How a Father-in-Law Got it Right!

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country. Exodus 18:13-27

We don’t know much about Jethro but he did give Moses sound advice about avoiding burnout. In fact, it’s probably where the American justice system originated. While we don’t have judges for ten people, the idea remains the same. The tougher cases – or cases where people don’t feel they’ve received justice – get escalated upwards.

A number of years ago, I was speaking with a pastor who had interviewed someone from South America who was in the United States for the first time. He asked him what the main differences from where he came from with the United States.

“Due process” was his answer.

In his country, someone could be held for years without a trial or even hope of a trial. It was a system of kickbacks, bribes, and corrupt bureaucrats. To be sure, we have all of that corruption here, but normally you can do something about it. You can appeal court decisions. Lawyers are appointed if you cannot afford one. You will have your day in court to prove your innocence.

Yes, many rich and powerful seem like they can walk if they hire the best attorneys.

But at the end of the day, true justice will be served, if not here, in another world and with an infinitely much just judge.

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