Why Jethro? The Wisdom of What God Doesn't Say
“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)
“[Jethro said to Moses,] What you are doing is not good… Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you”… So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. (Exodus 18:17, 19, 24)
Have you ever wondered why God, who gave Moses such detailed verbal instructions about things like the construction of the tabernacle and the keeping of the law, never instructed Moses on how he was to perform his role as judge in Israel? Instead he allowed Moses to struggle under an overbearing workload for a while and finally sends Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, to be an organizational consultant.
In Exodus 18, while visiting his famous son-in-law, Jethro observes Moses’s judicial administrative methods and then gives sage advice on delegation. The outcome was a much more effective and efficient way of serving the people.
But why didn’t God just tell Moses that from the beginning? Or why didn’t he just call him to the tent of meeting one day and give him some correction? Why Jethro?
I think one very important reason is that God understands how influential he is. And he does not intend the vast majority of our methods or systems to be considered sacred. So even if he approves of them, he doesn’t endorse them.
There are countless ways to do things depending on our context and technology. But if this counsel had come directly from God’s mouth rather than from Jethro, we likely would still be structuring our churches, denominations, and organizations by thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Exodus 18:21) because it’s God’s endorsed way of organizing people.
God speaks with clarity and preciseness everything that is required to redeem his people and make them holy throughout the generations. He’s clear on every commandment to be obeyed and every promise to be trusted. But regarding secondary or administrative things, he leaves much to our figuring out. He loves to answer our prayers for guidance in these areas, but he almost always answers indirectly. He does not want us to make an idol out of what is only meant to be helpful.
I love the Bible. God is so wise. He is as intentional in what he does not say, as he is in what he does say.
So in our prayers for strategic and administrative wisdom, we should expect God to send us Jethros and not some special revelation.