After watching Moses sit alone and judge as the people stood around Jethro said, “What you are doing is not good.” Jethro was impressed by all God had accomplished through his son-in-law. The report he heard was very good. Now for the first time, he says, “Now, this is not good.”
In Exodus 18:18 he continued, “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.” Moses was no spring chicken. He was in the final third of his life at 80 years of age. He still had much to do, like write the Torah, build the Tabernacle, and lead the people to Canaan. But here he was sitting alone, settling disputes all day, like a parent correcting rowdy kids in the back of the station wagon. Moses was working in what has been called the “drudgery zone,” those activities that drain our energy and yield meager results.
Let’s pause for a moment. The work God has for you is too great to do alone. God was already preparing Moses for this realization. Just before Jethro’s visit, the Amalekites attacked Israel from behind. Moses went up on a nearby mountain while Joshua fought below. As long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites prevailed, but whenever he lowered them, the Amalekites got the upper hand. As the day wore on, the Bible says in Exodus 17:12, “Moses’ hands grew tired…” The Hebrew word for “grew tired” is kabad, and it means heavy, grievous, severe, and sorrowful. It is the same word used in Exodus 18:18 when Jethro said, “the work is too heavy (kabad) for you.” But as his hands began to tremble and fall, Aaron and Hur were there to help. They slid a stone for him to sit on, and held his hands up, one on each side, until the battle was won. Moses could pray down a victory but had physical limitations and needed help from others.
Jethro said to Moses, “If you try to do it alone, you will wear yourself out.” Ever felt wore out? If you try and do it alone, you’ll either burn out or hang on until the bitter end, like a shriveled leaf on a barren tree in the middle of winter. You’ll end up droopy, saggy, and sad. No one wants to follow a droopy, sad leader, no matter how devoted and devout they are.
Here’s the danger. The “helpers high” you once craved will no longer stimulate or soothe. So, like a drug addict grows tired of dope, you’ll start looking for a higher high. Instead of reaching out for help, most begin to hide, ashamed, and feeling like a failure. Alone, tempted, and discouraged, the leader then falls into the snare of temptation. In the end, everything they worked and sacrificed for comes tumbling down like a house of cards.
Notice the words of Psalm 39:4-5, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.” In the ancient world, a handbreadth was a measure of four fingers, about 3 to 4 inches long. Ever amazed at how fast your life moves? As we age, the quicker our days dash by. Let’s not burn the candle at both ends. If you do, you’re not as bright as you think.
To make the most of our race, let’s realize we can’t do it alone. Don’t wear yourself out. Take time to fill the tank. As we lead others, we must rediscover and invest in those activities that bring joy and renewal. So, ask yourself this important question, “What do I enjoy doing?”