Disciple Hour: Exodus 18:1–27


Exodus 18:1–27 

1.  Back to Where It Started

The Israelites have been brought out of Egypt.  They have made it through the wilderness.  They are now encamped at Mount Sinai.

Exodus 3:1–4 (ESV) 

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

Exodus 3:11–12 (ESV) 

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 

God said that I will give you a sign.  After you go get My people, you will worship Me here on this mountain. 

This is not how we want a sign is it?  We want God to do some amazing thing before we go.  Here God told Moses that He would do an amazing thing, a sign, after they get back.  

I wonder why God did it this way?  The sign was You will serve Me on this mountain.  Moses is not the same person he was when he left this mountain on his way to Egypt.  He’s different now.  He and God have done so much together.  Moses had witnessed many miracles and been part of each and every one of them.  Moses left the mountain a very timid follower and returned a seasoned veteran.  He was ready now to worship God on this mountain.

There has developed one problem.  This was another real trial.  This time Moses would need help from a wise follower of God, his father-in-law Jethro.  Moses is being distracted and worn out because he must deal with everything himself.  Moses cannot handle this stress and workload too long and must find some relief. 

2.  A Wonderful Reunion 

18 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 

10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” 12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 

Moses’ wife, children and his father-in-law, Jethro meet him at Mount Sinai.  

Jethro is a Midianite, a Gentile.  The response of Jethro is surprising. He rejoices, then he confesses that the Lord God of Israel is greater than all gods. He blesses the Lord that Moses and Israel had been delivered through Pharaoh in verse 10, and then he acknowledges that the Lord is greater than all gods.

God’s great acts of deliverance and judgement are being told to the Gentiles and they are coming to God by faith.  We really don’t know much about Jethro but here he is acknowledging the fact that he believes all God has revealed to him through the Prophet Moses.  

It seems because Jethro is the priest of the Midianites that he already knows God.  This is also seen when he shouts, 10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord.  Here, he uses the covenant name which in itself is a personal name for God, Yahweh or Lord.  

Now, for God’s people, the account of the events in Egypt and in the wilderness are a great reason to rejoice.  God’s amazing and miraculous work on Israel’s behalf is reason to praise Him.

Jethro after hearing of God’s great acts of rescue also exclaims,   11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.

These events are cause for rejoicing and also serve to strengthen Jethro’s faith…now I know 

In the Old Testament, we see two other times when like Jethro other Gentile believers praise God…

1 Kings 17:22–24 (ESV) 

22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 

2 Kings 5:15 (ESV) 

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 

In each case, after a great miracle these Gentiles believed.

Jethro’s confession goes a little further even than these two others.

The original language is far richer.  Walter Kaiser writes, He literally praises God and says, excelling them (the gods) in the very things to which they laid claims

In other words, Jethro noticed that God had targeted the false gods of Egypt with the plagues.  Remember how each of the plagues was sent by God to show His power over their false gods. 
One example is the ninth plague…
Three Days of Complete Darkness (the Sun god Ra) Darkness now fell upon Egypt, unannounced, as a prelude to the future fate to be felt by the Egyptian empire when the message of the Lord was not heeded, and they still turned to their own Egyptian gods and goddesses. Three days of palpable darkness, that was so immense it could be physically felt, covered the land of Egypt.  The sun, the most worshipped God in Egypt gave no light. The Lord showed that he had control over the sun as a witness that the God of Israel had ultimate power over life and death. 

3.  Moses, Judge and Teacher From Morning Till Night

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”

Moses served the people by teaching them about God and what God requires of them.  

Because the people come to me to inquire of God 

He serves the people as their judge making judicial rulings when their arises disagreements and trouble among the Israelites.  Moses sat to judge the people.

Moses has also become a man with too much on his plate.  

When Jethro saw all Moses was doing, he was shocked… Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Moses has discovered something…people will never run out of needs.  I have seen pastors who run themselves to death trying to serve their people.  The problem is that Moses was only one man and Moses had a higher calling than to seek to care for each person one at a time when there were countless people with needs.  Literally, they stood in line from morning till night waiting for Moses.

What Moses was doing was important and needed done.  Jethro an older man shows Moses a better way.

4.  Israel’s New Government

17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 

24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country. 

Jethro is clear and firm…Moses you cannot keep doing this.  What you are doing is not good.

You will wear out
It’s too heavy for you
You cannot do it alone

I remember one time as a Pastor and received a phone call from an elderly lady who was calling on behalf of another elderly lady in the Church.  I had just finished two counselling sessions and was scheduled to preach and teach Sunday morning and things were really piling up.  Her request was that her friend needed her tulip bulbs planted and thought it would be a good idea for me to do that for her friend.  Well, I responded, I’m sorry but I’m not able to do that.  Her response was WHAT!  I’m sorry Im not able to do that.  She did not speak to me for six months until I approached her and asked her is something was wrong.

Anyway, Jethro had a better solution for Moses.  A division of labor…divide and conquer. 

Look for godly men and set them over divisions of people. 

look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves.

These Elders as they are called later will take care of all the smaller things and if there is a big judgement that comes up then they can bring that before you.  

I really appreciate Moses’ humility here.  Moses is God’s prophet and he is still very willing to listen to Jethro.

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

Moses would still remain the Prophet that God had called him to be and would be able to spend more time with God and less time planting tulips.  

This was going to take some time to look and find men who feared God and would not be caught up in the temptations that their role might offer them.  

So, Moses had to find these men.

men who fear God- In order to be an elder, a man must have a true relationship with God.  This man seeks to honor God with his life.  He is not just doing the minimum but is going above and beyond.  He fears God not people.  He is not influenced by what people think and say but cares way more about what God thinks.  

Men who are trustworthy- Men who are reliable.  They are dependable.  These are men who keep their commitments.  This man is honest.  He is there and willing to help.  He is honest and a self-starter.  He doesn’t need to be prodded along.  He sees the need and jumps to attack it.

Men who are not greedy-  and hate a bribe

You don’t have to worry whether or not when they are making rulings within the congregation that they are being influenced by money.  Here in the life of Israel they were serving as judges so bribes were off limits.

If we jump to the life of the Church, we see many similarities.  The principle is plurality of Elders and Deacons.  Here the load is shared. 

Really, the entire Church shares in serving one another.  When we are all committed to our Church family and all serve and are using our gifts, pastoring becomes a joy.

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) 

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 (ESV) 

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 

How are you doing???

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