Israelites had found themselves under attack by a people called the Amalekites. Again the Lord gave decisive victory to the Israelites. While it must have been amazing to be in Moses’ shoes, leading God’s people, it was also exhausting and Moses’ father-in-law Jethro could see that Moses was being overwhelmed and needed help.
Jethro had gone to Moses to bring back to him his wife and two sons who had been staying with Jethro while Moses went to Egypt. Jethro watched as Moses listened to the Israelites and provided Godly guidance and instruction. Remember, we’re talking about a nation of millions of people who Moses was leading. Jethro looked at Moses and said, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear you out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:18). In other words, “Moses you need help.” Did you notice Moses’ reaction? Moses does NOT say to Jethro, “Who do you think you are?” or, “Are you trying to say that I’m not doing a good job?” There is none of that. Moses respects the wisdom, the insight, the experience of his father-in-law and humbly listens to Jethro’s solution. Jethro says, “Select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you” (Exodus 18:21,22). Jethro reminded Moses that God had given him people to help him, to share this ministry, this serving of God’s people.
Did you notice what the first qualification for someone helping Moses in one of these leadership positions needed to be? “men who fear God.” That relationship with God through faith was absolutely critical for those were going to provide faithfully lead God’s people today. And the same is true today. Those who are going to be serving God’s people, providing Godly leadership and guidance, need to have an active and growing relationship with their Savior-God. How does that happen? God tells us. Forty years after this account in Exodus 18, Moses would remind the people just before his death about the importance of God’s Word recorded in the Bible. He would say to them, “They are not just idle words for you-- they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). One of Jesus’ disciples Peter would echo that thought when he said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). That living relationship with our Savior God is created and fostered through what we call the Means of Grace – the Word of God, Baptism and Holy Communion. That’s one of the reasons that we changed our By-laws this past year to clarify that those serving in leadership positions need to be regularly attending worship and group Bible study. How can a person provide Christian leadership if they are not regularly being led by Christ in Word and Sacrament?