Exodus 18: Jethro and Moses:
One of my favorite things the Lord has taught me about His Word is that it is always perfectly applicable for all generations. Regardless of the decade, city, or person, the scriptures are still good for teaching, instructing and rebuking (2 Tim 3:16). I love that Jesus can speak to us vividly every time we open His Story and give us real life, everyday tools to put in our purses and pull out whenever we need it. Our chapter in Exodus for today is one of those beautiful examples where God lays out specific guidelines for us, all through the relationship between Moses and Jethro. Whether you are a parent, mother-in-law, mentor or business leader, these 27 verses are full of applicable wisdom for supporting, interceding, and leading the many different people God puts in our path.
Before we examine the behaviors of Jethro and Moses, let’s first consider the nature of their relationship. Remember, after the princess employs Jochebed (Moses’ mother) as his nanny, we never hear anything further about the lives of his faithful parents. We know that Jochebed probably returned her son around the age of three and from that moment on, Moses was raised in the palace as a prince (Ex 2:7-10). When Moses returns to his people in chapter 4 (vs. 27-31), he reunites with Aaron and Miriam, but not mom and dad. It saddens me to think that Jochebed most likely went to her grave defending her fugitive son that she had so bravely fought to protect. Amram was not there the day Moses, whom he saw as a “fine child (Ex. 2:2),” returned to set God’s people free. Thankfully, God does give us a clue that they were indeed rewarded for their faith as He lists them in the famous “faith” chapter in the book of Hebrews (chapter 11).
Now, in light of his lack of parents or role models, consider the emotional condition of Moses when he meets Jethro. The day he killed the Egyptian and fled, he not only literally ran from the only family he ever knew, but also figuratively denounced the Egyptian way of life. He had nowhere to go and no one to turn to for guidance-not even a memory of his Hebrew parents existed to serve as an example. Yet it wasn’t long before our Ever-Gracious God provided Moses with someone who could serve as an influential role model for Moses for years to come: a father-in-law.
If you just rolled your eyes at that last sentence, then you might not have that kind of relationship with your in-laws. And from what I hear, you are in good company. Many of my friends struggle with strained relationships with their spouse’s parents and it does not sound like fun! I, thankfully, cannot relate. I feel rather spoiled by telling you that I got the double blessing-an amazing, Godly mom and mother-in-law. I know you think I’m just saying that because she is probably reading this, but I can prove it; she is a living example of the verses you just read. You see, Carol is one of those rare mothers-of- the-groom who chose to love me as a daughter the minute I said “I do” to her son. Ever since that moment, I have watched her put her faith where her mouth is, study the scriptures, and then apply them in how she relates to me and others. In every situation we meet Jethro in today, I have witnessed in Carol; Jesus living out again his ancient instruction to a modern day woman. And I can testify that it works. I hope that by reviewing Moses’ and Jethro’s example, we can all be women who allow the word of God to change us (James 1:22-25) and make us more effective within the relationships the Lord calls us to lead and more teachable within the relationships where He calls us to follow.
“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor 11:1).”
Jethro was a priest of Midian (Ex 18:1). Exactly what that means is uncertain, but we can be sure from what we just read in chapter 18, Jethro was a believer in the One True God. Moses found a role model that he trusted and knew would serve as a wise, Godly counselor. Anytime we are under the advisement of another, if they are not under the “advisement” of The Word, we could be easily led astray.
Show Respect for the Elderly (Lev 19:32)
Moses’ response to Jethro when he came back into town (Ex 18:7-8) speaks volumes of their relationship and the respect Moses had for his father-in-law. His warm welcome is an example that is so convicting for me personally as I often struggle with humbling myself before friends or family that are wiser than me. Let’s both be encouraged to rightfully honor those precious people in our lives that love and support us, even when we make that difficult.
Serve One Another in Love (Gal 5:13)
I have witnessed so many Christian families come to the aid of their loved ones in times of crisis or stress and I am always amazed at their dedication. They certainly are following Jethro’s example as he cared for Zipporah and the boys (Ex. 18:2-5) during a time when Moses was, let’s just say “really overwhelmed with work.” Geof and I have recently been the recipients of this biblical discipline as our parents, siblings and friends have come to our rescue over and over as we have embarked on this huge undertaking of moving overseas. If not for their constant sacrifice of time and assistance with our children, we would have never made it here! (We are here, by the way ).
My intercessor is my friend (Job 16:20)
If you do not have someone regularly praying with and for you, I hope after our reading today you are encouraged to go find an ‘interceding-Jethro’ ASAP! We watch as Jethro offers burnt sacrifices to the Lord for the work He accomplished through Moses; and we witness a man who recognizes the necessity of acknowledging God’s perfect control over our lives and is ready to praise Him for it (Ex 18:9-12). Further, who might need you praying for them right now? You will not have to look far to find someone whom God has called you to intercede for. Carol started praying for me (and all of her children’s future spouse) when Geof was a child, before she even knew if I existed. And now that she’s got me-she doesn’t even complain about the result! See, I told you she was a saint…
Whoever Heeds Correction Gains Understanding (Proverbs 15:32)
The final habit we see in Jethro today is certainly the most challenging, for a mentor and her disciple. However, if we would be careful to follow Jethro and Moses’ example in the end of this chapter, we could all be blessed by this practice. Jethro quickly notes that Moses is making a few mistakes and his gentle, but certain rebuke is priceless. There is no dissertation of criticism, just a factual assessment of the predicament Moses had found himself, and offers loving, corrective instruction. Two parts of this scene I find precious. First, Jethro was obviously sincerely looking out for Moses’ best interest and Moses knew it. Guidance offered in love is much easier received when we are sure of someone’s motives. If a leader has taken the time to prove their concern, we tend to be more teachable. Finally, and maybe most importantly, Jethro helps out…and then he gets out (Ex 18:27). No micro-managing or making sure Moses followed through; his return to his own home was a vote of confidence for Moses that certainly empowered him to be successful.
Are any of these ideas difficult for you? Do you find yourself more often in the position of Jethro or Moses? Either way, both men offer beautiful pictures of Godly leadership and respect that I hope you will find applicable in your everyday relationships. Now, will we be wise enough to use these tools when the circumstances arise? We’ll work on it together…
Your homework for next time is to read Exodus 19-20:21.
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