Moses’ Great Mistake
“So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.” (Exodus 18:24)
The Lord God of Israel made his servant Moses the judge and pastor, the leader and the teacher of a congregation of more than 4,000,000 people. The work with which the Lord God had trusted Moses was a great, demanding work, involving the highest honor any man can have upon the earth. Moses was God’s spokesman to his people (Exodus 18:15-16; Ephesians 3:8). It was a work for which the Lord had graciously equipped his servant.
But when his father-in-law, Jethro, saw what Moses was doing, he said, “The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone…Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel…Appoint judges to help you…God will be with you…So shall it be easier for thyself…They shall bear the burden with thee…Thou shalt be able to endure” (Exodus 18:17-23).
Jethro’s counsel probably arose from loving concern for Moses’ health. It was, in a fleshly sense, wise and prudent counsel. But Moses did wrong in obeying Jethro’s counsel. He made a great mistake, from which there was no recovery. That will be obvious to anyone who reads in Numbers 10 and 11 what happed after “Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law.”
Remember, Jethro was an unbeliever, a heathen priest. He had no spiritual discernment. The servant of God must never allow himself to be guided by natural principles. He must not confer with flesh and blood (Galatians 1:15). He must not ask himself, “What is best for me? — What is best for my family? — What would family and friends have me to do?” That man who is engaged in the service of God must never heed the counsel of carnal wisdom. He must take his orders only from his Master. — “Whatsoever he saith unto you, Do it!” (John 2:5).
If we would obey our God, if we would serve him in any area of life, our actions must be determined only by the Word of God, the will of God and the glory of God.
A Great Burden
That which had been Moses’ highest honor and greatest privilege became a great burden to him once he began to consider himself.
A newborn baby in a young family is a great, inexpressible delight to a loving mother. The cries of the child do not annoy her. The dirty diapers are not repulsive to her. The aching breasts do not make her resentful. But let that mother begin to think of herself and all that the child is costing her, and that newborn child may be in grave danger at its mother’s own hands. So it was with Moses. When he began to consider himself rather than the will of God, the glory of God and the people of God, he began to look upon his service as a great burden and greatly resented it (Number 11:11-15).
Moses was willing to relinquish the work and the post of high honor to which God had called him. True, his responsibility was immense. He should have said to himself and to Jethro, “God’s grace is sufficient.” Instead, Moses’ heart failed him. He sighed, “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (Numbers 11:14). God never called him to bear the burden of his people alone. And God had never left him alone. Moses was only the instrument by which God worked. It was the Lord God who carried the load, and performed the work.
Moses’ relinquishing of his burden had the appearance of humility; but it was only an appearance of humility. With his lips, he said, “I am not sufficient.” But he was really saying, “Lord, you are not sufficient!” Let no man thrust himself into any work. But to shrink from any work or responsibility God has put upon us is both cowardice and unbelief. — “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” — No work is too great. — No burden is too heavy for God!
Someone once said, “With him the weight of a mountain is nothing; without Him, the weight of a feather is overwhelming.” The Apostle Paul asserted, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). That is the proper attitude. Any place where God puts me is a place of honor. Any work God puts in my hands is honorable work (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
It is never an act of humility or faith to depart from any divinely appointed post, or any divinely appointed work for any reason. Difficulties are nothing to God. He who divided the Red Sea can open the way before you. Needs are nothing to God. He who owns all the deep mines of the earth can supply our needs. Our inabilities are nothing to God. — “When I am weak, then am I strong!” God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. He can conquer a nation by an old man. And he can speak to the hearts of sinners by a stuttering, stammering tongue. God can speak as easily by a jackass as by a man. The power by which we do his work is not ours, but his!
The Burden Removed
When Moses complained of the burden God had imposed upon him, the Lord quickly took it away (Numbers 11:16-17). God will never force us to serve him. If I don’t want to speak for him, he can raise up stones to do so. If I don’t want to wash and kiss the Master’s feet, somebody will. If I don’t want to break my alabaster box of ointment and anoint him, somebody will. If I don’t want to be bothered by serving Christ, he will not force me to do so. He doesn’t need me; and he doesn’t need you!
If the honor and privilege God has given us in his service becomes a burden to us, and we want to lay it down, he will let us. We can step down from the place of dignity if we want to, and sink into the place where base unbelief is sure to put us. Thus God took the burden away! And when the Lord relieved Moses of his burden, he also relieved him of his honor, the blessing of the burden, and Moses withered (Numbers 11:21-23).
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