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Scripture reading: Exodus 18

A Family Reunion (18:1-8)

With the defeat of the Amalekites (17:13-16), the LORD magnified the standing of Moses and Joshua. Soon, the news reached the nations of “all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (18:1). Soon after, Jethro, “the priest of Midian” and the father-in-law of Moses, journeyed to Israel’s encampment (18:1), and reunited him with Zipporah, Moses’ wife “and her two sons,” Gershom and Eliezer (18:1-5).

A beautiful scene unfolds as we are privy to the family reunion and the visible signs of love and respect evidenced by Moses and his father-in-law (18:6-8). Although he had proved himself to be a great leader, when Moses learned his father-in-law had come, he honored him and “went out to meet [him]… and did obeisance [bowed before him], and kissed him” (18:7a).

What a blessed reunion, as Jethro and Moses “asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent” of Moses (18:7b). We do not know the number of hours that passed as Moses rehearsed “all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them” (18:8a). Remembering Moses’ when the LORD had first called to him from the midst of the burning bush (Exodus 3), I am sure Jethro took pride in the man who was his son by marriage.

Moses shared not only the victories, but “all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lorddelivered them” (18:8) from thirst and hunger, and gave Israel success over the Amalekites (17:8-16).

A Proud Father-in-law (18:9-12)

Jethro rejoiced in the LORD’s goodness and how He had delivered Israel out of slavery (18:9-10). He declared, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them” (18:11). Though he was a Midianite and not numbered among the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Jethro was a man of faith in the God of Israel (for the Midianites were descendants of Abraham through his wife Keturah, Genesis 25:1-2, 4). Therefore, Jethro “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God” (18:12) and invited Moses, his brother Aaron, “and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread…before God” (18:12).

The Daily Toil of Leadership (18:13-22)

The reunion celebration was short-lived, for the next day, Moses returned to his all-consuming task as he “sat to judge the people” (18:13). Jethro looked on as the people gathered “from the morning unto the evening” (18:13), waiting for Moses to weigh their concerns, and pass judgment. He then enquired of Moses, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” (18:14)

Moses then explained that his role was not to make laws, but to make “the statutes of God, and His laws” known (18:15-16). Jethro, concerned for his son-in-law’s well-being, said to Moses, “this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone” (18:18). He proposed there was a better way to judge the people, and that was to “teach [the people] ordinances and laws, and [show] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (18:20).

Rather than serve as the judge of the people, Jethro suggested Moses should be God’s mediator and “teach them ordinances and laws…wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (18:19-20). He urged Moses to choose “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…22And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee” (18:21-22).

Closing thoughts: Character Matters (18:23-26)

Moses wisely heeded his father-in-law’s counsel and “chose able [capable] men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people…and they judged the people at all seasons [as the need arose]: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves” (18:25-26).

What manner of men were chosen to judge the people? First, they were men who feared God (indicative of all who walk in His Law and Commandments). They were pious, godly men, “men of truth” and worthy of trust (18:21). Those who sat in judgment were to hate “covetousness” and therefore not favor the poor or the wealthy, the weak or the strong. They were to be men of integrity and above reproach (18:21)

Tragically, the same cannot be said of men and women in places of authority in our day. How different our society, world, and churches would be if we demanded that those in authority must be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, [and] hating covetousness” (18:21)

What about you? Do you have the spiritual qualities God seeks so that you may serve Him?

Questions to consider:

1) What was Jethro’s response when Moses told him all the things God had done in delivering Israel? (Exodus 18:9-11)

2) What overwhelming task did Jethro observe Moses doing in his leadership role? (Exodus 18:13)

3) What were Jethro’s concerns and advice to Moses? (Exodus 18:17-18)

4) What manner of man was Moses to choose to sit in judgment of the people? (Exodus 18:21)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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