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Moses and the Leadership of God

Exodus 18 CSB | Caleb Martinez | January 29, 2023

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It’s easy to become overwhelmed with responsibilities, obligations, and tasks. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves living from a place of burnout rather than a place of rest.

This is exactly where Moses finds himself in Exodus 18. After leading his people into freedom, now he has to manage them. But his way of leadership is self-focused, unsustainable, and draining. To get his attention, God calls Moses to lead from a place of faith in him rather than faith in his own capabilities. To lead his people in the new kingdom, Moses must learn to give up control.

In our own lives, we prevent burnout and participate in God’s way of leadership also by giving up control where God invites us, and by committing to contribution in a culture of consumption.


You can take interactive notes here. At the end of the message, you can email the notes to yourself.


I am Sarah Beth Herman, and I help out in the children’s ministry. Today I’m gonna read our scripture, which is Exodus 18, 13 through 18. The next day, Moses sat down to judge the people and they stood around Moses from morning until evening when Moses’ father-in-laws. Saw everything he was doing for them.

He asked, what is this thing you are doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge while all the people stand around you from morning until evening? Moses replied to his father-in-law because the people come to me to inquire of God. Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me and I make a decision between one man and another.

I teach them God’s statutes and. When you, what you are doing is not good. Moses father-in-law said to him, you will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.

Good afternoon everybody. How are we? Good. Go ahead and hold your Bibles open to that passage. We’re gonna work through it and the passages around it. We are in the middle, we’re actually right smack in the middle of Exodus studying the life of Moses. And we’re almost halfway through.

We’re gonna take a break over the next couple weeks. Next week we have what we’re doing, what we’re calling Story Sunday, and so next week’s, actually our last Sunday. Here we’ve been here for over two years now, which is pretty crazy to think about. And so we want to cap it off and end that time by just hearing how God is working in your lives.

We don’t want it to be as much about us. We’re gonna have a family feast, so we’re gonna have food catered. It’s gonna be a shorter service. I don’t think there’s gonna be a preaching. There might be a homily or two. I don’t know if you know what that is. That’s like a joke. Here gets it. But we want to hear stories and so we’re still taking applications.

If you feel like you have a story of some way that God’s been working in your life over the past couple of weeks months or even years since we’ve been here we would love to have you just come up here and share it. There’s a few ways that you can do that. You can. Can share it on your own, read it off of a paper, an iPad or something.

We could do an interview style where either me or Trey will ask you questions to guide that along the way. Or you can have someone else read it for you. And so I know you might feel like you have a story to share, but you’re not sure how to do that. Maybe you don’t wanna speak like this, but you might be willing to have someone ask you questions or something like that.

There’s different options there, but we want to hear it from you. And We’ll have more info about that at the end of the service. But if you’re interested we’d love to have you come in and just share a story to celebrate this season and prepare us for the next season as we enter into the middle school the week after.

And then we’re doing a four week series on Sabbath. So we’re gonna pause the life of Moses. We’re gonna talk about four weeks of rest and how to get rest and why rest is good and mandated in the Bible through the Sabbath. And then after that, I think we’re gonna spend some time going back to the life of Moses because there’s a lot we haven’t gotten to.

We’re just now getting up against the 10 Commandments. We’re not doing that this week. And you have all sorts of stuff after that. So we wanna be sure we get through the life of Moses. But for now, we’re gonna be in Exodus 18. I’m gonna pray and then we will start.

God, we thank you for this time. We thank you for the season that we, our church has been in, the fact that we’ve been able to gather and to meet and grow and laugh and cry and work through issues in our lives and celebrate things with each other. We just thank you for the joy that it’s been for all of us to do that together in community, and we ask that you would be present tonight.

As we look at the short story of Moses and his life and his leadership, and that we might hear from you through your word through words spoken through me or even through the worship that we might have the boldness to respond in the way that you are calling us to ask, that you’d speak through me, and that you would challenge us, that you’d comfort us and you convict us.

We pray all this in your name. Amen. So a family reunion. , ancient near Eastern courtroom practices and in-laws.

That’s on the docket for today, right in the middle of sort of the Book of Exodus. On one side you have this sort of really epic climactic story of this mass group of people leaving Edge Egypt through the Egypt, through the partying of the Red Sea through. Battles and there’s plagues and all sorts of weird stuff.

And then the rest of the Book of Exodus leads up to the giving of the Tan Commandments. It’s this sort of big climactic moment that you know about and have been waiting for right in the middle of sort of these two stories. These two parts of Exodus is Exodus 18 and it’s a really weird sort of addition to the Book of Exodus.

In fact, most scholars think that it’s. Intentionally put here for a very specific reason because it doesn’t really make sense chronologically. So the story that we’re about to read doesn’t connect as much to where the Israelites are supposed to have been coming from and where they’re going too.

And so that should alert us to something. It’s also a break from the movement and the general like big epic themes of Exodus so far. And it can stand alone on its own as a short story or. Dote about Moses and his leadership and his father-in-law, Jethro. And so whenever you read something in the Bible that seems to stand out, it makes you ask like, why is this here?

What is, especially when you’re reading narrative or anything in the Old Testament, that’s usually a key that you want to pay extra close attention to what’s being said. This is a text for us to meditate on and ponder and really look at the themes underlying and what God wants to communicate to the people reading this, but also to us today.

And so here’s where we’re at in the story. If you’ve missed the past few weeks or if you just don’t know the story of Moses, that’s okay. But Moses has led his people, the Israelites out of Egypt miraculously. This has been through plagues, through partings and red seas and all sorts of crazy things.

We’ve been looking at those the past couple of weeks, and now they’re no longer slaves, so they were once enslaved by Egypt. Now they’re entering into a season where they have to work out for themselves what it means to be a nation, and they’re on their way to a promised land, A land that God is guaranteed that’s gonna be theirs, where they can settle or they can grow, and where they can flourish and become a nation that blesses other nations.

Now to become a nation, they need three things. They need resources which is provided in chapter 16. So the story, if you’re familiar with the story of manna, right? God miraculously provides manna from heaven, which is just bread. It means what is it? They don’t know what it is. So they eat it every morning, and that sustains them.

There’s also water provided for them from rock where Moses strikes the rock. Water comes out and everyone’s able to drink water, so they have resources. Second thing they need is, To be their own sort of self-sustaining nation. To go from a nomadic, a group of wandering people to their own sort of self-governing body, they need to know that they’re gonna be safe from enemies.

And so the previous chapter 17, is all about a military victory that they have against a group of people called the Amalekites. And so God miraculously saves them. This is the story of Moses. Lifting up his staff and whenever the staff is up means they’re getting victory. And then whenever it’s down, it means they’re losing.

And so he has people help him hold. It’s very miraculous. And the point is that God is providing not just physical resources for them, but also protection. The last thing they need is governance. So they need to know how they should live, how they should interact with each other how they should settle disputes and what’s gonna determine their priorities and their objectives as a nation, but also as individuals, which is a lot of the Book of Exodus starting in chapter 18.

With that in mind, let’s continue the story. 18 verse one, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything that God had done for Moses and for God’s people, Israel, when the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt. Now, Jethro Moses’ father-in-law had taken in zPo Moses’ wife after he had sent her back along with her two sons, one of whom was named Grisham, because Moses had said I had been a resident alien in a foreign land.

And the other Eliza, because he had said the God of my father was my helper and rescued me from Pharaoh’s sword. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, along with Moses’ wife and sons, came to him in the wilderness where he was camped at the mountain of God. He sent word to Moses, I, your father-in-law, Jethro, in coming to you with your wife and her two sons.

So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down and then kissed him. They asked each other how they had been and went into the tent. So Moses recounted to his father-in-law, all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake. All the hardships that confronted them on the way and how the Lord rescued them.

Now off the bat, we’re looking at the life of Moses and we’re honing in on his leadership today. And we’re already in a tough spot because Moses is leading the people. He’s doing what God called them to do, but he’s doing it without his family. And this could have been outta protection. He could have sent them away because he knew that they were entering in the hostile land, wandering in an area of the desert that you don’t know who’s gonna come at you.

And so it could be that he sent his family away and said, you guys stay over there until we get to the promised land, and I’ll send for you and then you can come. Or it could just be that he’s distancing himself from his family that he’s devoting himself entirely to his role of leadership, that now he’s doing so completely isolated and alone and clearly jethro’s noticing something because he takes the initiative to bring Moses’ family out to the wilderness for a desert for a visit.

And notice also, Moses is two sons, so we know about germ, right? We knew about that. That meant I’m a stranger in a foreign land. But now he has a second son named Eli Azar, which means God is my helper. My, he, my, my God is my helper, is literally what it translates to from the Hebrew. , and this is really telling that the narrator’s including this, because we know that Moses is updating his story, that Moses once starts off feeling like a resident alien in a foreign land.

He doesn’t have a sense of identity or belonging, but now his story is being adapted. It’s changing based on what God is doing now. His identity is no longer in like this wandering foreigner, but now he’s somebody who’s experienced firsthand to help from. And so this is a good moment. This is a family reunion.

This is happy. It’s celebratory. Moses is finally getting a break from leading the people from battle and all of those things, and he gets to catch up with his father-in-law. Jethro let’s read from verse nine. Jethro rejoiced over all the good things the Lord had done for Israel when he rescued them from the power of the Egyptians.

Blessed is the Lord Jetro exclaimed, who rescued you from the power of Egypt and from the power of. He has rescued the people from under the power of Egypt. Now, I know that the Lord is greater than all Gods because he did wonders when the Egyptians acted arrogantly against Israel. Then Jethro Moses’ father-in-law brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’s father-in-law, in God’s presence.

Now this is so significant. Not just in the life of mo. This is a huge, significant moment because Jethro is not an Israel. Jetro is a mediaite. He’s actually a priest of median. He’s high up. He represents a pantheon of gods. They believe in multiple gods. He represents those gods to his people. And yet Jetro is the one who notices that God is above all that Yahweh, god’s name, the Lord is being faithful to his people. The irony here is that Jethro, this sort of pagan midianite in-law, priest is the one who immediately gets it and he, all he has to do is hear secondhand from Israel what God has done, and it drives him to worship. Israel has experienced this. The Amec kites have experienced this.

Egypt has experienced God’s actions and still time and time again. We know Egypt rejected God. We know the Amalekites. Were enemies to God, and we know Israel over and over again, even into the New Testament, are gonna falsely, they’re gonna keep going back in their minds, not remembering what God had done for them.

But Jetro is the one that gets it. Israel never understands this point. That God’s plan has always been to set apart a people for himself, for the sake of blessing the nations. And so God’s plan has always been that people outside of Israel are able to join the family of God. You can read that theme throughout the Old Testament.

God has always miraculously revealing himself to people that otherwise have had no knowledge of God. They don’t come from Israel. They’re wandering the desert. They come from other pagan backgrounds, and yet God shows himself to them and they are then included into the family of. Again, the irony in verse 12, Jethro hears everything.

So I imagine the situation goes like this. They enter the tent and Jethro asks Moses how it’s going. And Moses gets to say man, I’m in the thick of it. This happened and this happened. And we parted the Red Sea and the Egyptians died, and then the Melo kites tried to fight us and we fought them.

And now I’m judging people. And it’s just, he’s overwhelmed with how much has happened. He completely loses sight of God’s activity through all of it. But Jethro. The Pagan midnite priest, not a part of the family of God, recognizes God’s interactions and it drives him to worship. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the Gods.

Now, maybe we need this reminder today. Maybe this is, . Maybe this is the takeaway. Maybe you feel like you’re stuck in the thick of life that you’ve been doing things for God. You’ve been leading. You just find yourself busy beyond. You can’t even imagine thinking about or worshiping God, like that doesn’t come easy to you because of how much you’re doing for God.

You feel like you’re just overwhelmed and burdened. You have this tunnel vision. You’re unable to see God’s activity. We all need a Jethro in our lives. Not necessarily an in-law but we need a Jethro. Maybe it’s an in-law. I don’t know. To ask us now, do you see that God is greater than all the other gods right now?

Do you see that God is greater than whatever it is that you feel like you are in the thick of that is clouding your vision to God’s activity and that is preventing you from worshiping him? Now, don’t you see that God is bigger than that? That whatever it is you’re dealing with, do you not see this?

And so we keep reading. Verse 13, the next day, Moses sat down to judge the people and they stood around Moses from morning until evening when Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them. He asked, what is this thing you’re doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?

Moses replied to his father-in-law because the people come to me to inquire of God. Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me and I make a decision between one man and another. I teach them God’s statutes and laws. What you are doing is not good. Moses’ father-in-law said to him, you’ll certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you because you’ll, the task is too heavy for you.

You can’t do it alone. I. Now this is when the story shifts. So now it’s no longer a nice family reunion. Now it’s a conversation about courtroom legal practices. Essentially what’s happening is Moses w. . When you hear the word judge, it means that he’s acting like a courtroom judge.

And so Moses using his upbringing, he’s using what God has given him. Remember, God has been preparing Moses for this task since day one. He grew up in Egypt, so he knows about Egyptian law practices, not just in Egypt, but in the house of Pharaoh. Like he was familiar with the laws and he knew how to structure and established and distribute justice based on his background knowledge of Egypt.

He also has an intimate knowledge of Yahweh. He had spent. A long time in the wilderness with God. He knows who God is. He knows the character of God. And so he’s well educated, he’s well formed in the way of Yahweh. And so he’s acting out. He’s calling, he’s doing exactly what it is that God has prepared him to do.

And so people are bringing their grievances to Moses. They’re saying, this person stole my sheep or whatever, and they have to figure out like what’s going on. And so Moses is the one who has to figure out how to distribute justice. And who should? Repaid and things like that. It’s very tedious and clearly it’s taking up a lot of his time.

It says morning and evening, meaning he’s out there all day. He’s acting as their judge, and there’s a callback actually to Exodus two. If you remember. This is a nerdy thing, but when he’s about to intervene, he sees the two Hebrew people fighting. This is before he sets them free. This is when he’s still leaving, living in Egypt, and before he sets them free, he’s about to mediate and they say, who made you judge?

Yes. And now Moses is literally, he’s the judge. It’s funny. It’s supposed to be a little funny. Hebrew humor doesn’t always land with us. So who made you judge over us? God. God, did I, I’m here. This is exactly what’s happening. He’s mediating between Hebrew people, but he’s doing it in a way that’s wearing him out.

He’s working from morning to evening, and the people are starting to depend on him more and more. So verse 17, Jethro says, what you’re doing is not good. He just calls it out. Moses’ father-in-law said to him, you are gonna wear out both yourself and these people who are with you because the task is too heavy.

You can’t do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you some advice, and God be with you. It’s I’m gonna tell you what I think and God help you if you ignore it like that. That’s essentially what this means. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to him.

Instruct ’em about the statues and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating, dishonest prophet, place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They should judge the people at all times.

Then they can bring you every major case, but judge every minor case themselves. In this way, you will lighten your load and they will bear it with you. If you do this and God so directs you, you will be able to endure and also all these people will be able to go home. Satisfied. Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he.

Kudos to Moses, by the way. That’s humility, listening to advice from your father-in-law too. So Moses chose able men from all Israel and made them leaders over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They judge the people at all times. They would bring the hard cases to Moses, but they would judge every minor case themselves.

So Moses let his father-in-law, And he journeyed to his own land again. Notice the irony of Jethro being the one that figures out what’s happening. This again, pagan midianite priest only hears about God secondhand, and still he has the wisdom to set apart Moses’ leadership style in a way that’s distinct and yet more effective and sustaining for Moses.

Verse 18, when he calls him out and he says this is too heavy for you, it’s too heavy, you can’t do it. , that phrase literally means to wither. So he’s saying like you essentially, you’re killing yourself. The modern day translation is burnout. Moses is leading in a way that is so unsustainable that he’s likely going to hit his breaking point and he’s gonna burn out.

And Jethro points out not just Moses, but he’s also gonna damage the people that he’s leading, that he’s not just harming himself, he’s damaging the overall community. Again, thank God for Jet. Moses needs a reality check to see that he is bumping up against his limits as a leader. And so that’s our story.

That’s our text. It’s an odd story again, placed right in between two really epic climactic moments of the Red Sea and the battles. Then the distribution of the law, the explanation of the 10 Commandments and all of that, the breaking of the tablets. It’s all really good stuff. And so on the surface it might seem like maybe we can’t relate to this.

We’re not in charge. I know we’re all in different leadership capacities, but none of us are leading to the capacity that Moses is leading at. Like none of us are leading small nations of people trying to govern themselves. Maybe it feels like it, you have a family or a business or something like that, I don’t know.

But at the end of the day, Moses’ problem is our problem. That when we become unwilling to confront the sort of modern dynamics and stereotypes and the expectations of what it means to lead, but also to work. We find ourselves operating from a place of burnout that we are so self-dependent, we’re individualistic and we buy into this idea of the hustle culture, thinking that we can work more, do more, and have more just so that we can work more, do more, and have more.

And the result is not the grind, like the grind is killing you. And so on one level, that’s just, that’s the takeaway. That is the lesson for today. That Moses’ problem of self-centered leadership is our problem. Ruth Haley Barton has this book called Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. It’s a great leadership book actually looking at the life of Moses, and she highlights several key factors that indicate that you might be burnt out.

The first thing she highlights irritability. . Here’s how you know if you’re burnt out, if things that wouldn’t normally bother you start to bother you. And not only that, but then you start to lash out and take it out on the people around you, your kids, your community, your family. This is what Jethro saw that Moses getting to the place of burnout.

Now he’s gonna start hurting the people that he’s leading. There’s also restlessness. If this is you feel like, and there’s a progression to these as you’ll see. It starts with irritability and then it maybe you get the day off, but because you haven’t dealt with the underlying issues of burnout and overworking, you feel like even on your day off on your Sabbath or whatever it is that you, there’s always in the back of your mind things that you’ve left undone that you just feel like you can’t catch a break.

There’s always something to do, and you can’t feel truly at rest. And then eventually you hit emotional numbness. You literally have the inability to experience or process emotions, both like joy and sadness, cuz it takes energy to feel things and it takes energy to understand why you’re feeling a certain way and to process that and get to the bottom of it.

So you find yourself just shutting down. You become numb to the things around you, and then there’s escapism. So you start to find solace not in accomplishing work in a different. Or in getting rest, but actually escaping, like avoiding things. We use media, we use social media, we use our phones. We use the.

Some of us use like TV shows or movies or books, sports, and that’s all pretty mild. That can still be harmful. But even on the worst end of the spectrum, you have things like pornography, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, all of whatever your vice is. This is the thing that you run to when you feel like you are you.

You can’t find rest. It doesn’t, it’s cheap rest. It doesn’t give you actual rest, and it’s not life giving. It’s cheap. And eventually you get spiritual a. and so soon, it’s not just your work life or your home life, but now it’s your spiritual life and you lose all desire to feed your soul that God takes a backseat.

You stop gathering with other followers of Jesus and any kind of joy that you may have once felt sustaining a relationship with God is immediately sucked away. You feel like it’s work just to read your Bible, just to pray, praying. Can be hard, but also really life giving just seems like a chore. And God seems so far off in distant, and this is all just because of burnout.

And so Jethro gives Moses advice. He says, get help. Now Moses has to confront the leadership structure that he’s established and learned to delegate. Some say this is when Moses actually became a leader. It wasn’t when he was leading the people out of the Red Sea on his own, and it wasn’t when he led them through victory or struck the rock or anything like that.

Now Moses becomes a leader when he learns to set his own limitations around him and delegates to other people, and There’s a good way there’s a good chance that we could stop here. I think for some of us, like that’s the takeaway. The takeaway is that you need to just go home. You need to rest, you need to take some things off your sh we could honestly all probably.

Do really well by, by doing a little bit less a hobby work. Maybe there are limits you need to set at work. Maybe you actually can delegate to other people, but you’re not, maybe you’re self centralizing power in a way that actually isn’t helpful to you and it’s ruining you. Maybe that’s the takeaway, that you can go home and you need to deal with some of these symptoms and get rest, or come back in two weeks for our Sabbath series and we’re gonna spend four weeks talking about how you can get rest.

But I don’t think that Moses’ problem is busy. And I don’t think the underlying issue is that he doesn’t know how to delegate or that he has poor time management or that he makes poor decisions. I think there’s a much deeper issue at the heart of this story, and I think that. What this story’s really trying to communicate is what the Book of Exodus has been communicating all along, and it’s the reason that it’s placed right here in the middle of two very climactic things.

Moses leading the people out of the Red Sea and Moses giving the people the 10 Commandments. And that is this. Our problem is control. Scholars point out Moses’s self-centeredness when Jethro asks him. About his leadership, right? He says he notices what, how Moses is spending his time in his days and he says, what are you do?

What are you doing all day? And Moses says, the people come to me, their disputes come to me. I make a decision. I teach them God’s statutes and laws. I’m the one that distributes justice. They’re looking to me for dependence. The reason that Moses’ leadership style is burning him out is because his first instinct is to center all of the power on himself, because that’s what he can control.

It’s less about a leadership thing and it’s more just about a human thing that Moses recognizes what a lot of us might recognize, that we are capable enough to do the things that God has called us to. Moses is capable of leading the people. He has the training, he has the education, he has the background, he has the know-how, he has the experience.

He struck a walk, rock and water came out like he’s probably feeling confident enough to be able to handle some disputes between farmers and a nomadic group of former slaves. , and there’s a lot writing on this, right? Moses knows that God has promised to make these people a nation, and so he wants to make sure that they actually make it to become a nation, and he wants to make sure they’re not gonna turn on themselves.

But what he’s actually doing is indirectly teaching the people that they should rely on him, on Moses, because Moses has the power and the control, not God. , and this is a huge lesson that Moses needs to learn before he leads them through the law and into the promised land. And later on we’re actually gonna see Moses struggles with this.

This is a recurring theme in Moses’s life that like most strong leaders, Moses has a hard time recognizing where God is asking him not to do everything on his own, not just to delegate, but to actually hold with open hands responsibilities and tasks and objectives so that his trust and his faith might.

Displaced replaced from himself and back onto God. He’s gonna actually be reprimanded by God and ultimately punished for this very reason, not realizing that he was never really in control, and we’ll get there in a few months. Here’s what we also know, is that the men that Moses is leading, the men that he actually chooses to help, to delegate, to help judge these men were already there.

It wasn’t like Moses had to go out and find them and tra like they were, it wasn’t out because there were no people to help. It was that he had the control in his hands. He was hoarding that power and that authority and that control, and God was inviting him through Jethro to release that to other people.

And so the hard part for Moses, I would argue, wasn’t delegating, it wasn’t figuring out the logistics of how to train people on how to judge tens and hundreds and fifties and all those different numbers of people. The hard part for Moses. Was letting go of that control in the first place was getting to the point where he could delegate because he’s recognizing that his trust in God is gonna be what sustains him and his people.

And this is just what Jethro recognizes in verse 11. Now I know that God is really in charge, and so for some of us needing to see the power and the greatness of God in our lives today, maybe all it takes is your willingness to let go of something that’s in your. And so the real question for us is deeper than just our habits around overworking or our work schedules and our home life and things like that.

The real question for us is, where am I cleaning to control? because I think the bigger reason that we experience burnout is not because of our time management, our leadership capacity, or our delegation skills. Our real issue of burnout comes from our issue of control. Because just like Moses, we want to control the outcomes of our lives.

And again, we might not be leading to the capacity that Moses is an entire nation of people trying to self-govern themselves, but we are all leading our lives towards a desired. And for some of us, we want control over our future, our finances, our stability. We want control over our career trajectory. We want control over our kids and our families, right?

We want a certain outcome from them. And so we try and control and manip like that’s what we’re holding onto tightly with closed white and knuckled. Gripped hands. Or some of us want control over our spiritual life that we want growth as we define it, maturity as we define it, formation as we define it.

We like the easy practices when we talk about things like Sabbath, if that’s your thing, or if you’re like me, silence and solitude, that’s easy. I love that. Community is hard for me. . I want control over my spiritual growth, so I’m gonna lean into the things that I really enjoy, and I’m gonna completely ignore the invitation that God is giving me, handing me to do something that’s hard, but ultimately more rewarding.

And the issue is control. I don’t want to feel like I don’t have control. I don’t wanna be vulnerable. I wanna control people’s image of me. So I’m not gonna commit to community, to groups, to rest, to Sabbath, to scripture, reading, whatever it is. The point is that our natural inclination is always to centralize power towards ourselves and control our own lives and the lives of those around us.

And we wouldn’t wanna admit this, but many of us, I think, are only willing to follow Jesus on our own terms, that we want him to lead us where we want to go, and we’re only willing to follow him if we can control how we get. , and this is crucial that Moses realized this now because this flaw in his leadership.

In order for Israel to become who God wants them to be, this flaw in his leadership has to be pointed out because what God is doing again, God is turning this small group of nomadic wandering former slaves into a nation, a strong and bold, not just a weak nation. His division that he cast for Abraham, going back to Genesis and even to.

It’s not just you’re gonna survive, it’s that you are going to thrive as a nation, not because of your internal resources, but because you are gonna represent me. You are gonna represent God to the people around you, not just immediately, but the entire world. That God is turning them into a nation that is governed so radically different than the nations of the world.

A nation of people who contribute to their flourishing rather than just consume their resources for themselves and hoard from their leaders. A nation where leadership stops at God, not at the person at the top of the ladder of success. He wants to form them into a nation where the law is given and governed by God himself, not by Moses as capable and talented as he is.

A nation that actually counters the way of the world and offers a better way. In fact, this is Exodus 19, just the next chapter. This is what God promises to Moses that he’s gonna do now. If you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.

These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites, and so to lead his people into this type of community, number one, Moses must share the load and he has to let go of control and learn that leadership in the kingdom doesn’t stop with him. It actually stops with God. That he has to relinquish control and stop trusting in himself for the outcomes that he wants.

Again, he has every reason to, he has the experience and the knowledge, and the know-how. He parted the Red Sea. He struck the rock. He survived the wilderness. He knows how to govern people with law. But God is reminding him that the power in control was never in Moses to begin with. It was in God. Now, life in the kingdom is defined by radical and uncomfortable trust in God, over confidence in self.

But there’s a flip side to this because Jethro also says in verse 22, you will lighten your load and they will bear it with you. So not only must Moses share the load, the people must also bear the load. That they have to be willing, the very people that Moses is leading to take up their role in establishing this new kingdom of priests, this kingdom of God representatives to the rest of the world.

And so it doesn’t matter how willing Moses is to hand over leadership and delegate to them to share in the burden of that if the people that he’s leading aren’t willing to help burden that with him. And honestly, this is, as I’ve been reading through this, trying to figure out how to, where to take this, I think.

This is where we’re trying to go with our church with Passion Creek. As we end this season of ministry and life here at Heart Cry and we enter into a new season, like right in the middle of downtown Queen Creek, that we want to be a community that is committed to being formed by Jesus together for others, but not by centralizing responsibility and not by being consumers and hoarding our resources, but by sharing that.

and we wanna reflect God to our city in a way that’s so radical and countercultural that it’s actually in a weird way appealing to people. We share responsibilities and we help each other’s shoulder the burden of representing God to our neighbors, not just from our leadership and our staff, but through the body.

This is what Paul says when he talks about the church in the New Testament. It is a body where every part is working equally. You can’t have one part without the other. And our leadership and our team, we’re just one part. But if we’re not all willing to help share and shoulder that responsibility of ministry and to see our own roles that God is inviting us to, to represent him to our neighbors, other people in our cities, then none of this is going to work.

That we want to be a community of people who follow Jesus in a way that isn’t centered around a pastor, a leader, or any staff person, but instead centered around Jesus himself. We want to commit to contribution in a culture of consumption. In a world that’s constantly pushing us to consume more, to take more, to do more, to control more we say, no, we’re not gonna live that way.

We commit to sharing the burden of formation with each other by contributing what we have and what we can do to the kingdom. And so as we close, I just, I wanna offer up two practices for this week. Two things that we can do to reflect on, to get our hearts to the place where where we can actually have an honest conversation about ourselves and our leadership and our new role in this new season.

The first is just to ask yourself, where is God inviting me to give up control?

Where is God asking me to hold with open hands, something that I want control over? What outcomes am I unwilling to release to God? Where is God inviting me to heal from burnout? By letting go of habits of overworking, and instead taking on habits of what Jesus calls abiding. What next step am I avoiding in my own spiritual journey?

You’ll have a chance to dialogue with your group members about this as in our together groups. , but it’s as simple as just spending a few moments every day just offering even posturing your hands in this posture of surrender offering. Whatever it is that you feel like you’re holding onto so tightly, the very thing that you’re afraid, God, asking you to give up, it doesn’t mean he’s gonna take it.

It just means that he wants you to trust him with it. The second question is, how is God inviting me to bear?

Where is God inviting me to help in a new area of service? Maybe I’m hoarding onto my resources, my capabilities, my, my talent and God is asking me to share that with the community as we enter into a new season. As Passion Creek goes to the middle school in a couple weeks, what can I do? What unique gifting has God given me?

What can I give up? What can I provide to make sure that our neighbors in this city see God reflected through me as an individual, but then also through our community? And so let me just close by saying this. The only reason that we have this option to give up control and to constantly share responsibility is because.

That is what the gospel is. It’s the fact that we’ve already given up control. The good news is that though we might not have control over our future, that we do have confidence in our future, right? We follow Jesus because Jesus is the one who’s defeated our enemies of sin, Satan, and death, just like God is the one who defeated the Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and the Amalekites, the Jesus is a much more trustworthy leader of our lives than we could ever be.

And so we’re gonna move into a time of response now. Invite everyone to stand. And we’re gonna do what we normally do. We’re gonna sing two songs. But I just wanna pray for us in a way that might be uncomfortable, might be a little weird. If you’ve been around our church for a while, we kinda like this posture.

I like this posture, . So this is how we end our benedictions every week. And so I invite you now just to close your. And adopt this posture of open hands. There’s nothing special about this. There’s nothing magical or mystical or anything like this, but this is two things that we do. One is we is a posture of receiving.

We do our benediction with our hands in this posture because we are openly receiving the gift of grace that Christ died for us. Christ defeated the enemies that we could not defeat ourselves. We don’t have to work for love or salvation or confidence or hope or trust that God has given that to us.

And so we receive that with open hands as a symbol of our reception of that with open hearts. This is also a posture of surrender.

This is a posture of symbolically holding in your hands the very thing that you might feel is holding you back from God. The thing that you are afraid of giving up. Maybe it’s a leadership role. Maybe you identify with Moses, you just feel burnt out and you feel like there’s something that you’re holding onto the power, the control, the authority.

So just bring whatever that is, you can bring it to mind. Maybe it’s your kids, your spiritual growth.

Group Guide

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Meal & Conversation

Open the night with a quick prayer over your time together. As your Group shares a meal, the following question to check in with everyone:

  1. What’s one prayer you need God to answer this week?
  2. What’s the last prayer God has answered?

Overview of Teaching

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with responsibilities, obligations, and tasks. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves living from a place of burnout rather than a place of rest. This is exactly where Moses finds himself in Exodus 18. After leading his people into freedom, now he has to manage them. But his way of leadership is self-focused, unsustainable, and draining.

To get his attention, God calls Moses to lead from a place of faith in him rather than faith in his own capabilities. To lead his people in the new kingdom, Moses must learn to give up control.

In our own lives, we prevent burnout and participate in God’s way of leadership also by giving up control where God invites us, and by committing to contribution in a culture of consumption.


Read Exodus 18:7-12 and discuss the following questions:

  1. What stands out to you from this passage?
  2. Why is it significant that Jethro worships God after hearing Moses tell him about all that God had done?
  3. When do you find yourself forgetting about God’s actions in your own life?
  4. How did last week’s practice of praise go for you?  


Now read verses 13-24 and discuss the following questions:

  1. What stands out to you from this passage?
  2. In what areas of your life do you currently feel burned out?
  3. What symptoms of burnout do you notice in your own life, and how does overworking affect your relationships with God and others?
  4. In what areas of your life do you feel that God might be inviting you to give up control?



The practice this week is to spend time reflecting on the following questions:

  1. Where is God inviting me to give up control?
  2. How is God inviting me to bear the load?

Make time this week to sit with these two questions before God. Ask God to reveal where you’re holding on to control, and where he might be inviting you to let go. Then ask God where he might be inviting you to participate in bearing the load of ministry as Passion Creek enters this new season.

For now, discuss your initial reactions to these questions as a group.


As you end your night, spend some time praying for and encouraging one another.