It is one thing to read scripture, to hear God’s command, but a far different thing to live it out. This is what Moses discovered as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro observes Moses spending the day judging disputes among the Israelites. When Jethro asks why Moses alone acts as judge, Moses tells him, “When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws (verse 15, NASB).”
This statement is insightful. Moses doesn’t just issue a verdict on the dispute, he wants the Israelites to know God’s laws and statutes as they apply to everyday life. The practical application of God’s word to our life requires not just knowledge, but the shared experience and mentorship of those who have lived it out. Jethro advises Moses to select “able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens (21).”
Jethro outlines the structure of a community built around multiple leaders who can not only settle disputes, but also teach the practical application of God’s laws and statutes. It’s interesting that Jethro suggests leaders down to groups of “tens.” He doesn’t just focus on leaders of large groups, but small groups where people can have ready access to counsel from someone who fears God, loves the truth and hates dishonest gain.
Jethro’s advice to Moses provides today’s church with a good model to help shape a community that desires to live out their faith in Jesus. When I read the different groupings, I see a church with a pastor over the larger group, but within that I see subgroups of leaders with the goal of making known “the statutes of God and His laws” and the practical application of God’s Word. In the grouping of ten, I see small groups of Christians gathered to help each other live out their faith.
© 2022, Chris G Thelen
They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. – Exodus 18:26 (NASB)