"Listen carefully to complaints and accusations between your fellow Israelites. Judge fairly between each person and his fellow or foreigner. Don't play favorites; treat the little and the big alike; listen carefully to each. Don't be impressed by big names. This is God's judgment you're dealing with. Hard cases you can bring to me; I'll deal with them."
God give us guidance in three ways: 1) his Word; 2) the Holy Spirit; and 3) the instincts of our nature that are created by God himself. When all three are in harmony, it is usually the safest response or the best plan to pursue. When any of the three are out of harmony, that should act as a "check" to perhaps weigh the decision a little more carefully. Here's the rub: We often go to God for counsel (in his Word, from his Holy Spirit, or by confirmation of our instincts) - but we already have our mind made up to do something! It does absolutely no good to ask God for his wise counsel when we are already in a self-determined place of following our own plans!
The hard lesson the Israelites had been learning during their 40 years of wandering around the wilderness was simply that when a man's will is unyielded (hard and unbroken), he is blind to what is right before him! All those years before, on one promising day, Israel sent spies into the land of Canaan. Those spies came back with mixed - all but two. Those two, Caleb and Joshua, stood boldly and proclaimed that what was before them was good and there was nothing that would stand in their way. The other ten could only see the size of the impossibilities that laid in their path (giants, armies, strong fortresses).
In 40 years of wandering, Moses learned a great deal about this people he had been called to lead out of captivity in Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan - they were stubborn, unyielding, and impulsive! They allowed their unbroken will to influence their every decision. Moses is quite honest in his estimation of their resistance - he knows they had disputes that needed settling, problems that required intervention, and difficulties with relationships that needed wise counsel. So, he asks God if it would be okay to set up some "judges" to assist him in the work of leading this rag-tag bunch of wanderers.
He could not bear the burden of their blindness all by himself. The truths were repeatedly spoken to them, but they repeatedly rejected them as impossible. Willfulness ruled the camp - his hope was that he'd have a little help in the daily dealings with their repeated lack of brokenness. All Moses hoped for was that these people would have a heart honestly fixed on doing God's will - all undercurrents of rebellion dealt with, all motives firmly fixed on doing what God desired, and no selfish pursuit of their own willful desires. Instead, he faced daily quarrels, little bickerings that just kept things at a little bit of unrest.
They had trouble coming to agreement with themselves, much less each other! Controversies abounded - go or stay, lead or be led, face the giants or cower in unbelief. In fact, today we'd say that the "self man" was at work over and over again, keeping them bound to their past and oblivious to the hope of their future. In truth, the same is still going on today. We struggle with the simplest decisions - all because we cannot let go of our will and embrace the will of another.
We have wise counselors at our disposal today - yet they remain useless to us if our will is unbroken and our spirit is unyielded. We must desire the will of God over all else if we are to break free from the contentions of today, the strife of yesterday, and the uncertainties of tomorrow's dealings. No one who earnestly seeks the good of another will ever be able to stand against the other. That's the truth!