Some people teach that Moses made a mistake when he listened to his father-in-law, Jethro, as he told Moses to set human leaders over the people of Israel. I find no evidence in the Bible, that this was an error! As a matter of fact, it was the beginning of a similar style of leadership to that which was given in the New Testament, in order to govern the Church. A group of Elders to govern each local body with Christ as the Head.
Establishing Leaders – SERMON AUDIO
As Israel moved away from their existence as slaves in Egypt to that of a sovereign nation, things had to change. Once their freedom was brought about, the next thing that changed was their leadership structure.
Exodus 18:8-14 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the LORD had delivered them. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”
Moses had all of the responsibility on himself and he was wearing himself out! Miracles were the driving force behind their freedom, but they would not suffice to govern them from day to day. Israel was along for the ride, from the first plague until they arrived on the other side of the Red Sea. Now, in chapter 17, for the first time, Instead of saying “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13) we read, ” And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” (Exodus 17:9)
God is moving from the “extraordinary” government of His people to the “ordinary” government of His people. He is moving from one man with miraculous power to a group of men with Divine wisdom.
Exodus 18:19-23 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”
This seems to be God’s Method of Operation as we see it given similarly in the New Testament in regard to the Church.
God began with Jesus and His Apostles and Miraculous Gifts;
Hebrews 2:2-4 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Once the Church was established, the office of Apostle was not available to the rest of the Church. An encounter with the Risen Christ was essential to that calling. (1 Corinthians 9:1) From that point on, as the Apostle Paul established churches throughout the regions of Asia Minor and on into Europe, he established, in each one, a group of qualified men to govern according to God’s word.
Titus 1:5-7 ” For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you– 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money….”
In the New Testament the word “elders” is always plural when it is used in relationship to local churches. A group of godly men, instructed in the statutes and doctrines of the Word of God, with authority to teach and to judge in unison, not as individuals. This is the way that God has ordained that His flock be shepherded. Does this describe your local assembly?
Here are several good resources on understanding the biblical office and role of the Elder / Pastor
Biblical Eldership, by Alexander Strauch
By Whose Authority, by Mark Dever
Who Should Run the Church? by Daniel B. Wallace
In addition, don’t forget to listen to the audio of the sermon on Exodus 18 by clicking on the link below!
Establishing Leaders – SERMON AUDIO