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Lessons for Life From the Old Testament-Jethro

Updated on June 9, 2020
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.

Even today the Old Testament has many great lessons

Lessons for life from Old Testament Characters - Jethro

In the 18th chapter of Exodus, an interesting event in the life of Moses is recorded that teaches us some interesting lessons for today. The setting is a father in law, Jethro, who comes to visit his son in law, Moses. As he looks around at the situation he sees something that is happening that is good but also not wise. Just recently, Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya, made the statement that in the present Covid 19 virus crisis, he is caught between two “rights”. On the one hand he needs to protect his people from the deadly virus and on the other hand he needs to get the economy running in Kenya. Both are right and like leaders in the world at all levels, he is caught on the horns of this dilemma. Which way to go? What is better at the present moment?

As Jethro sees Moses, his son in law, working from early morning to late at night judging the issues brought to him by the people, the old man realizes that what Moses is doing is right, but at the same time is not good, because it can be improved. So he approaches Moses as recorded in Exodus 18:17 he says : “The thing that you do is not good” (NKJV). Imagine the surprise in Moses’ mind: “what do you mean Jethro; I am working my fingers to the bone serving the Lord and you say it is not good?” Here was the leader of the exodus with all the experience that he had accumulated over the years doing such an important job. How could it not be good?

Fortunately Moses respected his father in law’s opinion and listened to what he had to say. Sometimes a situation can be understood better by someone not caught in the middle of it. So Jethro gives Moses some advice: Instead of trying to do it all be yourself, train others to assist you in the task. Moses heeds the advice and this enables him to do his job better and also empowers many others to become effective leaders in the community. The text tells us “That Moses heeded the voice of his father in law and did everything he suggested” (vs. 24).

Some important lessons to learn from this example:

  1. Listen to advice! In the present crisis in our world, it seems that those leaders who listened to the advice from the health experts available and acted wisely did well. This did much to stop the calamity that developed in many other countries. Some of the leaders believed that they knew better and the consequences have been terrible. It is never easy to really listen to advice if you have an “I know it all” attitude. Deep in the human heart is the belief that I know better!
  2. Respect the advice of those with experience! Sometimes we need the enthusiasm and courage of youth to stand up against that which is wrong and entrenched in society. At the same time experience brings wisdom and balance. Moses was a great leader, but Jethro saw the situation more clearly and identified opportunities to improve it. When Solomon died his son Rehoboam made a fatal decision. After ignoring the good advice of the elders in Israel, he listened to the advice of his youthful friends as recorded in 1 Kings 12:1-16. This lead to the breaking up of the nation of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms.
  3. Delegation is an important way of empowering people. Any leader in society who tries to do it all on their own is asking for trouble. In the family, parents who don’t allow their children to accept responsibility for their actions from the very beginning are promoting an attitude of dependence. In business, government and education, training must be seen as a priority at all levels. The lack of training in police departments has been brutally exposed in recent times in many countries, where instead of helping people, high handed force has led to much harm.
  4. The harm of burn out. There are examples around every corner of preachers, teachers, politicians, doctors and business people, to mention just a few, who have neglected the really important things in their lives like their own families, children and marriages because of the pressure that they often imposed on themselves. After Moses had delegated the judging responsibility to a team, I imagine he had some time to visit with his father in law and even his wife and children.

In the beautiful example of Moses and Jethro, as recorded in Exodus 18, human wisdom and a sincere attitude to act in the best interests of everyone concerned led to a good outcome. For those who think they know everything and don’t need help or advice, it would be well to remember that in society it is always good to listen carefully to the voices that may be speaking to us. Putting aside our high and mighty, “know it all” attitudes can often bring good results at many different levels.

Bible Reference

  1. NKJV Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      3 weeks ago from East London, South Africa

      Thank you for your comments and obvious common sense! Not all seem to be prepared to think things through.

    • Miebakagh57 profile image

      Miebakagh Fiberesima 

      3 weeks ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

      Johan, thanks for sharing. During the pandemic, I mostly rely on the WHO, CDC and Prevention and lastly on doctors in that order. This is because doctors are not virilogists or epidemiologists. The findings of these later professionals were transmited first to the central bodies before doctors treat the findings. Do we get the "alert" message from a doctor? No. Good that Moses heed th advice of Jethro. But he did not delegate all and became carefree. Many thanks again, and enjoy the week.


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