Humble Leadership

Text: Exodus 18

When you think of strong leaders in the Bible, Moses is right at the top. But Moses was not independent. He needed help. In Exodus 17, he needed help keeping his arms raised so Israel could win the battle against the Amalekites. Here in ch. 18, he will need help leading Israel effectively.

Moses is now about to be visited by his father-in-law, Jethro. And in this meeting, God will teach them, and teach us, some valuable lessons about leadership that are worth our attention.


Living in nearby Midian, Jethro has no doubt heard from traders and nomads all the stories of Israel’s struggles and the amazing miracles their God has performed in protecting and providing for His people. So, Jethro has come to see for himself all that he has heard about.

The Bible says that Moses told Jethro about “all the hardship that had come upon them”. They had endured hardships in slavery, a pursuing army of Egyptians, traveling through the desert with no water (two different times), no food, and fighting off a surprise attack from Amalekites.

But in recounting all the trials and difficulty, Moses also told Jethro “how the Lord had delivered them”, how God set them free, protected them, provided for them, every step of the way. Scripture says upon hearing all this, “Jethro was delighted for all the good things that the Lord had done for Israel.”

As Moses and Jethro praise God together, something significant happens. Jethro says, “Now I know” that Yahweh is greater than all other gods. It seems that Jethro is coming to faith in God for the first time. Although he is called a “priest” of Midian, that does not mean a priest of the One True God. But here, Jethro clearly acknowledges Yahweh as God, over all the false gods of Egypt, the God who has proven his power by defeating Egypt, the strongest army on the planet at the time, and providing for the Hebrews in such a clear, undeniable way.

In Moses sharing his testimony, he didn’t brag about his leadership skills to Jethro. Moses humbly told Jethro what an amazing God he serves. And Jethro placed his faith in God.

When we share our testimony, whether it’s how Jesus saved us, or a particular trial we’ve faced, we can be tempted to sanitize it, to clean it up, downplay our struggle, our temptations, our doubts and fears. But remember this: the point of your testimony is not to make you look good, but to make Jesus look good, to tell the truth of how merciful and faithful and good He is, even in the midst of our fears and failures. To give Him the glory. That’s the kind of testimony that God uses, one where we are not the hero of the story – but Jesus is.


God used Moses to lead Jethro to faith. Now, God is going to use Jethro to make Moses a better leader.

All day long, from morning till night, Moses would sit and hear disputes from the people. With a fresh pair of eyes, Jethro sees the situation and basically says, “Moses, this isn’t good. You can’t do this alone. You are a mediator between God and man. But you can’t function in that role if you’re bogged down all day hearing disputes as the only judge for two million people. Instead of trying to do it alone, delegate. Share the load. Ask for help. Appoint other leaders.”

Jethro advised Moses to choose men based on their character and their competency, not their lineage. Men who are able to lead, who fear God, men who are trustworthy and honest. And in great humility, (and probably great relief), Moses agreed and appointed leaders to help.

It is the death of an organization when it depends on just one person. When one person tries to do it all, it will either inflate a man’s ego, or it will crush his soul. Unshared burdens destroy people, but responsibilities that are shared cause burdens to be lighter, it increases a sense of purpose and unity, and gives opportunity for different gifts and different people to contribute.

We lead well by serving well. And it’s Jesus who gave us the perfect example of servant leadership, who washed His disciples’ feet, who even laid down His life to save ours, fulfilling His mission as one “who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Moses served as God’s mediator to the people. But we have Better Mediator in Jesus, the one who came from heaven, secured salvation for God’s people, and then returned to heaven, where He intercedes for us continually.

As we humbly serve one another, we reflect our Savior, and bring Him glory. May He continue to give us the grace to humble ourselves before Him and before one another until He returns, and each of us hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

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