Give Jethro permission to initiate necessary course correction in your life.
by Al Descheneau
A lot of good things happen to men over pancakes and sausage. Families bond, fathers dispense wisdom, hunters share secrets and businessmen trade portfolios. If you add coffee and potatoes you have the recipe for masculine truth serum. It’s not that I’m opposed to conversations that occur over a bowl of fruit and yogurt, it’s just that I’ve never had one.
One day, as men from my church sat around pontificating on life whilst ingesting copious amounts of meat, starch and caffeine, a great tool of ministry was invented. We call it “Jethro Says.” Do you remember playing “Simon Says” as a child? Well, “Jethro Says” is the same—but different.
Exodus 18 shows Moses and the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land. As the leader, it was Moses’ job to instruct the people in God’s will, guide them through enemy territory and settle judicial issues. He also had to lead a family, meet with God and keep traveling. Needless to say, it was a lot for one man to do.
Moses was tired and got to thinking about the 40 years he spent under the tutelage of a wise, caring, older man—his father-in-law, Jethro. It was Jethro who taught him about being a shepherd, husband, father and man. He showed him how to hunt, herd sheep, defend himself with a staff, pitch a tent, find water and take care of a wife and family. Jethro was an important man in Moses’ life.
When Jethro arrived for a visit at the Israelite camp, he took the tour and was properly impressed. But after a day of playing host, Moses had to get back to work and the Bible tells us what that was like. “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening” (Exodus 18:13).
Part of Moses’ job was to mediate disputes, and in this group there were a lot of those to sort out. “He stole my goat!” “My brother won’t take care of my parents!” “They killed my dog.” “He broke my shovel.” Day after day Moses spent hour after hour refereeing everything from petty disputes to major catastrophes. And it was taking a toll on him physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Jethro looked over the situation and saw Moses for what he was: a younger, passionate, loving, dedicated man making a critical error that was slowly killing himself and his people. We read his counsel in verses 17-23: “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out….Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.”
Moses’ life was actually a mess. He alternated between looking like a rubber band stretched too tight and a soggy, deflated balloon. And Jethro says, “Son, you’re going to kill yourself doing this, and it’s not good for your people. Bring this before God and see what He says. But you need to get some godly men around to take care of the smaller stuff, or you are going to die and your people will suffer.”
Upon reading that, “Jethro Says” was born among the men of my church. Around the table that day we gave each other the permission to be Jethros. We had worked together, trusted each other and shared deeply of our hopes and frustrations, but we were missing something. What was missing was the permission to initiate a radical, necessary, godly course correction in each other’s lives.
Men need that. We need someone with the courage to stand up and say “Jethro Says”—someone who won’t beat around the bush, try to convince us, cajole us, ask us to pray about, or wait for the perfect timing. Sometimes we just need a trusted, outside influencer to grab us by the shirt, give a godly revelation and push us in the right direction. “Jethro Says” is our way of doing that.
Whenever a man in our group says, “Jethro Says,” my ears perk up. It is a trigger for me to pay special attention. It means I’m missing something; I need something; I’m on a path to something undesirable I can’t quite see. Jethro is there to point me back to the wise road.
Al Descheneau is the pastor of Nepean Baptist Church in Ottawa, Ontario.
The article above was featured in the September 2009 issue of SEVEN magazine.