Moses Delegates

Scripture: Exodus 18:13-27

Title: Moses Delegates

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • Moses’ blind spot
  • Jethro’s vision
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

There are many things you can do with your time – most of which can be done by someone else

  • So you have ask yourself, ‘What are the things only I can do?’
  • They are probably the things you need to give priority to

 

There were many things Michelangelo could have done with his time

  • He could have been a blacksmith or a monk;
  • He could have studied the law or milked cows – but he didn’t
  • Instead he gave himself to what only he could do
  • Four years it took him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel
  • Three years to sculpt the statue of David

Please turn with me to Exodus chapter 18 – page 79 in your pew Bibles

  • Today we continue our series on Moses through Exodus
  • In chapter 18 Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit and finds that his son-in-law is doing many things – most of which could be done by someone else
  • From Exodus 18, verse 13 we read…

[Read Exodus 18:13-27]

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

In this Scripture we get a rare glimpse of Moses’ blind spot and Jethro’s vision

Moses’ blind spot:

Blind Spot

On the wall here is a diagram showing the blind spots for a driver on the road

  • The red area, either side of the vehicle, reveals those zones the driver can’t see in his rear vision mirror
  • So to be able to change lanes safely the driver needs to look over their shoulder and check their blind spot

 

Blind spots aren’t just something drivers have on the road – we all have them

  • A blind spot is essentially something about ourselves we are not aware of
  • Some personality trait we don’t realise we possess
  • Or some behaviour we do unconsciously
  • Other people can see it clearly enough, but we can’t

It’s interesting isn’t it – that (without a mirror) we can’t see our own faces

  • Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they’ve got something stuck in their teeth and you’re not sure whether to say anything
  • Or maybe they start wiping their nose and that makes you think, ‘Are they trying to subtly tell me I’ve got a bogey hanging out?’
  • So you wipe your nose too, which makes them wipe their nose again and so on, until it gets really awkward
  • Has that ever happened to you? (No – it’s just me then)

Blind spots – things other people can see but you can’t

True story – many years ago when our children were young and I wasn’t getting much sleep, Robyn and I went for a walk on the beach (we were on holiday)

  • I remember pushing the pram along the firm sand for probably the better part of an hour when Robyn pointed out to me that I had some toilet paper hanging out the back of pants (like a tail)
  • I had no idea – I couldn’t see because it was in my blind spot
  • Robyn had no sympathy – she cracked up laughing (if you’ll excuse the pun) and couldn’t look at me without giggling for the rest of the day

When we are young we tend to have a lot of blind spots – we don’t know ourselves all that well

  • But hopefully as we get older and more experienced we learn to look into our blind spots and become more self-aware

Carl Jung describes psychological blind spots as our shadow side – He writes…

“Wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow”

In other words, unless we are prepared to face and accept those parts of ourselves which we are not aware of, and which we perhaps don’t like all that much, we’ll never be whole

Moses was a remarkable leader – a man of incredible character – but even he had his blind spots, his shadow

  • Fortunately he had the humility not to deny his shadow side but to face it

What Moses wasn’t aware of, but what Jethro (and everyone else) could plainly see, was that Moses was doing too much himself

  • Because of his relationship with Yahweh Moses had become the ‘go to’ guy for settling disputes
  • If you want peace you must have justice
  • But in order to have justice you must have wisdom
  • Where does wisdom come from? – It comes from God
  • Moses hears from God better than anyone else – so we’ll go to him

Consequently, what we have in Exodus 18 is a bottleneck

  • Thousands of cases (many trivial, some serious) coming to one person for a resolution
  • It was a recipe for burnout & frustration
  • Burn out for Moses and frustration for the people, who had to stand in the hot sun all day waiting for a hearing with Moses
  • Justice delayed is not justice

Jethro could see the problem and the solution – but Moses couldn’t

This is kind of ironic when you think about it

  • Here we have Moses making enquiries of God to help other people fix their problems, all the time quite blind to his own problem
  • We can understand this though…
  • You can see a car in your rear vision mirror in the distance
  • But when it’s up close beside you, then you can’t see it
  • Moses couldn’t see because he was too close – too involved

The other contributor to Moses’ blind spot was that he was doing good things

  • And when we do good things we are less inclined to question our method
  • Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee we are doing it in the right way
  • Moses was doing the right thing – in the wrong way
  • He couldn’t see the toll his work was taking on him
  • Sometimes our focus on the task at hand conceals from us the expenditure on our reserves and it’s not until we stop and have a day off that we realise just how exhausted we are

Quite apart from the drain on Moses’ personal resources, being sucked into the details and doing things other people could do, prevented Moses from seeing the bigger picture

There are times when leaders need to take a step back and look at the situation from the balcony, rather than the floor

  • Of course, we don’t know what we don’t know
  • If we don’t know we have a problem then we don’t know to stand back and get some perspective – nor do we know to ask for help
  • This is where God’s grace comes in

 

In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul writes…

 

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. [1]

There have been times in my life when all I had was an ache in my heart, which I couldn’t put into words, but which the Holy Spirit felt and understood

  • Then, when I wasn’t expecting it, God did something which answered the ache in my heart and it was better than anything I might have asked for, had I been able to find the language
  • There’s no way I can explain the mystery of this
  • Either you understand it from your own experience or you don’t

Moses didn’t know what to pray for – but God, who searches the human heart, knew the strain Moses was under

  • God also felt the frustration of the people as they waited for justice
  • And so the Lord, in His wonderful grace, sent Jethro to give Moses the perspective he needed

Once Jethro had pointed out the issue, in Moses’ blind spot, Moses was able to see clearly what he needed to do

  • Seeing into his blind spot and accepting the truth it contained actually set Moses free from a whole lot of work he didn’t need to do
  • It also set the people free from waiting around all day

We, in the west, tend to think of freedom as licence to do what whatever we want

  • But this is not freedom as the Bible understands it
  • Biblical freedom comes with spiritual sight – or with knowing the truth
  • As Jesus said, ‘…it is the truth that sets you free’ [2]

It is looking in your blind spot to assess the reality of the situation, before changing lanes, that sets you free from a crash on the motorway

  • It is checking yourself in the mirror before going out in public that sets you free from the embarrassment of stray bogeys and toilet paper tails
  • It is the humility of listening to the truthful observations of wise Jethro’s which sets us free from self-destructive patterns of behaviour

Face your shadow side – look for the truth it contains – there is freedom in it

One of the things that is interesting in this little story from Exodus 18 is that the truth which sets Moses free doesn’t come from within the Israelite community

  • The truth comes from the outside – from Jethro, a Midianite

In contrast to Moses’ blind spot we have Jethro’s vision

Jethro’s vision:

There are two aspects to Jethro’s vision in Exodus 18

  • Jethro has the insight to see the root of the problem
  • And he has the foresight to imagine a different future

Moses is carrying the weight of the world (or at least the weight of Israel) on his shoulders and so Jethro asks the question…

  • “Why are you doing this all alone?” (verse 14)

Why indeed?

  • This question is insightful – it cuts to the core of the issue, which is Moses’ isolation – his sense of alienation from his own people
  • Moses is alone in the crowd and it is the pattern of his life

He grew up in a palace while his fellow Israelites lived in a slum

  • When he tried to reconnect with his people and help them he was rejected and ended up spending 40 years in exile
  • Then, as if he doesn’t feel different enough, God calls him to a special task – something no one else has ever done before
  • Moses reluctantly obeys and for all his pains and troubles the people complain against him and accuse him of meaning them harm, even though he has only ever done them good
  • It is little wonder that Moses doesn’t think to ask for help

Leadership is a paradox

  • On the one hand, a leader needs to learn the strength to stand alone
  • And unfortunately you can’t learn that without the experience of being alone & misunderstood
  • At the same time though, a leader also needs to learn to trust other people
  • It seems to me Moses knew how to stand alone – he had that in spades – but he was still learning to trust

Of course, it’s one thing to point out the problem, but unless you can offer a better alternative then it’s usually best to keep your opinions to yourself

Not only did Jethro uncover the core of the problem – Moses’ loneliness

  • He also gave Moses the vision to imagine a better future
  • He gave Moses a plan and a strategy that was sustainable
  • In a word, that strategy was, delegation. Jethro says…

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. Let them serve as judges for the people on a permanent basis. They can bring all their 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.

 

The first thing we observe about Jethro’s vision here is that delegation is not abdication

  • Moses isn’t to appoint just any body
  • The men he appoints must be capable, God fearing and trustworthy

To be God fearing means to be more concerned with what God thinks than with what other people think

  • A God fearing person is not a ‘yes’ person
  • A God fearing person is able to say ‘no’ when it matters
  • They are guided by their conscience more than the praise or blame of others

To be trustworthy in this context means having integrity – not open to bribery

  • The judge must love truth & justice more than money or comfort
  • Being ‘trustworthy’ implies it is a relationship of trust
  • Trust is a sacred thing and should not be abused or misplaced

The point is, Moses shouldn’t just throw his authority away – he should carefully place it in men who have the competence & character to handle it

We also note that Moses is not to delegate all his authority

  • Delegation doesn’t really work when the leader in charge expects everyone else to get stuck in without doing anything themselves
  • The delegates need to know the buck stops with Moses and that Moses will be there to take care of the really difficult cases
  • If Moses abdicated all responsibility and sat back saying – ‘It’s all on you boys’ – then he would lose the respect of his men pretty quickly

Jethro’s plan – his vision of delegation – comes with a number of advantages

 

The first and most obvious advantage is that many hands make light work

At the end of verse 22 Jethro comments to Moses that his plan…

  • …will make it easier for you as they share your burden.
  • The burden is shared in that Moses has less disputes to sort out
  • And it’s also shared in the sense that Moses is less alone
  • Sharing responsibility actually engenders more understanding for the leader

You often find those who are most critical of leaders have never actually been in leadership themselves

  • They are arm chair critics who have never really felt the burden or the isolation of leadership and so they have no empathy
  • But when you have had to carry some responsibility and felt the loneliness of a difficult decision then you have a bit more understanding for your boss

By delegating, Moses was drawing the best out of others

  • Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”
  • One of the things salt does is bring the best out of food
  • Trusting others to do something meaningful (as Moses did) generally brings the best out of them

Conclusion:

There are many things you can do with your time – most of which can be done by someone else

  • So you have ask yourself, ‘What are the things only I can do?’
  • They are probably the things you need to give priority to

No one could have helped Moses to see his blind spot quite like Jethro did

  • The same good advice from one of Moses’ juniors would have been a lot more difficult for Moses to accept
  • But Jethro was a leader in his own right (a priest of Midian) and so he understood Moses’ position
  • He had done his time and earned the right to speak into Moses’ life
  • Fortunately for Moses (and for Israel) Jethro used his vision to help Moses find a sustainable way forward
  • Imagine if Jethro had held his tongue
  • Moses and Israel would have suffered for it

 

No one could hear from God quite like Moses could – he seemed to have a direct line of communication with the Lord

  • Fortunately for Israel (and for us) Moses gave himself to listening to God’s word and communicating this to the people
  • But that didn’t mean he had to settle every dispute
  • There were others capable of handling the smaller more routine matters
  • Imagine if Moses hadn’t taken Jethro’s advice
  • What a waste that would have been

No one could save the world like Jesus did

  • Fortunately for us Jesus gave Himself on the cross for our salvation
  • Imagine if he had remained in Nazareth working as a carpenter his whole life
  • There would be some nice houses there I guess, but we would be without hope

Now at this point you might be thinking that’s all well & good but what can I do that no one else can?

  • I’m not Michelangelo, I’m not Moses, I’m not Jethro and I’m certainly not Jesus
  • Well, each of us is unique and none of us are fully aware of how God will use us
  • Quite often our potential is hidden in our blind spot
  • God sees though and He will use us for His good purpose – even if we aren’t aware

[1] Romans 8:26-27

[2] John 8:32

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