Exodus 18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 16, 2008


Moses and the Israelites have been delivered from Egypt.  They’ve seen the Red Sea parted.  They’ve watched God provide manna to eat and water from a Rock to drink.  They’ve learned from the victory over the Amalekites that they can’t win without prayer.  Now it’s time for a visitor…

:1-12 Jethro arrives

:1 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.

JethroYithrow – “his abundance”; He is also known by the name Reuel, which means “friend of God”

priestkohen – priest, principal officer or chief ruler

Up to this point in the Bible, the word “priest” has only been used a couple of times. It was used to describe Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18), the Egyptian priests in the time of Joseph (Gen. 41-47), and now Jethro (see also Ex. 3:1).

Up to this point, not even Aaron has been called a “priest”.

The next time the word is used is in the next chapter:

(Exo 19:6 NKJV) 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

Midian – these were the descendants of Abraham from his “other wife”, Keturah (Gen. 25:2).  Their land was known to be east of the Red Sea.  There is a city, Al Bad, about twenty miles southwest of Mount Sinai. This city is thought to be the ancient city of Madyan, or Midian. There are two places apparently known by the locals as Bir Musa (Well of Moses) and a place known as “Jethro’s house”, about a mile apart. Whether these are really historical or not, who knows?


Show short video/Google Earth clip to show where everything fits on the map.


Learning outside your box

For some of us, we might consider questioning the kinds of things that Jethro is going to say and do with Moses and the Israelites.
As far as we can tell, for the moment he is a pagan man. Even after he says some good things about Yahweh, we might still just think that he’s a “new believer”.
Yet he’s going to rock Moses’ world and the things he’s going to do will influence Moses and Israel in tremendously good ways.
Some of us can get quite narrow-minded when it comes to who we’ll listen to.
For some of us, unless Pastor Chuck says it or I hear it from a burning bush, I’m not going to listen to any advice that anyone else will give.

I find it interesting that the wise things that Jethro is going to share with Moses didn’t come from God first.

I also find it instructive that God doesn’t seem to ever contradict the wisdom that Jethro will share, in fact God will only build on it later.

Sometimes we get pretty caught up in the differences between the denominations…
A small town had three churches Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist. All three had a serious problem with squirrels in the church. Each church in its own fashion had a meeting to deal with the problem. The Presbyterians decided that it was predestined that squirrels be in the church and that they would just have to live with them. The Methodists decided they should deal with the squirrels lovingly in the style of Charles Wesley. They humanely trapped them and released them in a park at the edge of town. Within 3 days, they were all back in the church. The Baptists had the best solution. They voted the squirrels in as members. Now they only see them at Christmas and Easter.
Sometimes the differences we make between churches affect more than just squirrels…
I was walking across a bridge recently. I spied this guy who looked like he was ready to jump off. So, I thought I’d try to stall him until the authorities showed up (or at least until I could get my camera phone out). “Don’t jump!” I said. “Why not?” he said. “Nobody loves me.” “God loves you,” I said. “You believe in God, don’t you?” “Yes, I believe in God,” he said. “Good,” I said. “Are you Christian or Jewish?” “Christian,” he said. “Me, too!” I said. “Protestant or Catholic?” “Protestant,” he said. “Me, too!” I said. “What kind of Protestant?” “Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “Independent Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
“Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “New Evangelical/Moderate Independent Baptist or Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Lose-Your-Salvation Armenian Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist OR Historical Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist OR For Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “KJV Only Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist OR Modern Versions Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“MODERN VERSIONS Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist” he said.
“Auugghh!!! You heretic!” I said. And I pushed him over.
I think we need to be careful about where we draw those lines of loving people and even learning from people.
Learn to chew the chicken and spit out the bones. Paul said it this way:

(1 Th 5:21-22 NKJV) Test all things; hold fast what is good. {22} Abstain from every form of evil.

Can I go too far with this? Should I start reading “The Secret” or travel to sit at the feet of the Dali Lama? I think that’s going a bit too far.
But perhaps you should think twice before rejecting the advice of your boss, your teacher, your parents, or even your spouse.
You just might learn a thing or two, even from that pagan.
I find that sometimes the pagan fellow might pay more attention to me if I’d pay more attention to him.

: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 Eliezer (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.

Moses originally came back to Egypt with his wife and family. On his journey back there was that incident where Moses got sick and Zipporah had to circumcise her son.

(Exo 4:26 NKJV) …Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!"; because of the circumcision.

We haven’t heard of Zipporah since that time. It’s possible that it was at this time that Moses sent her and the family back to live with her father in Midian.

: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."

: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.

burnt offering‘olah – whole burnt offering

Just like the word for “priest”, even though this will be a common word used in the Old Testament, up to this point this word has been only used a few times.

The first time this word was used was when Noah offered burnt offerings after the flood (Gen. 8:20).
The next time this word is used is when Abraham is asked to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22).
Even though Moses mentions to Pharaoh that he intends to offer burnt offerings (Ex. 10:25), this is the first time it has actually happened in Exodus.
The “burnt offering” was supposed to be a picture of complete consecration to God. The animal was to represent you as the worshipper. The meat wasn’t just cooked until done, it was to be completely burned up in the fire. It’s as if you are on that altar being completely consumed by the fire and you are giving yourself completely to God.
I think it’s a bit like the picture that Paul paints in Romans:
(Rom 12:1-2 NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

to eat bread … before God – this is what the peace offering was all about – a meal with each other and with God. Fellowship with each other and with God. They didn’t just have a meal, they invited God.

I don’t want to make too much of this, but the fact is that we don’t have a record of Moses or of the Israelites practicing burnt offering and peace offerings until they spend some time with Jethro – until Moses learns a little more from his father-in-law.

:13-27 Jethro’s advice

: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.

We have estimated that there are something close to two million people. In a city of two million people, would you expect there to be problems, people not getting along, people breaking the law, and lawsuits? The people took all their problems to Moses.

: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."

These people have been slaves in Egypt for their entire lives. And now they are without the Egyptians looking over their shoulders. They have no system of laws or a way to judge what is right and wrong.

Up to this point, there is NO written law. There is no consistent standard of right and wrong. There is no precedent as to what they should be doing.

It’s kind of like what we went through when we started the church. We had a chance to do things a little differently. What kind of music do we want to do? What kind of Easter traditions do we want to create?

For Moses, all he can think of doing is take each problem to God and see what God wants to do. Then he tells the people what God has decided.

He can’t see past the next person in line in front of him.

: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.

Moses probably thinks he’s just being a good shepherd. He’s kind of fallen into this job by accident.

It’s obvious to Jethro that there is a problem, but Moses doesn’t see it.

Sometimes we need another pair of eyes to see things that we just don’t pay attention to.

: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.

Jethro commends Moses for going to God to find out what the laws should be like.

But instead of having God’s answer apply to just the person in front of him, Jethro is encouraging Moses to teach all the people what all the laws are supposed to be.

: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.


Qualities of maturity

The list of qualities Jethro gives aren’t just for picking out the judges to help Moses. He’s laying out a target of what maturity is all about.
When Paul lists in 1Timothy the qualities of an elder, he’s not just giving Timothy a checklist for picking elders, he’s giving the people in the church a picture of what maturity looks like.

God centered (fear God)

As judges, they are in a sense representing God’s justice system.
As mature people, they are the ones that give the example of what God is like.
There ought to be a sense of terror and dread of God – when Nadab and Abihu run into God’s Holy of Holies in a drunken mess and they are killed as the fire comes from God – that is learning the fear of God.  When Korah rebels against God, the earth opens and swallows him up.  Those are pretty scary things!
But fearing God also carries the sense of respect and honor –it is a great responsibility to be a representative of God – at times it makes me want to cry because I’m such a lousy representative. It’s a desire to want to please God with everything that I am and everything I do, not just out of terror, but out of awe, respect, love, honor.
The Greatest Commandment isn’t to “fear God”, it’s to “love God”.

(Deu 6:5 NKJV) "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Maturity is all about learning to center your whole life around God.


Notice that it isn’t just men who speak truth, but men “of truth”.
The world is looking for people who are real and genuine.
We are grieved and disgusted at men like Eliot Spitzer – who tried to tout himself as a champion of justice and right –going after mobsters, Wall Street thieves, and prostitute rings. And then we find out he’s been seeing prostitutes for the last ten years.
The hard truth is that sometimes I’m not a whole lot better. When I hear TV pundits rail on Mr. Spitzer as a phony and wonder how anyone in his position could do such a thing, secretly I’m thinking inside, “I know how”. Secretly I know that I’ve got boatloads of wickedness in my heart. I hear a lot of sympathy towards Mrs. Spitzer and their teenage daughters. I hope some of us have compassion on Mr. Spitzer and hope he might be broken enough to find his Messiah.
Truth is a key to maturity.
(Eph 4:15 NKJV) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;
When I talk of being genuine, I’m not just talking of being genuine in our sin, but getting past that to the point where a man can say that he has been walking in purity and he’s actually telling the truth.

Selfless (hating covetousness) –

As judges, they shouldn’t be men who take bribes.
They don’t base their decisions on what they’re going to get out of it.
One of the big steps of maturity is coming to realize that I need to be more concerned about doing what’s right than I am with what I’m going to get out of it.
I remember one of my bigger steps of maturity happening on the evening of September 6, 1987. We had spent the previous night at St. Joseph Hospital as my wife gave birth to our first son. The next night we were back at home. I remember my mom offering to spend the night with us to help us through our first night. We turned her down and assured her we could handle things on our own. What a mistake. Newborn babies know that if they want to leave the hospital they need to be quiet. And as soon as you get them home … let’s just say that that night we didn’t get any sleep.
One of the biggest things that I learned that year was that my self-centered life had to change. I could no longer make decisions based on what I felt like doing at that moment, I had to learn to make decisions based on what was best for another individual who looked to my wife and I for his existence.
If I had to grade my maturity on “selflessness” I’d probably be somewhere barely past kindergarten.
The real role model you want to follow is Jesus.
(Phil 2:3-11 NLT) Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. {4} Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. {5} Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. {6} Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. {7} He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. {8} And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. {9} Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, {10} so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is the real path to maturity.

: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."



For those of you who find yourself in a leadership role somewhere, sooner or later you will need to learn to delegate.
For some of us this is very difficult. Some of the things that keep me from delegating when I should:

·        If you want something done right, do it yourself.

·        By the time I teach someone to do it, I could have finished it a long time ago.

·        Don’t ask someone to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself – so why not just do it yourself?

…promotes endurance
Moses is going to wear out.
The people are going to wear out.
If someone is getting worn out, perhaps it’s time to work smarter instead of working harder.
… shares the rewards
If you do the job of two people, then there is someone who isn’t getting to do their job.

You are not only wearing yourself out, but you are cheating another person from getting to learn and grow in their ministry.

: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.

Even though Jethro goes back to his home, apparently one of Jethro’s sons, Hobab, will hang on for awhile with Moses:

(Num 10:29 NKJV)  Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, 'I will give it to you.' Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has promised good things to Israel."

The Gospel

:11 "Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods;

We aren’t told what kind of a priest Jethro was, we don’t know what kinds of “gods” he was familiar with.

But when he hears how Yahweh has delivered these two million people out of slavery, he is blown away and realizes that Yahweh is above all gods.

It’s possible that some of you here today wondering about this Jesus stuff. Let me clarify what it’s all about.

The Bible tells us the uncomfortable truth that we are all sinners.  In fact it talks about us being “slaves” to sin.

If you are an honest human being you know this is true.
You know what it is like to do what is wrong.

Jesus came to save us from our sin.

In our story of Exodus, the slaves were saved from the angel of death because they put “lamb’s blood” over the doors to their houses.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the “Lamb of God”.  His blood is able to save us from our sin.

There are people here this morning who have been saved.  God has done a miracle in their lives.  Is there anyone in this room that Jesus has saved?  What has He saved you from?  Can you summarize it with one word?  Can you tell us what that is?

For those of you here this morning checking out this Jesus stuff, pay attention.  There may be someone here this morning that you may want to talk to after the service.

You may want to hear their story.

God wants you to come to the place where you will trust Him with your life.  He wants to save you too.