My mother and father in-law are some of the greatest people in the world, but I believe my wife’s in-laws are even greater. If you don’t get that now, I hope you will get it later.
Maybe you have heard lots of the in-law jokes, or maybe you have experienced some of the bad or rough issues that people have talked about with their in-laws. It might be those meddling mother in-laws or controlling father in-laws. Or maybe every time they come to visit it simply is not a good experience. Not me (and I love my in-laws).
The Bible talks about in-laws, and one of those places that it does is when Moses, the leader of God’s people wondering in the wilderness, was visited by his father in-law, Jethro. Exodus gives us insight into the fact that Moses’ wife was from a different nation than Moses was, but her dad was a very wise man that supported his daughter and her family.
As we come to Exodus 18 Moses’s wife and two sons come home escorted by her father. While there Moses and Jethro talked a great deal, and Jethro noticed some things that weren’t going well. He saw that the people were bombarding Moses every day and zapping his effectiveness and energy. Here is what Jethro said:
Exodus 18:17-20 NLT
“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives.
What Jethro had to say wasn’t easy for Moses to hear. This had become commonplace day in and day out as Moses served the people and did what God had called him to do. But the truth of what Jethro shared was so needed. Moses wasn’t going to make it much longer. He was tired.
If he listened to his father in-law, things would get much better. Moses would be able to accomplish much more and help the people even more. There are times we want to keep doing what we are doing or not listen to what some people are saying. Yet if we listen, if we learn and if we change, great things will happen. It takes humility and honoring the wise people around us to really hear what God has to say.
Good leaders listen. Good leaders take criticism. Good leaders are willing to make changes to help the people he or she is leading. Moses was a good leader.
Exodus 18:24 NLT
Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.
Yes. Moses listened. He responded with grace and with wisdom. Things got better. But Moses didn’t think things were bad or even wrong. He needed to hear what his father in-law had to say.
You and I have to chose wisely who we listen to. There are people who want our attention and who will destroy our lives and our ability to lead. Yet there are other people we must listen to. Sometimes those people aren’t easy to listen to or aren’t the people we expect to hear from. God will use all different kinds of people to speak into our lives.
Things changed as Moses listened. Things got stronger. I close with one last verse about something that needed to happen for things to continue to get even better.
Exodus 18:27 NLT
Soon after this, Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, who returned to his own land.
That isn’t a commentary on my in-laws coming to visit. Go ahead and live life as God gives you the opportunity. Listen to the people that God puts around you and sift their words through the truth of Scripture and through the wisdom of other godly people. Keep on living and from time to time listen to the wisdom of the in-laws.