Exodus 18: Be Ye Wise

And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, 3 with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”) 4 and the name of the other was Elieze (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”); 5 and 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. 6 Now he had said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”

-        Have you been wondering about Moses’ wife and family? In chapter 2 of Exodus, we know that Zipporah and Moses were wed. Then, in chapter 4, we learn that Moses’ son hadn’t been circumcised and it nearly cost Moses his life because he was disobedient to the Lord’s instructions. We’re not exactly sure when Moses sent his wife and family back to Midian – possibly before he went to Egypt and confronted Pharaoh or maybe once the plagues in Egypt began. While we don’t know exactly when they separated, we do know they were reunited as it instructs in 1 Peter 3:7 (“In a similar way, you husbands must live with your wives in an understanding manner, as with a most delicate partner. Honor them as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may interfere with your prayers.”).

-        Notice the meaning of the names of Moses’ sons:

o   The first name, Gershom, was a reminder to Moses that he was a foreigner. We, too, are to be strangers here on earth. We are not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to the pattern of Christ (Romans 12:2). Earth is not our permanent home – our home is with the Lord, which is why we’re told in Ephesians 2:19, “…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” We are to be dwellers in God’s house, not the house the world builds.

o   The second name, Elieze, was a reminder to Moses that God is his helper and deliverer. David wrote Psalm 18 about these very characteristics of God: “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.”

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent. 8 And 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 on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And 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 who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

-        Jethro probably held a very special place in Moses’ heart. You can tell the reverence Moses had for him as he greeted him and asked how he was doing. Moses was demonstrating one of the commandments that the Lord was going to give the Israelites (in Exodus 20:12) about honoring parents. Not only was Moses a man who gave instructions, he obeyed the Godly instructions of others, too.

-        Moses wasn’t slow in giving glory to God – he knew who his deliverer was, and in turn spoke of His goodness to his father-in-law. Have you ever found yourself shying away from speaking to a relative about God? The Lord has pressed on my heart lately how I must be bold in sharing my faith with family and not simply with people I don’t know well. I think we sweep it under the rug sometimes by telling ourselves, “Well, they see the life I live and that example of Christ is all they need.” But, Jesus didn’t just use actions, He also used words. Christ’s words of love reinforced His actions and His actions reinforced His words.

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until 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 difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

-        Moses was regarded not only as a leader, but as a judge. There were over two million Israelites, so disputes were bound to occur. From dawn until dusk, Moses would hear the disputes, one by one, and render a decision. But notice what else he did (verse 16) – he made known the statutes of God and His law. Moses was an eighty year old leader, judge, and teacher. God can truly use any willing vessel in a powerful way.

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

-        Jethro’s counsel was similar to what the Acts church did in Acts 6. “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” When it comes to shepherding others (whether it is a man leading his family or our duties at home or in the workplace) these are the characteristics we want! May you trust in God, remain truthful in all your words, and turn away from flattery and bribes!

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.

-        “So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law…” If you are blessed with wise parents (or other wise individuals), then leverage their wisdom! God has placed godly guardrails in our lives to keep us from falling into the ditch. Allow the individual(s) whom God has placed in your life to guide you. Proverbs 11:4 reminds us there is safety in a multitude of counselors. Surround yourself with those who fear God; absorb and act upon their wisdom, just as Moses did. And don’t forget: true wisdom always aligns with His Word. Amen.