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Exodus 16-18

by Chuck Smith

The children of Israel are moving now through the wilderness.

And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. [So they have been actually journeying now for about forty-five days.] And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for you have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill the whole assembly with hunger (16:1-3).

Now this is really a very unfortunate accusation; it’s an untrue accusation, but people can sometimes be so cruel. Now they’re hungry, and when people are hungry sometimes they’ll say—when a man gets hungry sometimes they can become like a bear. You just want to feed them before you talk to them, really. These people were hungry, and so they said, “It would have been better off for us to have died back in Egypt by those flesh pots with a full stomach, full of bread, than out here in this wilderness to starve do death. Why did we ever listen to you guys?”

You know they so quickly forgot the misery and the bondage, the cruel bondage of Egypt. It is oftentimes like this when a person, after coming out of the bondage of sin, and out of its experiences in the world, many times as we look back at them they seem to be more glamorous than they were when we were in them. We forget the emptiness. We forget the cruel bondage that we experienced. We forget what it was as far as the pain and the hurt, and the suffering. All we remember is the full stomach.

So as they are remembering their experience in Egypt, all they’re remembering was the plus side of it, “the full stomach as we sat by the flesh pots”. They were saying, “Hey, we would be better off if we were back there, and we died there by the plague of God, by the plagues that God were bringing. If the Lord had slain us with the Egyptians, we’d have been better off than being here, and dying of hunger.”

Then said the LORD to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or not (16:4).

So God says, “All right, I’ll give them bread from heaven, but we’ll prove to see if they’re going to walk in my law or not.”

And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. Moses and Aaron said unto the children of Israel, At evening, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: And in the morning, then shall ye see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: what are we, that ye murmur against us? (16:5-7)

Now they were murmuring to Moses and Aaron. But Moses and Aaron said, “Hey man, you’re not really murmuring against us, you’re murmuring against God. It’s God that has brought you to this place, not we. And your murmurings are against God.”

I think that this is something that we need to take into account when we’re prone to complain about our lot in life. Who is it that has brought me here? Any complaining that I do is in reality complaining against God. For God is the one who has brought me to these circumstances. God is the one who has placed me here, unless I’ve been disobedient to Him. But my complaints are really against the Lord, and that’s a very serious thing, to be complaining against God.

So Moses said, “I refuse to accept your complaints. You’re not murmuring against me, you’re murmuring against the Lord.”

And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD hears your murmurings which you murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD(16:8).

So he’s emphasizing that point to them. “Your murmuring against your situation is actually when you get down to the bottom line, you’re murmuring against God.”

So Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. So it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud (16:9-10).

Now this must have been quite an awesome sight. The cloud had been leading them, and suddenly in this cloud, the glory of the Lord appeared. Now it doesn’t declare how and in what manner the glory of the Lord appeared, but it was no doubt an awesome kind of a display, or demonstration where God just demonstrated His glory there in the cloud. Now one of these days very soon God’s going to demonstrate His glory in the clouds again, as Jesus comes with clouds and great glory, demonstrating His glory in the clouds. But there, God demonstrated His glory unto the children of Israel.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. And it came to pass, that at evening quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. [That would be the host of Israel.] And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they knew not what it was (16:11-15).

Manna actually means “what is it?” So they saw this little round seed-like thing on the ground, and they said, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was.

And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. Now this is the thing which the LORD has commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer [And we don’t know how much that was.] for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did measure it out with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it until the morning (16:15-19).

In other words, “Eat it all up, don’t leave any overnight, don’t try to keep it overnight.

Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was angry with them (16:20).

People just don’t listen. Moses said, “Now look, don’t leave any over till the morning. Just, you know, get rid of it, whatever is left at night, get rid of it.” Some of them tried to save some so they wouldn’t have to go out early in the morning and gather it, and it got wormy and stunk. So Moses naturally—God said, “Hey I’ll prove them to see if the heart can gather manna”. They’re failing the test miserably.

They gathered it every morning, and every man according to his eating: and when the sun was waxed hot, it melted. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD has said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that which ye will seethe; and that which remain over lay up for you to be kept until the morning (16:21-23).

So on the sixth day they could keep it overnight and it wouldn’t breed worms and stink because the next day was to be the Sabbath.

Now it is interesting that here the Sabbath was established and practiced before the law was given. So already the idea of six and one, six days of labor, a day of rest, had been established in their national life. This is before God established the law with Israel in which He said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Now, we’ll get into that when we get into the twentieth chapter. I want to talk to you a little bit about the Sabbath day.

Now they would bake this. They would—they would grind it like a grain into a flour and they would bake it into bread. Or they would boil it sometimes, and eat it like a cereal. I would imagine just like in Central America where they’ve learned to make so many different dishes with the rice that these inventive women, no doubt, learned to spice the stuff up different ways, and make a lot of interesting kind of dishes out of this manna. This little seed kind of a thing that God put on the ground for them every morning.

And they laid up till the morning, as Moses had commanded: and they did not stink, neither was there any worms in it. And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a sabbath unto the LORD: today you shall not find it in the field. For six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, there will be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day to gather it, and they found none. The LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse you to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide every man of his place, on the sabbath or on the seventh day (16:24-29).

Now actually the Sabbath day was a day of rest, and really God is saying here, “Let every man just stay in his bed.” Now we, you know, somehow got the concept, “Well you know the day that is holy unto the Lord is the day we all go to church. We gather and worship God in church.” In reality the Sabbath day wasn’t so much a worship day as it was a rest day. It was a day for just total rest and relaxation. Just a change of pace giving the body a chance to more or less recover.

Now the Lord said, “Six days shalt thou labour and do thy work, but the seventh day is a day of rest.” God said, “I have given you the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was made for man. God made it for man to give the body a chance to just sort of recuperate. The idea was just stay in bed, rest, do nothing. It wasn’t really get up and go to Sabbath school, or go to synagogue, or whatever. It was just stay in bed and rest on the Sabbath day. I don’t know, but what that wouldn’t be a good idea. 

So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like a coriander seed, white; the taste of it was like wafers that were made with honey. [So a little honey biscuit kind of a thing.] And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of the manna in it, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations (16:30-33).

So this pot of manna was preserved, so that in years to come the people could see the manna, the food that God provided in the wilderness for their fathers. When the tabernacle was built, the mercy seat, this pot of manna was inside of this little box, the mercy seat, along with Aaron’s rod that budded.

The LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid up before the Testimony, to be kept. And the children of Israel did eat manna for forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came to the borders of Canaan. Now an omer is a tenth part of an ephah (16:34-36).

Whatever that is, we don’t know, but that’s what it is.


Chapter 17

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and they pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water to drink. Moses said unto them, Why chide you with me? why do you tempt the LORD (17:1-2).

Now their murmuring and their complaining was really classified by Moses as a “tempting of God”. We are warned in the New Testament concerning the failure of the children of Israel because they were guilty of tempting God, and proving Him, murmuring against Him.

And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that you have brought us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? [“Why have you brought us out of Egypt to kill us with thirst?”] Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What am I going to do with these people? they’re ready to kill me (17:3-4).

Poor Moses. I’ll tell you the position of leadership is not an easy position. Moses didn’t have an easy task at all. Here the people now ready to stone him.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, where you smote the river, take it in your hand, and go. And behold, I will stand before you there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, [Which means “temptation”] and Meribah, because of the chiding [Or the “striving”] of the children of Israel, because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not? (17:5-7)

So first of all it was their hunger. Now God has promised to provide all of our needs according to His riches and glory. Having led them out, God would’ve provided and taken care of them. Their first complaint was that of their hunger, the second was that of water. These are two necessities, food and drink, especially in a wilderness area. So I think that it is important to notice that though Moses was really upset with the people, there’s no indication that God was upset with them, for their needs were natural needs.

Now the way they were going about the accusations that they were making were extreme and wrong; and yet, their need was a natural need. God recognized that. God does not show any displeasure with the people; so much as He does show with, as Moses actually shows to the people. But God now tells Moses, “Take the rod and strike the rock and water will come forth.”

Now in the New Testament we are told that these things are all figures. It doesn’t mean that it’s mythology. It’s actual history. But they all have a spiritual counterpart. We are told by Paul that that rock was Christ.

Now you remember Jesus, on the last day of the great day of the feast cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”(John 7:37). This was the Feast of Tabernacles in which they were celebrating how God preserved their fathers through the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. A part of the preservation was the providing of the water out of the rock.

So during the Feast of Tabernacles, the priest would go down to the Pool of Siloam with these water jugs. They would fill them with water, and they would come back up to the steps where several hundred thousand Jews would be gathered in the Great Temple Mount area. In front of all of the people, as they were singing the Halel songs, the priest would pour the water out on the pavement there of the Temple Mount. That was to remind them how that God gave water to their fathers out of the rock in the wilderness. This was just sort of weaved in to the celebration of Tabernacles, the Booths, where they had to make their little booths, again to remind them how their fathers lived out in the wilderness for forty years.  So this pouring out of water ceremony was a reminder of the water out of the rock, this experience.

Now Jesus, even as He took the Passover and applied it to Himself personally, and said, “This bread is My body broken for you. This cup is My blood shed for the remission of your sins”. Now here at the Feast of Tabernacles, on the last day, the great day of the feast, they would not go down and get the water. They didn’t pour out. They’d do it for the seven days of the feast. The eighth day, the great day, they wouldn’t do it, which was symbolic of the fact that we are now in the land that God promised to our fathers. We don’t need the miraculous water out of the rock. On that day as the people were gathered, the great assembly of people there on the Temple Mount, Jesus stood and cried, “If any man thirsts let him come unto Me and drink. And he who drinks of the water that I give, out of his innermost being, there will flow rivers of living water”(John 7:38).

So Paul tells us that Jesus is the rock. He is the rock from which the living waters flow. In that land where water was such a premium, and thirst is almost constant. The idea of Christ as the water of life is probably much more significant than it is to us here where you just go turn a spigot on and just go get a drink whenever you’re thirsty. There you really had to think about water. You had to—you had to be constantly thinking about water. Wherever you go you’d have to think about, “Well where will I get my water?” The water supply was an important thing.

So Jesus, the fountain of living waters, and so the final invitation of Revelation, “Is him that is athirst, let him come and drink of the water of life freely”(Revelation 22:17). Partake of Christ. So Christ is the rock, the fulfillment of this Feast of the Tabernacle. The rock, from which the water flows, the water of life, by which we might have life.

Now this is why when later on the people came to Moses again, and they were thirsty, and Moses went in before the Lord, and said, “God I can’t stand it, these people are complaining again.” God said, “That’s all right Moses, go out and speak to the rock, and water will come forth.” Moses went out and he was angry with the people. He said, “Must I smite this rock again and give you water?” And he smote the rock with his rod. Water came forth.

But God called Moses in, and said, “Moses that was a bad mistake. I told you to speak to the rock. You disobeyed Me; you misrepresented Me before those people. Because of that Moses, you can’t go into the Promised Land.” “Oh God please, I’m sorry, please let me go in.” “Don’t talk to Me anymore about it, Moses. It’s the way it’s gotta be.” Why? Because now the symbolism is broken.

You see the rock was smitten, and from the smitten rock comes life, from Jesus being smitten, there comes forth life to you. But once the rock has been smitten, it never needs to be smitten again. He died once and for all, so that we need not to smite the rock to get the water. All we need to do is by faith, ask, speak to the rock and water will come forth. So we are not in the position of smiting the rock, that has already happened. Christ was smitten and the water of life came forth. Now all that is necessary is just speak, ask, and ye shall receive the water of life freely. So the whole scene here as God was setting the thing up.

Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim (17:8).

Now Amalek was the grandson of Esau, who was of the fleshly seed, and represents the flesh. So in Scripture, Amalek is always a type of the flesh, the flesh-life, the fleshly seed. There’s a spiritual seed; there’s a fleshly seed. There’s a spiritual side of my nature, there is a fleshly side of my nature, and the spirit and the flesh are in conflict. A constant warfare, my spirit lusting against my flesh, my flesh against the spirit, these two are contrary. Every child of God knows what it is to have a conflict with his flesh.

Now Amalek is a type of the flesh. Here God’s people, the spiritual seed is coming in to take the land, but the flesh is the first thing that moves in the way to stop them, and to hinder them from going in and taking, and possessing that which God has promised to give to them. One of the biggest barriers to our receiving the full promises of God for our lives is our flesh. The flesh is always warring against the spirit. Our flesh would keep us from entering into the fullness of God’s promises, and into the fullness of God’s blessings. Amalek came out to meet them, the picture of the flesh, and fought with them.

And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, and fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said unto him, and he fought with Amalek: and Moses, and Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses; hands were heavy; and so they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat on the stone; and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, the one on the one side, the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword (17:9-13).

Joshua of course is the name “Jesus” in Greek, which means, “Jehovah is salvation”. So God’s salvation. Joshua was sent to fight against them, was put over the servants of God, and fought against Amalek the picture of the flesh, and they prevailed.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book (17:14),

So Moses was already writing the events that were transpiring, and later on was to write and to compile these first five books of the Old Testament. So the compiling of the book no doubt was already in progress at this time. God told him to write this in a book for a memorial.

and to rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven (17:14).

Now have you met an Amalek lately? Amalikite? No. God’s wiped them out, He said He would.

And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: [The Lord has become our banner.] For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation (17:15-16).

The Lord has sworn that you’re going to have a battle with your flesh from generation to generation. So it is true.

You remember later on in the history God gave a command that is difficult for many people to understand and because of this, many of the critics have faulted the Bible, and faulted God. At the time when Saul was king of Israel, God ordered Saul, through Samuel, to go down and to utterly slay the Amaleks. Remember that? “Utterly slay them, don’t even leave an animal alive. Slay all the men, women, and children and every animal, wipe them out completely”(1 Samuel 15:3). As I say, people have great difficulty in understanding this particular command of God.

But when we realize that Amalek represents the flesh, what God is saying is that you can’t make any truce with your flesh. God has no remedy for your flesh. God’s only answer for your flesh is crucifixion, put it to death. “You by the spirit, mortify the deeds of your flesh.” God didn’t want them to make any truce. God didn’t want them to leave anything of the flesh. “Utterly destroy it, wipe it out completely.” That was the command of God unto Saul.

Now Saul failed to obey God, and God was angry with Saul. And God said, “Because you have rejected God from ruling over you, you’ve refused to obey God, thus God has rejected you from being king over Israel.” It was as a result of this that Saul was dethroned, rejected by God, his failure of complete obedience in totally wiping out the flesh, Amalek.

Now later on in the Jewish history, we come across another man who was of the tribe, or of the people of Amalek. Because Saul failed to wipe them out completely, Amalek came close to wiping out the children of God.

It was the time when Ester was queen. Her uncle Mordecai refused to bow to this wicked Haman. And so Haman was so angered by this man’s refusal to bow to him that he went to the king to sign the decree that on a particular day every Jew in all the kingdom should be destroyed. Do you remember the story of Haman? Haman was an Amalek. He was of Amalek. Because Saul failed to totally destroy the flesh, the flesh came back and almost destroyed the people of God. But the king signed the decree, and the day was appointed and all of the people from Israel were to be slain, in all of the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians.

So Amalek whenever you read of it in the Scripture is always a type of the flesh, the flesh life. As I say God doesn’t have any reformation programs, which we’re always trying to reform our flesh. God has no reformation programs. He has only one edict for the flesh; that’s crucify it. “I am crucified with Christ.” That’s God’s only solution for your flesh. You try to pamper it, you try to nurture it, you try to keep alive the best part of it. You say, “Oh well, I’ll just keep the best part of my flesh for God” like Saul. “Lord I saved the best for you, I want to make a sacrifice.” “To obey is better than to sacrifice, and hearken to it, it’s better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

So, “Make no covenant with them”, God said, “There’s going to be warfare with Amalek from generation to generation.”


Chapter 18

Now when Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father in law (18:1),

But the same Hebrew word could be translated “brother-in-law”, for we remember earlier, he was called “Reuel”; the father-in-law of Moses was called Reuel. So it could be that this is Jethro another name for “Reuel”, or it could be that Jethro is actually Moses’ wife’s brother. But he was a priest of Midian. As I say the word “father-in-law” could also be translated “brother-in-law” from the Hebrew.

he heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt; Then Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back (18:1-2).

Now you remember when Moses was coming out with his wife Zipporah when God first called Moses to go deliver the children of Israel and Moses was heading down towards Egypt, and the Lord met Moses and almost killed him? So Zipporah knew what was going on. She quickly circumcised their boy, and she actually accused Moses of being a bloody man, and so forth.

Evidently at that point they—it wasn’t a pleasant scene. I mean it was quite a tiff between them. Evidently Moses just sent her back to her dad. “You go back to your dad, I’m heading on down to do my work in Egypt.” So Zipporah his wife didn’t accompany him, nor his two sons Gershom and Eliezer. But now as he is come back into the area of Midian, Jethro comes out and brings his wife and his two sons. “Zipporah Moses’ wife,”

And the two sons; of which the name of one was Gershom; and the other was Eliezer; Gershom meaning a stranger, and Eliezer is the God is my help. And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where they encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. Moses went out to meet his father in law, and he bowed to him, and kissed him; and they asked each other how everything was going; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father in law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all of the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of the Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them (18:3-11).

That is, where the Egyptians were so proud, God was greater than they were and their gods.

And Jethro, [God is greater. Remember God said He was bringing the attacks against the gods of Egypt. So Jehovah is greater than all the gods, that is the gods of Egypt, “And Jethro”,] Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God. And it came to pass on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning till the evening (18:12-13).

Now Jethro built an altar and he offered a sacrifice, a burnt offering to God. Now he was a priest, but he wasn’t of the children of Israel. So other people knew God and worshiped God, who were not the children of Israel in those days, Jethro being one of them. He was a priest of God.

 Now the next day the people came into Moses with their problems, and from morning till evening they brought their cases to Moses for him to determine and for him to decide. “This guy borrowed my shovel and he didn’t bring it back.” or “He broke the handle.” So Moses would say, “Okay you get him a new handle, or fix the handle.” All day long Moses was interfacing for these people. Giving judgment to them and so forth.

And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this that you do to the people? why do you sit alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning till evening? And Moses said unto his father in law, [Imagine there were six hundred thousand adult males, and so they were a big crowd, “Moses said to his father in law”,] Because the people come to me to inquire of God: And when they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one another, and do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses’  father in law said unto him, That’s not good. You’re going to wear yourself out Moses, both you and the people that are with you: for this thing is too heavy for you; you’re not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God will be with you: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that you may bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shall show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place over them such, to be the rulers over the thousands, over the hundreds, and over the tens (18:14-21):

So he’s saying, “Hey Moses, hey you’re going to kill yourself, man, trying to keep up that heavy schedule. You can’t do it. So it isn’t right that you just wear yourself out in doing it. So you need to get other men to help you with this thing. Now you teach the people the ordinances and statutes of God. But pick out men over the thousands, and over the hundreds, and over the tens, and let them bring their cases to these men. Let them do the judgments. You teach them what the judgements and statutes of God are, and let them handle these matters. Then in the areas where they can’t handle them—” Moses more or less became the Supreme Court so that every case wasn’t brought to Moses, but just those that could not be handled by those men under him.

Quite often when you have a person of Moses’ caliber and strong leadership, that he becomes overburdened with things that actually don’t always pertain to just the leadership. It’s possible for you to find yourself so engaged in little non-essential things that you really don’t have time to do the essentials.

Now life has to be made up of priorities. We must determine what is most important and then we’ve got to do the most important things. It’s easy to find yourself majoring in the minors, and spending so much time in minor issues of, of no count, that you really don’t have the energy and the strength for the major things.

I believe that Satan likes to wear people out on piddling little things. Sometimes I get involved in a project, and I enjoy doing mechanical things. I enjoy working on mechanical things. But I have found that there is—I think they call it Murphy’s law: “If anything can go wrong it will”. Sometimes you’re just tightening a bolt, and you think, “Well I’ll give it just a little bit more, you know I want to make it good and snug”, and you snap the thing. You know, you can waste all kinds of time trying to get a stud out that you’ve snapped off in a block. You find yourself working for an hour and a half just because you wanted to give it an extra little tug and cinch it down. I think of all that wasted time just for the sake of cinch down. Oh, help.

You find yourself sometimes involved in things. Thus you’ve got to lay out your time and your priorities, and what is really and truly important, and lay out your priorities so that you’re not spending all of your time in issues where someone else could just as easily handle them.

Now this came up in the early church. They began to lay upon the apostles all of the decision-making processes. The church had a welfare program, and they were distributing to the widows in the church. Those widows that had a Grecian cultural background felt that the widows who had a Jewish cultural background were getting a better deal. They were getting favoritism when they were doling out the church’s welfare program.

So they came to the apostles and said, “That’s not fair. The Grecians aren’t getting the same deal as the Hebrews.” They wanted the apostles to, to move in, and to do something. They said, “Hey, let’s appoint men who are full of the Holy Ghost who could report” and wisdom and so forth, “that they might take care of the waiting on of tables, because it isn’t right for us to leave the Word of God and prayer, to wait on tables.”

But I think of how many ministers have been forced to leave the Word of God and prayer, in order to wait on tables. Demands are being made upon the ministers that really a minister shouldn’t have to fulfill. As a young minister in a small church, you’d be amazed at the things the people ask you to do. “Can you come over and pick me up, and take me to the store?” You become a taxi cab. You find yourself a handyman, and you find yourself doing all kinds of things that really don’t pertain to the true ministry of the Word of God and prayer. In fact, I oftentimes found myself so involved in doing these other things that I didn’t have time for the Word of God and prayer, and thus the people suffered.

Now with a church this large you could imagine the demands that are made upon our time. How many times people will call and say, well they’ll only speak to Chuck. They don’t want to speak to anybody else. They’ve been watching him on TV you know, “and if he’ll come and talk to them, I know they’ll get saved.” “Well here’s a guy that’s dying and he needs to have the Lord”, and you get hundreds of these calls. If we tried to go around and to minister to everyone who called for us, we would never have time for the Word of God and prayer. We don’t have enough time for it now. So you’ve got to establish priorities. You’ve got to do just what is truly the most important thing that God has called you to do.

Now God has called men to various ministries within the body, and God has anointed some men for the ministries of counseling, and has anointed others for the ministry of health, and has anointed others for the ministry of government. And it’s a blessed church that has the various ministries functioning within the church, so that all of the demands aren’t placed upon one person to do everything.

Moses’ father-in-law said, “Hey man you’re going to kill yourself. Not even taking time out to rest. All day long these people are standing here. You don’t have time to really wait upon God.” So he offered a solution to Moses.

Now the interesting thing to me is the qualifications that they required of the men. First of all,

Men that fear God, men of truth, and men who hate covetousness (18:21);

Hey if you can get men like that, you can allow them to do almost anything, men who first of all have a real fear of God or a reverence of God. You know there are some people, I’m sure, from their actions, they don’t even reverence God. They don’t even consider God at all. I think that some of these evangelists and all, this Reverend Ike, there has to be no fear of God in that man, no fear of the judgment. The big hype that he puts on you have to realize that the guy has no fear of God or else he could never do the things he is doing.

This isn’t just true of him, but it’s true of many, many men who are involved in ministries. If you really look at their lives, it’s just one big hype, and you have to realize, “Hey these people, what they lack is a real fear of God.” To realize that some day they’re going to have to stand before God and give an account for these things. Boy, I’ll tell you that, that is something that really weighs upon me. The Bible says, “Be not many masters, knowing you’re going to receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1).

So being a teacher of the Word of God puts you in a very precarious position, because someday you’re going to have to answer to God for your teaching. That’s why I do my best to just stick to the Word of God and when the Word of God speaks on an issue, I’ll speak on it. When the Word of God is silent, I try to be silent. I don’t want to say more than what the Word of God actually says. Because the teachers are going to be in greater condemnation. But there are some who have no fear of God, because they’re saying all kinds of wild, weird things that are even contrary to the Word of God. And so you just know they really don’t fear God. They don’t have the fear of judgment in their hearts.

Secondly, “they were men of truth” and thirdly, “hating covetousness”. Men, who really had no ambitions for themselves, hating covetousness, these were the men who were chosen.

And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter that they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge: so it is easier for you, and they shall bear the burden with you. And if you shall do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all of these people shall also go to their place in peace. [So, “God commands you to do it.”] So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did as he said. And Moses chose able men out of all of Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers over the thousands, rulers over the hundreds, fifties, and over the tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought to Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land (18:22-27). So evidently Moses’ wife and children stayed with him at this point, and his father returned home, father-in-law.

Chuck Smith

Pastor Chuck Smith began his ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, in 1965, with just twenty-five people.