Having put his finger on the issue, Moses was all ears. Jethro proceeded to clarify the tasks needing Moses’ full attention. It wasn’t a complicated job description. Just three areas to focus on. He said in Exodus 18:19, “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.”
First, you must have a strong prayer life. Moses’ number one job was to pray and intercede for the people. Caught up running things and putting out fires, we can overlook our most important ministry of prayer. To find the energy for the work ahead, even Jesus got up early to spend time with his Father. Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Instead of shouldering the burdens of the people alone, we must cast our cares on the one who cares for us. Let’s never forget, the greatest appointment on the calendar each day is with God in prayer. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, once wrote, “Do not have your concert first and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” May we always remember the words of Jethro, “…You cannot handle it alone.”
Second, you must be faithful to teach. Jethro continued in Exodus 18:20, “Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.” In the Hebrew, the word for “teach” is zahar and it also means shine, or be a light. We find it used in Daniel 12:3, “Those who are wise will shine (zahar) like the brightness of the heavens…”
Have you ever wondered what makes the stars shine? They are giant balls of burning plasma. The star’s gravity pulls everything inward, creating pressure and tremendous heat in the core, hot enough to create a nuclear reaction. These atomic explosions release energetic beams of light in the form of gamma rays that travel light years into our atmosphere. When we see a star, the light in our eyes has been moving for a long time, in some cases several years. These powerful beams, drive out the darkness and help us see at night. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” I love small groups, where community and connection happen as people open up and share. It’s indispensable to our spiritual growth. However, let’s remember the primacy of teaching and preaching. When God’s Word is taught, shafts of light illuminate the darkness, providing energy, direction, and hope.
Instead of dealing with every issue, Israel needed Moses to lay out God’s principles for living. Remember, the apostles of the early church felt the tug to divert their attention from prayer and study of Scripture. But they said in Act 6:4, “…we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” The Greek for “give our attention” is proskartereo, and it means to continue to do something with intense effort, even in the face of difficulty.
Moses had the natural bent for the first two assignments. But there was one other essential responsibility for the congregation to flourish.