According to Numbers 12:3, Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. What was it about Moses that caused this scribe (whom I take to be other than Moses) to come to such a lofty conclusion? No doubt, there are many examples of Moses’ humility in the Pentateuch, but let me point out three that are present in Exodus 18.
1. The humble leader shows respect to others. Moses was a big deal. He was God’s chosen instrument for leading the Israelites out of four centuries of slavery. He stood face to face against the most powerful man in the world (Pharaoh) and won. He was in charge of 2-3 million people, handling their complaints, leading them through the wilderness, and acting as the Supreme Court for their toughest disputes. Moses was the man.
And yet, when he was reunited with his family, he showed Jethro, his father-in-law the proper respect by going out to meet him, bowing down, and kissing him on the cheek. Moses then hosted Jethro in his tent and told him all that the Lord had done for Israel’s sake.
Of course, in one sense, this was all small potatoes. Moses was simply doing what would have been expected of him as a son (or son-in-law) in that culture. But the fact that Jethro is called Moses’ “father-in-law” twelve times in chapter 18 suggests that we are meant to see how Moses gladly accepted his role relative to Jethro. Good leaders understand that though they may have power, prestige, and position in certain areas, this does not mean they should expect to be feted and lauded wherever they go. We all inhabit a web of different relationships. True humility understands that no matter how important we may seem, we must still show proper deference and respect to those whose age or position require it.
2. The humble leader is willing to change. Again, it takes great humility to be in charge of as much as Moses was and still be willing to take advice from others. When it came to getting Israel organized for maximum effectiveness (and minimum frustration), Moses gladly listened to Jethro’s advice, even though he was only a visitor and a one-day old convert.