Full of Carnality
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 18. We are going to read this chapter, and then we are going to talk about it in a general way that we might get the truth that is contained in it.

Exodus 18

1When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt;
2Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back,
3And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:
4And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:
5And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:
6And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.
7And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.
8And 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.
9And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.
10And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.
12And 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.
13And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.
14And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?
15And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God:
16When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
17And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
18Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
19Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:
20And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
21Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
22And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.
23If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.
24So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.
25And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
26And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
27And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.

Now, this chapter at which we are going to look is a parenthetical chapter as far as the chronological sequence of the book of Exodus is concerned. In chapter 17 of the book, we left the children of Israel at Rephidim where they were fighting with Amalek, and they won the victory as long as Moses was able to hold up his hands in intercessory prayer.

When we look at chapter 18, we have no way of knowing exactly where the children of Israel were, and it would seem that this incident in chapter 18 happened chronologically immediately after the battle of Rephidim; but as we compare chapter 18 of Exodus with chapter 10 and 11 of the book of Numbers, we will find that this happened some eleven months after the incident recorded in chapter 17. We want to show you why we say that in just a moment, but we want to say this before we do: No mistake has been made, and we point this out not to suggest that a mistake has been made; rather, we point this out to show to you the beauty of the Scripture as the Holy Spirit has arranged even the chapters of the Word of God.

You will keep in mind that we told you in our last lesson that the battle with the Amalekites represented the continual battle that the child of God has with the flesh, that the Holy Spirit enters into the heart of the believer the moment he is born again and immediately the flesh begins to lust against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and that battle is illustrated so aptly in the battle of the Amalekites.

Contrast of the Spirit and the Flesh

Now, we learned that there was victory because of intercession. Chapter 18 is placed where it is not from a chronological standpoint, but from a spiritual standpoint– the difference between living in the Spirit and living in the flesh, the difference between walking at the direction of the Holy Spirit and walking at the direction of the flesh–for this chapter is full of carnality. Now you will notice what I said–full of carnality, not immorality. The reason that I am making emphasis of this is that it is amazing how much carnality can be accepted by Christians who are not spiritually perceptive, and they will think that this carnal thing is one of the best things that could possibly occur.

I want you to notice as we look at this chapter that carnality is related to human wisdom. Carnality is related to pride. Carnality is related to selfish effort. Carnality is related to walking out of the will of God. The reason that I want you to see that is that I want you to realize that it is possible for us to be carnal without doing a great many awful, terrible things as we might think of them. So often we talk about great acts of sin or great acts of immorality and thus judge people's experience in that fashion. I would like to show you that it is possible for you to be very careful about disobeying the law of God, very careful about transgressing the law of God, and yet be awfully carnal, for that is illustrated in the chapter we read.

Timing of the Incident

Now I said to you that this is out of place chronologically, though it is in place spiritually. The reason that it is important for us to see that it is out of place chronologically is that we can't understand chapter 18 of the book of Exodus without chapter 11 of the book of Numbers. If we didn't realize that this is out of place chronologically, we would think that chapter 18 of the book of Exodus is talking about one thing and chapter 11 of the book of Numbers is talking about another thing, but they are talking about exactly the same thing. They are two records of the same event.

Notice, please, chapter 19 of Exodus, verse 1:

Exodus 19

1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness if Sinai.

Three months they came into the wilderness of Sinai; three months after the children of Israel left the land of Egypt, they were at Mount Sinai. Notice the date–the third month of the first year of their deliverance. If you will glance at verse 5 of chapter 18, you will notice that when Jethro and his daughter, Zipporah, came to visit Moses, they found Moses at the mount of God. If you read all of this chapter, you will notice down in verse 27 that Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, departed from the presence of Moses and Moses wife, Zipporah, and his grandchildren.

With those thoughts in mind, go with me to chapter 10 of the book of Numbers, verse 11:

Numbers 10

11And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony.
12And the children of Israel took their journeys [ notice now ] out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.

Notice the date in verse 11: “…it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year…” When they came to Mount Sinai, it was the third month of the first year, wasn't it? Now it is the second month of the second year–just eleven months later. Of what significance is that? Of what relation is that to chapter 18 of the book of Exodus? Well, chapters 10 and 11 of the book of Numbers are a continuation of the same subject; and if you will notice for the moment down in verse 29 of chapter 10, you will find that before the children of Israel left Mount Sinai to go into the wilderness of Paran, Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, left them. So we find the time that Moses father-in-law left.

In chapter 18 of the book of Exodus, we are told that he left them, and it would seem from that chapter that he just came and said, “Here's your wife; here's your grandchildren; goodbye; I'll see you.” But he either came toward the end of that eleventh month period, or he came in the early part of the eleventh month period and left just before the period was over. That becomes evident if you will look at verse 29 of chapter 10 of the book of Numbers.

Numbers 10

29And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.

Let's stop for a moment and recognize that Hobab is another name for Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. That becomes evident if you compare the second chapter of the book of Exodus, verses 18 and 21 and the first chapter of I Chronicles. Why Hobab was another name for Jethro, I do not know, but such is the record of the case; so Moses, in verse 29 of chapter 10, was saying to Jethro, “Now, we are ready to start through the wilderness again to go to the land that God promised us. I wish that you would come with us, and will do thee good.” In verse 30:

Numbers 10

30And he [ Jethro ] said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.
31And he [ Moses ] said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.

Thus the conversation between Moses and Hobab [Jethro] ended, and we do not know from this paragraph whether he went or whether he stayed, but from chapter 18 of the book of Exodus, we know that he left. He did not stay with Moses and the Israelites as they continued their journey though the promised land.

Now, whenever we are talking about dates and places and things, it is difficult, especially when we speak hurriedly, to keep all of these things in our mind. If you don't have these things straight in your mind, we will be glad to talk with you afterward; but even if you don't have them straight, it doesn't make a great deal of difference for the moment. The main reason that I called your attention to this is that I want you to see that these two chapters are talking about the same event because we are going to go from one to the other if we are to learn our lesson from this particular chapter.

Moses' Wife Returns

Go back to the book of Exodus, chapter 18:

Exodus 18

1When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt;
2Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back,
3And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:
4And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.
5And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:

These verses very simply put say that Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, brought Moses' wife and his children to him when Moses was encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. Now this, of course, provides several interesting observations. First of all, you will notice that Jethro was referred to here as a priest of Midian. He was a Gentile; he was not a Jew. Don't be misled by the word “priest.” It does not mean that he was a Christian man in the sense of the word as we use it today. It does mean that he was a priest of false religions who worshipped a number of Gods other than Jehovah. He was not a worshipper of Jehovah.

Now the wonderful things that God had done from the time that he left Egypt until the time they reached Mount Sinai began to be passed about by word of mouth, and the fame of Jehovah began to spread over all that area. So Jethro heard about it, and he decided that it was time to bring Zipporah and his children to Moses. You may wonder why that was necessary particularly when you read the last part of verse 2 and notice that Moses had sent Zipporah back home. That doesn't sound very good, does it? We wonder exactly why Moses sent Zipporah back home and why he sent his boys back with her. The answer is found in chapter 4 of the book of Exodus. You will remember that we looked at that when we were studying the book of Exodus, because in chapter 4 of the book of Exodus, verse 19:

Exodus 4

19And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
20And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

Of course, subsequent verses indicate that verse 20 means that he set out for the land of Egypt; it doesn't mean that he actually got there at that particular moment. Then they came to a wayside inn, in verse 24, and the Lord attempted to kill Moses–that is, He was ready to kill him. Now, in what way he was ready to kill him, we don't know. Whether it was some sudden stroke or whether he became violently ill, or what; but Zipporah, in verse 25, recognized why Moses was about to die. Moses was about to die because he had been disobedient to God concerning the circumcision of his son; and so in verse 25, Zipporah performed the rite of circumcision that Moses should have done a long time ago in regard to which Zipporah had withstood him. Of course, here we have a lesson that continual disobedience to God can result in certain chastening.

God would have killed Moses had Zipporah not intervened and performed the rite of circumcision. Then we read in this remaining portion of the chapter that Moses went on to the land of Egypt without Zipporah and his children. It was then that he sent her back to the land of Midian. There is no certain verse of Scripture which tells why he sent her back. Some people feel that he sent her back because the rigorous journey ahead would be such that he did not want her to endure it, and very possibly that was true. Others feel that he sent her back because he realized that if she was going to withstand him in everything that God commanded him to do, she would be more of a hindrance than a help, and he sent her back until his work was accomplished. Again, we emphasize, there is no certain Scripture which says why he sent her back. Of this I think we can be sure: He did not intend to divorce her; he did not intend to desert her; he did not intend to leave her. He simply committed her to her father's care until such a time as he was able to take care of her.

There was no way, of course, to get messages back and forth and so Jethro, when he heard that Moses was settled at Mount Sinai and would be there for approximately eleven months and was victorious in every way, felt sure that now was the time to bring him his wife and his children. Of course, if you listened to the story as we read it, you know that Moses was glad to see them and welcomed them back to his arms again and told Jethro how much he appreciated his taking care of them during his absence on this mission for God.

Moses' Testimony and Jethro's Conversion

In this chapter at which we are looking now, it is an interesting thing to notice how interested Jethro, an unsaved man, was in the things which God had done for Moses, a believer. We are going to use New Testament terms here without pausing to emphasize that they are a bit out of place in the Old Testament, but we are used to using them, and so we will.

Moses immediately gave Jethro a testimony in verse 8. Here we are reminded of what a wonderful testimony given in the Spirit of God can accomplish. I want you to remember that this was a testimony given in the Spirit of God because a little bit later on you are going to find Moses acting in the flesh; you are not going to find him acting in the Spirit at all, so in verse 8, we read:

Exodus 18

8And Moses told his father in law that 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.

Notice in all of this Moses gives God the glory. He was the leader; he was the one who was directing; he could have bragged about his own prowess as a commander of three million people, but he didn't. He just talked about how wonderful God was. In verse 9:

Exodus 18

9And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.

In verse 10, Jethro expressed his faith in God. You will keep in mind that the word “LORD” here has every letter capitalized, which means that it is the translation of the word “Jehovah.” Actually what he was saying was, “Blessed be Jehovah.” Will you keep in mind that as far as Jethro was concerned, Jehovah was just another god. He knew many of them, and Jehovah was just another god, but now he was impressed with the power of Jehovah. So he said:

Exodus 18

10…Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11[ Notice ] Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.

That is, in the thing where these other gods tried to do something, Jehovah is stronger than them all. Now let's not think for a moment that this would be enough to indicate that Jethro had become a believer. He was certainly saying that he believed Jehovah was stronger than all the other gods, but you will notice that he was not a real believer until verse 12 when he met the conditions for salvation.

Exodus 18

12And 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.

Of course, the offering which Jethro offered in conjunction with Aaron, the brother of Moses, was an offering that indicated his faith in God and his plea for remission of sins. So Jethro became a real believer.

Now, I would like to pause long enough to emphasize that herein lies a very wonderful lesson related to problems we face today in connection with our Lord Jesus Christ. There are any number of people who will give the testimony that Jethro gave in verse 10—“blessed be the Lord who hath delivered me out of the hand of Egypt. He is greater than all the other gods.” How many times have you met people and they have said to you, “I believe in Jesus; I have always believed in Jesus.” Well, that doesn't make them a Christian, does it, just because they have always believed in Jesus or because they believe in God? I have had people say to me, “Why only a fool wouldn't believe in Jesus Christ. Of course I believe in Jesus Christ.” What are they talking about? They are talking about an intellectual ascent to the truth. That is what they are talking about. They are talking about the same thing that the Spirit of God had in mind in the Gospel of John, when in chapter 20, verses 30 and 31, he gives us the reason for the writing of the Gospel of John. Remember he said, “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The suggestion of that statement is that you can't read the Gospel of John with an open mind without being absolutely convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But you will notice that John didn't stop there. He went on and said, “…and that believing you might have life through his name.” Many people never get to that second believing.

In verse 10, Jethro got to the first belief. In verse 11, he got to the second. He not only was convinced that God was God; he was willing to meet the requirements for the approach to God which, of course, was the bringing of a sacrifice and the shedding of blood, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

Jethro's Advice to Moses

Now, we have a Christian–a new Christian–in association with an older Christian. We have a new Christian in association with one who is leading the people of God. Jethro was an exuberant person. He was enthusiastic. He wanted to see things done, and he wanted to see things done well. He was one of these fellows who knew how to get things done. He was proud of the fact that he was all energy, and he didn't like to see things not being done exactly the way he thought they ought to be done. He was one of these fellows who thought that things could be done better than they were being done. He couldn't quite perceive the activity of the Spirit of God. So you will notice in verse 13:

Exodus 18

13And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.

Moses took care of all of their problems from morning to night. Jethro didn't have anything to do but look around and see how things were done, and so when he was observing this, he, in verse 14:

Exodus 18

14And when Moses father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning to even?

“What are you doing it this way for? That is not the way to do it, Moses. why are you doing it this way?” Moses still didn't have any idea what Jethro was talking about. He thought he was asking for information. He didn't know he was criticizing. So very simply he said in verse 15:

Exodus 18

15…Because the people come unto me to inquire of God:
16When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.

Incidentally, this verse indicates that the law of God had already been given on Mount Sinai when Moses was taken to task by Jethro in this fashion, so Moses said to Jethro, “Well, it's simple. The people come to me and they ask questions, and I answer their questions. They have problems, and I counsel them about their problems. Then I teach them the Word of God.” You see, he was explaining why he was doing what he was doing, and he thought that that would settle the thing; but you will notice in verse 17, keeping in mind that Jethro was a young Christian, that he had no real spiritual perception. He was bringing the trappings of the world into the business of God, and he was one of these efficiency experts who thought that you ought to carry on the work of God the way you carry on a business and that you ought to carry on the work of God the way you do everything else, so in verse 17, he said:

Exodus 18

17…The thing that thou doest is not good.
18Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

Did you notice the counsel that Jethro gave Moses? Not one word of that counsel was for the glory of God; not one word was about God's glory; not one word was about God's power; not one word was about God's strength; not one word was about the miracle-working God who Moses had known. All he was saying was, “Moses, you are gonna die before your life is over–gonna wear yourself out. Moses, you are gonna make these people awful tired of you. They need to have someone else give them advice besides you. Moses, this thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to perform it by yourself alone.”

We are not told here in this chapter what effect this had on Moses, but we are told in chapter 11 of the book of Numbers Jethro seemed to be interested and, let's be fair, I suppose he was genuinely interested in the welfare of Moses; but he had more practical experience than he had spiritual perception. There is a vast difference. So he said, in verse 19:

Exodus 18

19Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:

As we read, he went on to tell Moses that he should select a lot of men to help him, men who were able men, men such as fear God, men of truth, etc., and let them deal with all the small problems, “And let them bring to you, Moses, the big problems, and that way you will be able to live a long time instead of dying quickly like you are going to do if you keep on doing what you are doing.” So, verse 24 says:

Exodus 18

24So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.

Well, on the surface that doesn't sound so bad, but when we turn to chapter 11 of the book of Numbers, which we will do now, you will see everything that is involved in verse 24. Keep in mind, for the sake of discussion at the moment, the advice that Jethro gave was not advice directed by the Spirit of God. We are going to see why in a moment. It was advice that was gained from practical experience, so it was carnal advice. It was advice of the flesh. It is the way the flesh would do it, not the way God would do it. I want you to see that because I want you to keep in mind that when we are talking about carnality, we are not talking about terrible sinful acts. We are talking about acting and walking and living in the flesh.

Moses' Response to Jethro's Advice

Now, if you have your Bible open to the book of Numbers, chapter 11, you will see the setting of this thing that Moses did, not the setting of Jethro's advice. Jethro gave his advice, and Moses pondered it, and then decided to do what he said. This is the manner in which he did it. In chapter 11 of the book of Numbers:

Numbers 11

1And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
2And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
3And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
4And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a-lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?

And of course, the story goes on about how tired they were of heavenly food, that manna that had been rained down from Heaven. In verse 5, they said:

Numbers 11

5We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
6But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.

Oh, how disgusted they were with God's provisions! Then you will notice down in verse 10:

Numbers 11

10Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly [ against them for their murmuring ]; Moses was also displeased.

Now notice that: Moses was also displeased. This is what gave rise to his accepting Jethro's advice. You see, if Moses had prayed about it and said, “God, Jethro has made a suggestion…” It is always wise to pray about suggestions that people make. The Lord uses people to make suggestions to carry on His work. But instead of praying about it Moses, in verse 11, in thinking about what Jethro said, decided Jethro was right. In verse 11:

Numbers 11

11And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
12Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
13Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

Do you realize that this is the first time you hear Moses talking like this? Isn't he talking terribly? Wait just a minute. If you think back to the book of Exodus, and if you are familiar with what comes after in the book of Exodus, you will find Moses displeased with the people, but he was displeased with them because they weren't treating God right. He was saying, “God is wonderful and here you are acting like this,” but this displeasure is different. He is displeased with God.

Did you notice how he talked to God? He said, “God, why do I have to have the burden of this thing; you put more on me than I can bear, and it isn't right.” Oh, how he complained, but isn't that exactly what Jethro said? Jethro said, “Moses, you have got too much for one man to bear.” Moses never thought about it until Jethro impressed it upon him.

Danger of Carnal Criticism

Now listen carefully to what I am going to say for a bit of practical advice. You and I need to be very, very careful that when we speak, we speak at the direction of the Spirit of God. If we go around “running off at the mouth” about things that we do not fully understand, the Devil can use what we say to amplify some discouraged feeling in the heart of one of God's children and we can be responsible for them getting out of fellowship with God. That is the reason that our words need to be mingled with grace and seasoned with salt.

I think all too often we as the children of God express ourselves too freely and say, “Well, I don't think that's right.” Well, do you know whether it is right or not? Have you prayed about it? Are you speaking at the direction of the Spirit of God or are you just saying something? How many times someone has said, “I have got to do this for the Lord,” and without praying about it, you say, “Well, I don't think you ought to do that. I think that is silly.” Well, how do you know it is? It may appear silly to you, but if God is leading them to do it, it isn't silly. Yet because you speak idly, you could discourage them in the thing that they want to do.

We have adopted this practice as a family, and as our children are old enough to enter into conversation, we emphasize this to them and it is this: If there is some preacher that you don't particularly like–maybe you don't have any confidence in him, maybe there is something about him that doesn't appeal to you–don't talk about it to the unsaved. Don't talk about it to immature Christians. It may not be so good to talk about it at all, but if you are going to talk about it, don't talk about it before the unsaved because that person, even though you don't like him, and even though you may know a number of his faults, might be used of God to bring that unsaved person to Jesus Christ. If you have said something that will close their ears to any message that man has, it is a serious thing.

Response of the Flesh

You see, Moses was burdened, and he was weary, and he was tired. If Jethro had said, “Moses, you look awfully tired. Why don't we pray together and ask God to strengthen you, ask God to encourage your heart?”, my, what a difference it would have made. But instead, Jethro said, “Moses, I don't think you are doing this thing right. I don't think God expects you to do this all by yourself, and I don't think God is treating you fairly about it,” and it fanned the flame that was burning in the heart of Moses.

Can you imagine yourself talking to God the way that Moses talked to Him here? Notice what he said in verse 11: “Why do you lay all of the burden of this people upon me?” Then he said, “Have I conceived this people? Have I begotten them?” In verse 13, he said, “Where would I get flesh to feed all this people?” In verse 14, he said, “I am not able to bear all this people alone. It is too heavy for me.” Can you imagine talking to God that way? Well, that is the way he was talking to Him. God could have said to him, “But you are not bearing all this people alone, and no one asked you to bear all this people alone. That is what Jethro said; that isn't the way it is.” By example that is exactly what God did say. But notice in verse 15:

Numbers 11

15And if thou deal thus with me, ill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

“Lord, why don't you just kill me? You are killing me by degrees anyway.” That's what he said. Can you imagine talking to God that way? What he was saying to God was, “God, I am tired of the job you have given me. Jethro is right. You have asked me to do more than is right. You are not treating me fairly. Why don't you just kill me and get me out of my wretchedness?”

Moses' Power Divided

Now notice in verse 16:

Numbers 11

16And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elder of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.

“Moses, if you feel that I have put too much on you–I don't want to be unfair–if you feel that I have called you to do something that you are not able to do, if you feel that I have called you to do something and put all the burden on you, and you are tired of it, then you get seventy men out of all the elders of Israel, bring them down by the tabernacle. I am going to come down and talk to you.” And in verse 17, because by this time the tabernacle had been built:

Numbers 11

17And I will come down and talk with thee there: [ now notice what he said ] and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.

Notice in verse 25:

Numbers 11

25And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.

Now, what was it that God did? When he came down to talk with Moses and the seventy elders of Israel, did He say, “Now men, Moses thinks he is overworked and there is not enough power and there is not enough spirit and there is not enough strength to accomplish this task, so I have decided to give you some more power; I have decided to give you seventy-one times as much power as you had before because this is a tremendous job that is laid out before you, and I sympathize with Moses; I know how difficult it is, so I am going to give you seventy-one times as much power as you had.”? Is that what God said?

No. He said, “Men, Moses is tired. He doesn't want to do this alone. He wants some help. Now, I have given Moses enough power to do it, but he doesn't want to do it, so I am going to take the power that he has, and I am going to divide it seventy-one different ways, and I will let you help Moses.” That is what God did. The Spirit that was resting upon Moses He took and left a little of it for Moses and gave some to each of the other seventy. Do you get the point? Because Moses, in the flesh, got angry with God about the job that he had to do, he surrendered one of the greatest privileges that he could possibly have had. It took seventy men in an ordinary fashion to do what Moses did under the direction of the Spirit of God. You see, Moses wasn't doing that in his own strength, and that is the mistake that Jethro made. When Jethro saw everything that was being accomplished he said, “That is too much for any one man to do,” and that was exactly right; it was too much for any one man to do, but it isn't too much for one man to do if the Spirit of God has filled him and is directing him and God has called him. It's not too much. There cannot be too much for one man to do if he is doing it in the power of the Spirit of God.

God's Sufficient Strength

Now, some of you are active for the Lord–all of you, I suppose–but some of you do more in public ways than others; and you probably get very weary with what you are called upon to do, and you probably wonder if you can carry on very much farther. You might say to yourself, “I'm getting awfully tired; I'm getting awfully weary. I don't know whether I can carry on or not.” You won't be able to, because the flesh can take only so much. You won't be able to. But if you will remember that if God has called you to the particular task in which you are engaged, you are filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit can give you supernatural strength and energy that the world doesn't know anything about. They will never be able to understand where you get your strength; they will never be able to understand where your get your energy. They will be prophesying every manner of dire things that are going to happen; and if you are not careful, when you are a little weary in the flesh, you will get to thinking that they are right.

When you get to thinking they are right and tell God that they are, God will say, “Well, all right. If you don't want that place of service, and if you don't want that opportunity, I am not going to force you into it. If you want to retire, fine; we will retire you.” But remember, you don't need to retire because the Spirit of God isn't going to retire. If the Spirit of God isn't working through you, He'll be working through seventy others, so it is just up to you whether you want to go or whether you don't.

Direction of the Spirit, Not of Man

Learn these two lessons in relation to the flesh: Don't accept advice from people, no matter how practical it may be, unless they show some signs of spiritual perception, unless they show some signs of being directed by the Spirit of God. That's the reason the Apostle Paul, in giving advice to Timothy as he went about pastoring new churches, said, “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” Don't find someone and put him in a place of leadership right away. You wait a while. See how much spiritual perception he has because you will be making trouble if you don't. That's the reason he said that if you are selecting men for leadership in the church, don't select a novice; that is, don't select a newborn child of God. Don't do that. If you do, you will ruin him, and you will cause great distress to the work of God.

Of course, in this day and time, we work differently from that. In this day and time, we think that the best way to get a man saved is to let him sing in the choir. The best way to get a man saved is to give him a Sunday School class to teach and he will be interested in coming to church and then maybe he will get saved by and by. Then, of course, if a person does indicate that he is interested, the first thing we want to do is put him to work, because if we don't put him to work, he will backslide. Of course, if he runs out of a job, he doesn't have anything to rest on because if he is depending on that to keep him from backsliding, he doesn't grow in grace. He doesn't know anything about depending upon the Spirit of God. Our churches today are filled with carnal Christians who have no sense of the leadership of the Spirit. Learn that bit of advice.

The other bit of advice that I would suggest to you is that when you get tired and when you get weary, when you get discouraged and you are disappointed, don't make any public pronouncements. Don't make any decision. Get alone with God and wait on Him to renew your strength and then you will be able to mount up with wings as eagles and run and not be weary and walk and not faint because it is when you are weary and when you are tired that the flesh is uppermost and the spirit is weakest and the Devil gets the victory.


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