Life of Moses
Becoming A Friend Indeed…
Introduction…Who is your best friend? Ever had one? Ever lost one? Where did that friend come from? Why were they your best friend? Were you their best friend? What did they bring to the table? What did you bring to the table? Did they help you? How and why? Did you help them? Are you still friends? If so, why? If not, why? Did something occur to damage the friendship? Some betrayal of friendship? Were you sure there was a betrayal or did you presume a betrayal? Or were you the one to betray the friendship? Isn’t it interesting how most typically, it is always someone betraying us that ends the friendship, but if that is true, and we are all the victims, then who are the betrayers? Is betrayal, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Where is God in this divinely-inspired relationship?
Before Jethro can fully help Moses and Moses’ stewardship, he must demonstrate his complete Spiritual loyalty and allegiance to Moses. There is nothing better than two friends who both have a deep reverence for God, or his Son, Jesus Christ. If both love God, then they will act God-like and resolve differences, and as they resolve differences, the Spiritual whole of the relationship will be greater that the sum of its individual parts separated. The Spirit seeks to build unity…true unity, and true unity is no easy thing to achieve, but once achieved, it is difficult to undo.
General Introduction: Moses, led by God, is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers seven centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems. Last week, God via Moses’ staff, delivered the Israelites from two enemies: a lack of water and the fierce Amakelites.
Israel sings out its praise to Yahweh of Yahweh God’s delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army. Ex. 15:1ff.
After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.
Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.
In turn, along with the introduction of the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, Yahweh meets his complaining children’s desperate needs with the remarkable daily provision of manna. Ex. 16:19-36.
Last Week: Via the staff Yahweh had provided Moses with, God delivers Israel from two fierce enemies; a scarcity of water and the Amalekites. Ex. 17:1ff.
Read Passage several times…
18:1 Now 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.
What do we previously know about the father of Moses’ wife from Ex. 2:16ff? In 2:18, he is called “Reuel” (which means “friend of God’), and in 3:1, he is called “Jethro” (which means “his abundance”), as he is here? Why two different names? Both descriptions have him being a priest of Midian. Who did the Midianites worship or serve? How did they view Yahweh? Did they worship or serve other gods?
2 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”
Does Gershom mean “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”?
4 The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”
Does the same apply here to “Eliezer” also… does “Eliezer” mean “my father’s God was my help”? So Moses named both his sons after his past experiences…
5 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God.
So is Moses being reunited with his family?
6 He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”
Why such a formal reunion? Was Jethro unsure about Moses now that he had defeated Pharaoh and was leading this incredible expedition away from Egypt and towards the Promise Land? Was he unsure whether Moses would reclaim his wife and children?
7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.
With this action, Moses leaves no doubt that he is receiving his Midianite wife and children back.
8 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 befallen them on the journey, and how the Lord had delivered them.
What a story to have heard…
9 Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians.
10 So Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.”
So Jethro is certainly in sympathy with all that Yahweh has done for and with Moses and the children of Israel, which means that in contrast to the fearful and threatened foreign powers, such as the Amalekites, who have just attempted to wage war against Israel, but were defeated, Jethro is clearly throwing in his lot with Moses and the Israelites.
12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
A spiritual treaty between Israel and the powerful Midianite priest Jethro in the presence of God has just been ratified. Israel has her first ally.
• Moses’ father-in-law hears about the incredible and miraculous delivery that Yahweh God has performed for Israel and Moses and clearly decided to reapproach Moses and Israel with Moses’ Midianite family.
• Jethro, after hearing Moses official recounting of all that God had done for Moses and Israel, rejoices in this deliverance, recognizes Yahweh God as the source of this miraculous salvation and celebrates a feast in Yahweh’s honor and in the presence of the elders of Israel and in which Jethro offers a sacrifice to Yahweh God.
Bottom line…Moses’ father-in-law, apparently an important Midianite priest, becomes Israel’s first ally on her way from Egypt to her Promise Land.
Whys? (What truths do I learn about God, people, life or myself?)
• This passage sets the scene for the very next passage in which God will use Jethro to advise Moses on how to more effectively manage his people since one man can’t do a very good job with perhaps millions. It would seem God is validating that God can and does use people we would not necessarily consider insiders to reveal his practical wisdom, but first Jethro must demonstrate his alliance with Moses and Israel and his reverence for Israel’s God, Yahweh, and Jethro, by returning Moses’ children and wife to Moses, as well as listening to Moses’ accounting of God’s deliverance and offering a sacrifice to Yahweh with Israel’s leadership present is clearly Spiritually and politically aligning himself with Israel and his son-in-law. Jethro will pose no threat to Israel. He will not side the pagan foreign nations whose land Israel must travel over to get to their Promise Land, nor the pagan nations in the Land. Jethro is choosing sides and is proving to be a practical and faithful ally to Moses and Israel, something both desperately need as Israel is about to enter, via her mediator, Moses, into her symbolic marriage covenant with her deliverer, Yahweh God. Thus one treaty precedes another.
A nation is being birthed and prepared for her homeland…her place in history and among the earth’s inhabitants. God is doing something very special here, and in Jethro, Yahweh provides for Israel her first and very much needed ally and friend.
So what do we do with this? Loyal friends are important and God can provide them from anywhere. How do we know that they are loyal? Do they come to us? Do they take the time to hear our story? Do they genuinely rejoice in our story of special deliverance and so much so that they worship with us? If so, then you might want to listen to their practical wisdom, as Moses is about to do, because they are the real deal. They are God’s messengers or angels sent to support us.
Thanksgiving…What a week. Last weekend was amazing with our friend Nancy singing and her willingness to share her very powerful, new and fresh story. It was everything I had hoped for initially six months ago, and then several months ago, when I learned of her Spiritual disability of sorts, much more. Nancy waited and trusted me. I trusted God, and God came exploding onto the scene. After that, lots of counseling, some unexpected. It seems more and more, my job, my gift and my ministry is to help untangle conflicted and confused thinking. I listen, I pray, I help untangle so that people, even if only momentarily, have rest or peace. I also got to write more, finishing up my first draft of the contribution of the general Hebrew word for “love.” I also got some special time with my wife, which I was indeed thankful for. My love, devotion and honor for her grows daily. I am a blessed man.
Struggle…Something is bugging me; not quite sure what it is. Trying to sort through my own conflicted pieces of a God’s divine puzzle. The truth. What does God have in store for me? For Fellowship? For my people? How are we to abide in the vine by trusting the Son’s atonement and learning to love, and especially pray, and allowing the Spirit to shape our consciences as we pray, for others. If our ministry…our abiding, begins with prayer, as Jesus seems to indicate to his disciples in John 15:7 and then John himself reiterates in his letters, then what form should those prayers take, and where will those prayers lead us—all of us?
Truth…We can’t do it alone; we need help. Who will help? Who, how and where will God Almighty raise up others to help us through the massive Spiritual undertaking of learning how to love and pray for others as Jesus loved and prayed for us? He will send us allies. Genuine allies. Those we can trust. If they come, listen, rejoice, worship and throw in their lot with us, especially in the face of constant foe, then they just may be of God, and therefore, invaluable in their wisdom. Such was the case for Moses; may it be the case for us. Send us Jethro’s, Lord. Send us, your Jethro’s.
Application…You have brought help from the unlikeliest of sources, God. Thanks for surprising gifts. Help us to be discerning, but when that discerning is complete, let us more effectively shepherd your desperately needy and searching flock.
Joseph M. Cross
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.