What does it say?
We can’t possibly imagine the hardship of desert life with a multitude (Exo 16). Rather than remember and celebrate God’s promises and provision, people begin to complain (as we would) and establish the bad habit of murmuring. God responds by providing manna, a supernaturally produced bread-like substance that will be their dietary staple for the next 40 years.
This time (Exo 17) the complaint is lack of water. God provides water from a rock. The tribe of Amalek (from Esau’s Hittite wife Adah) is the first enemy that Israel will fight on a military level. Moses holds his staff Heavenward in prayerful symbol of God’s power as Joshua leads the troops into battle.
The leadership burden for so many people (over 2 million by some estimates) is overwhelming (Exo 18). Moses’ wise father-in-law visits and recognizes that Moses will soon reach meltdown. He suggests an organizational structure that allows for delegated leadership.
What does it mean?
God again puts down commemorative markers – a permanent pot of manna and a book and an altar to remember the battle. God’s immature people cannot stop complaining. They have allowed themselves to become negatively focused. Not only does this stunt their spiritual growth, it will ultimately keep an entire generation from entering the land of promise. They still don’t comprehend the mission, and focus primarily on their personal needs.
God uses key individuals like Abraham, Joseph and Moses. But no mission depends only upon one person. Jethro’s wisdom about delegated authority and responsibility is just as applicable to our lives today.
How will I respond?
How have I used my words this week? Do I spend more time whining and complaining or encouraging and building up? Is the focus of my life primarily positive or negative? No one can answer those questions except me, but it is always healthy to have safe people in my life that can give me a loving and objective view from outside of myself. What can I do today to be less a complainer and more an encourager?
Seeing Jethro’s advice to Moses makes irrelevant whether a church is big or small. No one person, leader or pastor is sufficient for any assembly of people. Small groups (cell units) are key to any movement of people, and they are where we learn to love well. This equips us to fulfill the Great Commission, as we love God, our neighbor and the world. Do I have some sort of edifying small group? I can resolve today to find my small place in God’s big mission.