Exodus 18:1-27~ 20110515 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
05/15 Exodus 18:1-27 Humble Testimony
We've come to a crossroad in the book of Exodus. God has been about the business of rescuing his people from Egypt, intervening to save them from slavery. But his purpose was never to turn them loose to do whatever they wanted to do. His stated purpose to Pharaoh was 'let my people go that they may serve me' or 'that they may worship me'. God is rescuing his people from futility to a life of purpose and meaning. He is bringing them into relationship with himself. He is bringing them to Mt. Sinai to teach them his ways. They are almost there.
God chose an unlikely candidate to be his tool to set his people free. Moses rose up to defend his people, but was rejected and exiled for forty years. There he was given a Midianite wife, became a shepherd, and had sons. When he was on the back side of the desert, God interrupted him and called him to 'set my people free'. He reluctantly returned to Egypt, but not before God showed him how deadly serious a thing it is to have his own house in order and obey God's commands. God confronted him over his negligence of the covenant sign of circumcision in his family.
Now, God has triumphed over the gods of the Egyptians, Moses has led the people of Israel out of Egypt, through the midst of the Red Sea, they have seen God's gracious and miraculous provision in the wilderness, they have seen that God will give them victory over their enemies. Israel is encamped at the Mountain of God.
We now see Moses' family reunited, we see Gentiles entering into worship of the God of Israel, and the establishment of a leadership structure that spreads the burden of responsibility among godly men.
The Midianites were historically no friend of Israel. It was Midianite traders who sold Joseph as a slave in Egypt (Gen.37:28,36). The Midianites would conspire with the Moabites to hire Balaam to curse Israel (Num.22:7ff). The intermarrying of Israel with Midian with the consequent worship of Baal incited the LORD to wrath (Num.25). But in this passage, we see a Midianite priest converted to the true worship of YHWH.
This is amazing in light of the context. We have just seen another branch of Abraham's family (Gen.25:2), the Amalekites, war against God's people and be defeated by God's power. Even God's own people have been so far grumbling and complaining, putting the LORD to the test. They have not shown a great deal of faith in their deliverer. This priest of Midian, it says 'heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt. (18:1)' God's own people seem to continually be blaming Moses for leading them out to die rather than praising God for bringing them out of slavery. This Midianite priest seems to be one of the first to get it.
Listen to what Moses tells his father-in-law. “Dad, you should have been there. The Pharaoh of Egypt was terrified every time I showed up. Remember when you sent me out in the desert with your sheep? You had no idea what I was capable of. I raised my staff, and you should have seen it! All Egypt was in mayhem. They were begging us to leave. All these people are following me, they're looking to me for leadership. Can you believe it? I struck the rock with my staff and water came out!” No, Moses doesn't draw attention to himself. He points to the LORD. He told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done. The LORD did this! This was a God-centered witness. And he didn't edit out the struggles either. He told him about 'all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.' We've had some rocky times. No food, poisoned water, no water, grumbling people, enemies attacking, The LORD delivered us. We would have had no hope unless God had intervened. He gave all credit to God. This is a faithful witness. This is a real testimony. It's not about me. It's all about God. Look at what God has done!
Jethro's response is joy. He rejoiced. He recognized the goodness of God in all of this. Jethro, priest of Midian, does not use the generic title of deity, he does not name the god of the Midianites, he does not assume that his god and Israel's God are the same. He uses God's revealed covenant name in distinction from all other pagan gods. The LORD – YHWH is good! This is the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Israel's God, the great I AM. Jethro has heard all that God did for his people Israel. He heard that YHWH had brought them out of Egypt. He rejoiced for all the good that YHWH had done for Israel in that he delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. He blesses YHWH: “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.” Jethro knew his son-in-law Moses was in trouble with Egypt. It was evident that something supernatural happened to preserve Moses' life from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, and seeing that the 400 years of slavery for the Hebrew people in Egypt had been sovereignly ended stirred his heart to worship this God of the Hebrews.
We are seeing the beginnings of a fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham.
God had declared:
Now, a Midianite priest is converted to worship the one true God. He says:
He had seen the evidence, and he was convinced. He worshiped.
What an amazing scene! Jew and Gentile together worshiping the one true God, breaking bread together in the presence of God!
In heaven they sing this about the Lamb:
This is what Jesus commanded that we do:
God has from the beginning intended to bring some from every nation together in worship of the one true God.
Moses The Judge
The next scene is a scene of Moses carrying out his responsibilities as leader of the people God has entrusted to his care.
Moses is filling the role of teacher/counselor/arbiter of disputes. He is teaching the people God's standards, settling disputes and making peace, and seeking God's direction for the people. All these things are good and necessary and important. But Jethro sees a problem in the system. This is an insurmountable task for one man. Justice delayed is no justice. He offers some advice.
Burdens of Leadership Shared
Jethro's instruction is for Moses to continue in the role of teacher and intercessor. He is to take their cases before God and seek God's direction. He is to fulfill the role of teacher, communicating God's truth to God's people. He is to warn and make them know the way in which them must walk, to help them understand their relationship with God, and what their responsibilities are. But he is to choose able men to come along side him and share the load of leadership. These men are to have specific qualities. They are to be men of character. First on the list is a fear of God. Their relationship with God must be healthy. They must have proper awe and respect for the Most High. They must be God-fearers and not men-pleasers. They must be trustworthy, reliable, faithful men. They are to be men who cannot be bought. Men of character are to be chosen to share the counseling/arbitrating responsibilities.
The picture we have here illustrates the problem. God's law has not yet been codified. All the people are coming to Moses with their questions and grievances. They wait in line all day and get no answers.
They go home discouraged and frustrated. Everyone has to go through this one man who goes to God to get their answers.
According to Jethro's advice, the majority of cases would be settled at the local level, with only the difficult or new issues being brought to Moses. This will serve to alleviate the backlog of cases so that justice can be served in a timely manner, and frees Moses up to focus on his primary leadership responsibilities. Jethro's advice is given not just as good practical common sense, but as guidance from God.
Moses' Humble Response
Moses responds as any good leader today would. “Don't you know who I am? God chose me to lead his people. Who do you think you are to give me advice in my job anyway? It was my staff that brought the plagues and parted the Red Sea and brought water from the rock. I spoke to God and he sent manna. I'm the one who intercedes with God for all the people. Don't you think if God wanted me to do things differently, he would have told me himself?” No, again, Moses lays aside his natural pride and demonstrates amazing humility.
Moses listened. Moses obeyed the instruction from his father-in-law. He was wise enough to take advice, no matter the source.
There are some interesting connections between this chapter and the one before. In both, foreigners come to Israel; the Amalekites came to attack; the Midianites came to greet. In both, some men are chosen for a specific task – to fight or to judge. In both, Moses takes a seat on the second day and remains seated for the entire day. In both, Moses is said to be tired or weary, and is provided assistance by others. In both, Moses humbly and willingly receives help from others. He knows his own weakness and is vulnerable. Proverbs tells us:
In the New Testament, we are told:
We are in humility to consider others as more significant than ourselves. More significant! That is contrary to every natural instinct we have. This kind of humility takes gospel transformation to carry out. This takes crucifixion of self to put others first.
Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. This is against our inclination, but we are now equipped to fight the fight against our flesh. We now have God's law written on our hearts (Jer.31:33). We have God's Spirit in us to cause us to walk in his ways (Ezek.36:27). There is now one mediator between God and men; the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim.2:5). Every good gift comes from above, so whatever I have that is praiseworthy, the one who is worthy of praise is my Lord Jesus Christ, not me. Look at what the LORD has done for our sake. Rejoice in all the good that the LORD has done to us. Bless the LORD for delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of his dear Son (Col.1:13).