Leadership Lessons (Exodus 18)

note: no audio

A young daughter brings home her fiancé to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man. The father invites the fiancé to his study for a chat.
– Father to future son inlaw: “So what are your plans?”
– Fiancé: “I am a college student.”
– Father: “A college student. Well, that’s admirable, but where will you live, what will you eat and how will you afford to provide for yourself and my daughter?”
– Fiancé: “I will study hard and God will provide for us.”
– Father: “And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?”
– Fiancé: “I will read books, go to class, listen to my professors and pass all my tests. God will provide for us.”
– Father: “When will you start a family and how will you care for future children?”
– Fiancé: “Don’t worry, sir, God will provide.”
– Father: “Do you have any money, a savings account or credit card?”
– Fiancé: “My school is my job and God will provide.”

Each time the father questions, the young idealist fiancé insists that God will provide.
– Later, Mother asks, “How did it go, Honey?”
– Father answers, “He has no job and no plans, but the good news is he thinks I’m God.”

Today’s message is about a wise father inlaw. He certainly is not God but his advice is golden.
Proverbs 15:22 “Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Proverbs 19:20 “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Proverbs 27:9 “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.”

The book of Exodus is the story of the Christian life. We are under bondage and slavery to sin (Exodus 1-2). We need a Savior and God is the Person and promise of salvation (Exodus 3-5). God rescues us from the dark forces of the enemy and the deep waters of death, by grace through faith in His provision of a Passover Lamb (Exodus 6-12). And this salvation is not the end but just the beginning. Like the Israelites, we are traveling through the wilderness of life (Exodus 13). We must learn to worship God (Exodus 15). Rather than complaining, we must learn to have confidence in God to provide our daily needs of bread and water (Exodus 16-17). We must learn to pray with lifted hands and the support of others, like Moses, Aaron and Hur, as we wage war against evil (Exodus 17:8-16).

Moses was an unlikely participant for the uncommon purposes of God. He was not the typical leader being a man of uncertainty and tentativeness with a speech impediment. And yet, God strengthened his every weakness to cultivate leadership abilities in Moses beyond his capability. It is often the case that God does not call the equipped but He equips the called. Even today, God is looking for the humble and hungry of heart rather than the self-talented and self-important.

“God [chooses] what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV)

“Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, 28 chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? (1Corinthians 1:27-29 The Message)

“If you’re not hungry for God then you’re full of yourself” (Mark Batterson).

And so, we have Moses – an imperfect leader doing what God has called and equipped him to do. In Exodus 18 we see Moses re-unite with his father inlaw, Jethro, who gives advice to Moses of which we can glean insight into some helpful leadership lessons in God’s kingdom for us today.

In God’s kingdom, partnership produces joy (18:1-12).
Moses has not seen Jethro for over a year, before his return to Egypt and pronouncements to Pharaoh. In leading the Israelites, it is likely that he had not seen his wife (Zipporah) & children (Gershom / sojourner & Eliezer / God’s deliverance) for a few months. Their reunion is meaningful. Moses goes out of his way to show respect and love for Jethro by going out to meet him rather than waiting inside his tent. It is likely that Moses was anxious to share the good news of God’s work and saving grace. Upon sharing the good news Jethro rejoiced and said, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods”, then offered a sacrifice to the Lord and [as a good Baptist!] then fellowshipped eating food with Moses & Aaron.

 As a Christian, do you go out of your way to tell others the gospel or do you remain silent?
 As a church, do we go above the norm the welcome & greet newcomers?
(SPBC, the sermon starts in the street, the parking lot, at the doorway and then in our service!)

Moses was likely stressed from his leadership role. The previous chapters show Moses weary from the complaints and criticism. He was weary from lifting his hands and needing the support of Aaron & Hur to lead the people in battle. He was likely worn out and needed the joy of seeing his family. Moses had a special partnership with Moses – he worked for him for 40years along with being a son inlaw.

Partnership produces joy
– In families
o Husbands & wives: If asked privately, would you agree you’re on the same team?
 Prioritize Together. Illus of 2 items – a ball & an egg; which one will bounce back? Stop bouncing the wrong priorities!
– In churches
o Ministries: Would you say you have the full support of every member?
There were four church members named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Every member has a gift and role to serve in God’s kingdom.
 1 Corinthians 12:7, 12 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.”
 Philippians 1:5 [I thank God and pray with joy] because of your partnership in the gospel”

In God’s kingdom, problems are possibilities (18:13-20)
Moses continued in his leadership working day and night to help the people. Moses understood God’s laws and was best suited to make judgments upon the moral issues and public affairs. The problem was that Moses was the only person among a large, growing nation.

As Jethro observed and evaluated the challenge before Moses he asked 2 questions:
1) What are you doing?
2) Why are you doing it alone? … You cannot do it alone.

Notice Jethro did not focus on the problem but instead shifted focus to a solution. The major challenge to people, groups and even organizations today is having people not just as problem identifiers but as problem solvers; seeing possibilities over problems, opportunities over obstacles.

Look back just a few chapters for the high point of Moses’ leadership
14:31 “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

Leaders will always have challenges and confrontations, trials and tests. Here are a few prices of leadership that I have personally experienced and observed. Note, for some of you this may not relate but for many others there are lessons to be learned in the way you lead in your business, church and family.

 Problems always present; see the possibilities

If we did not have problems we would not see potential.
If there were no pressure or pain we would not have ability to feel anything.
If we did not have stress we would not understand strength.
If we did not have darkness we would miss seeing the stars.
If we did not have dark nights there would be no sunrise.
If there were no clouds there would be no silver lining.
If there were no storm there would not be a rainbow.
If there was no rain there would be no flowers or food.
If there were no crushing of flowers we would miss the aroma of perfume.
If there were no threshing we would not have wheat.
If the oyster was not irritated there would be no pearls.
If there were no cellars there would be no where to keep the good wine.
If the artist did not chisel the stone there would not be a masterpiece.
If there no trials we would not have the hope of joy.
If the Savior did not experience suffering we would not have one like us providing hope, salvation and life.

 Are you merely a problem identifier or able to be a problem solver?
 As you identify problems, is your criticism constructive?
o Remember face to face, no rumors or gossip (Matthew 18:15-20)
o Remember compassion for people over problems (Ephesians 4:2, 25, 31)
o Remember criticism should be constructive (Ephesians 4:15, 29)
 In receiving criticism, turn critics into coaches; lay a foundation with the bricks thrown.

In God’s kingdom, busyness is not fruitfulness (18:15-23).
Moses needed others to help him in his role but he had to understand priorities. His primary calling was to lead the people to know and worship the true God. However, Moses was caught up in busyness and overwhelmed with all the tasks it took to lead a nation. In short, many smaller tasks crowed out the greater and more important calling in Moses’ life. Indeed, Moses was busy but he was not productive. He needed to learn the art of delegating to other leaders in effort to fulfill the primary role of listening to God and leading God’s people.

Delegation does not have to be dirty. The key to delegation is not to dump but truly develop and deploy others into the tasks at hand. When leaders to assume they can accomplish their tasks alone they are taking on the role of God. Put simply, this is a pride issue. When leaders operate in isolation without meaningfully involving and developing others there is sure to be some hidden issues of pride or arrogance. Leaders must come to grips that they can do more with others than alone. In fact, people are more affirming and respectful of leaders who develop than leaders who remain independent. When leaders are not developing others then people are dissatisfied and the vision is diminished. Leaders must learn to define, develop and deploy other leaders into service.

Moses selected qualified leaders (18:21): able men, fear God, trustworthy and hate bribery
Exodus 18:23 “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.”

2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

• What areas of your life are busy but unproductive? What/How will you prune these areas in effort to be of better service to God and others?

In God’s kingdom listen to the Father (18:24)
Moses listened to the voice of his father inlaw. He was able to share the leadership roles and serve more people. He equipped and empowered the people to fulfill the laws of God.

Likewise, Jesus listened to His Father.
John 5:19-20 “Jesus said, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him and all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.”

Today, the ear of the servant must ring with the voice of the Savior

Isaiah 66:2 “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened [to me].”

God listens to the one who does His will (John 8:31)

 God is a true and faithful leader. We must listen to His voice.


 SPBC leadership seeks partnership for a community of faith fulfilling the vision of growing godly generations, with each member serving in their gifting and capacity with the wisdom and instruction from God’s Word.
o If you are not in the community of faith, there is an enemy pursuing you and death awaits… you must turn & trust the Lord for rescue and follow His ways.
o If you are already in the community of faith, how are you sharing the burden with your leadership?


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