|THE FATHER-IN-LAW OF MOSES
Series: Moses - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 21, 2017
This morning we have arrived at Exodus 18 - going on in our study of Moses - and God working our His plan of redemption.
Adam’s choice back in the garden - each of us is born into sin - born separated from God. God choosing Abraham - a person who becomes a people - a nation that God preserves and prepares in Egypt. God choosing Moses - preparing him and sending him back to Egypt to lead God’s people out of bondage.
Real people living real lives in real places in real time that God uses to demonstrate what it means for us to live in a real time in relationship with Him - to help us to understand how God desires to uniquely involve each of us in what He’s doing. A people that God is working through as He accomplishes His promised redemption.
Which is what all of history points towards - what all of what we’ve been looking at points towards. God - Who deeply loves each one of us - desires for us to have a forever relationship with Him. God working to redeem us.
Our redemption price is the blood of Jesus Christ crucified in our place - to set us free from bondage to sin. God redeeming His people to the relationship with Him that was severed in Eden. It all points to Jesus - to redemption - to God alone be the glory.
Hopefully that is beginning to sound really really familiar.
Verse 1: 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. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). 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.
Let’s pause there and get our bearings. Last Sunday we were in chapter 3. Now we’re in chapter 18. We’ve jumped past a whole lot of history.
Moses and Aaron heading back to Egypt. The “Let My people go” part with the plagues and the Passover - the first born of Egypt getting dead. God’s people leaving Egypt with parting gifts. The parting and crossing of the Red Sea. Pharaoh changing his mind yet one more time and Pharaoh’s army doing the “Dead Man’s Float.” We’ve skipped past God providing manna - quail - and water. In chapter 17 Israel took out the army of Amalek.
That’s a lot of history. Yes? Mostly familiar. Yes?
I said Pharaoh, Pharaoh
I said Pharaoh, Pharaoh
Coming back to chapter 18. Verse 5 tells us that Moses and God’s people are where? The Mountain of God. The Mountain of God - is also known as… Mount Horeb or... Mount Sinai. Same place - different names based on who’s calling it what. Last Sunday we saw that Mount Horeb is probably here - the western side of the wilderness of Midian. Lots of desolation.
Which is a huge fulfillment of prophecy. It was on this mountain where the burning bush conversation took place and God told Moses - back before Moses went to Pharaoh - while Moses was coming up with all kinds of objections and struggling to have faith in God. It was here that God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and that after God delivered His people from Egypt - that God would bring Moses and God’s people back to this mountain.
Which was to be a powerful faith building confirmation for Moses - that God is the holy, faithful, compassionate, sovereign God Who is in complete control - ever trustworthy - ever present with Moses and speaking to and through Moses - using Moses according to God’s plan and purposes. Faith building confirmation for Moses.
Which was to be a powerful real time faith building lesson for God’s people. That God’s people would know that God - the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - that same God had delivered them. What they’re experiencing is a part of God’s unfolding plan. His work in history in and through them.
Which is a real time example for us.
There are times in our lives when we see what God has accomplished - maybe how God has worked out something that we’ve been concerned about and praying about. Probably more like “nutted up and stressing out over. Sometimes in all of that we have these light bulb moments when we get it. “Wow. Look what God did.” Like all of sudden God accomplished something.
But, God - Who is the sovereign God - God has been accomplishing something - what was in His mind to do before creation was creation. By God’s grace we just woke up to it.
Hebrews 11:1 - Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction - the convinced at the heart level of the certainty that it’s already a done deal - conviction of things not yet seen. Which means we don’t see yet what to God is already accomplished future history. And yet we can have faith in Him that it is. (Hebrews 11:1)
Those light bulb moments or realizing what God has done - ought to clue us in - add conviction to our faith - to help us understand that God is working on a whole lot of other stuff in our life - even if we don’t yet see it - that we can be trusting Him for as if that light bulb moment has already taken place.
Moses and God’s people arrive at the mountain. Just being at this mountain as God’s people is huge. A God inspired light bulb moment. God is at work here. Worthy of our trust. To God alone be the glory.
Sometime prior to all that while God was delivering His people - sometime prior to all that - Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and the boys - Gershom and Eliezer - Moses had sent them off to Midian and Zipporah’s father Jethro.
Meaning that Jethro heard about the awesomeness of what God had done for His people - delivering them and all. So now, with Moses back in Midian - with God’s people before the Mountain of God - Jethro shows up with Zipporah and the boys - reuniting the family - which gives Jethro an opportunity to see first hand what God is doing.
We’re together? This is a hugely significant moment at a hugely significant place. A totally lit God moment.
Verse 6: And when he - Jethro - sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.
When Jethro shows up with Moses’ wife and the boys he sends a messenger to announce their arrival. Which for us today may sound a little weird. Just ring the bell on the tent and here we are. We’re family.
But, formality and custom being important - especially in that culture - Jethro sends a messenger to Moses and Moses out goes to meet Jethro. Moses bows before Jethro. They exchange kisses. Which was probably a formal kissing on one side and then the other. They exchange verbal greetings - inquiring of each other’s welfare.
All of which takes place where? Out side the tent. Public. Formal Cultural. Recorded for us because we need to be aware of it. There's something here God wants us to see.
Jethro doesn’t just drop in on Moses who greets him at the tent flap in an “I Love Egypt” “T” shirt and fuzzy pink bunny sandals with a cold beer in one hand.
Jethro is honoring Moses - the man God is working through - honoring his son-in-law. And Moses - spokesperson for God - deliverer of God’s people - leader of the nation - comes out to meet his father-in-law and bows before him. Moses honoring his father-in-law - Jethro, the priest of Midian.
Verse 8: Then 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 in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.
Who delivered Israel? The Lord. Who does Jethro rejoice in? The Lord.
Verse 10: 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 has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”
The Egyptians in arrogance tried to keep you in Egypt. Thought their gods were more powerful. But the Lord delivered you. Who delivered Israel? The Lord. That’s why they’re camped at the Mountain of God. God at work. Light bulb moment.
Verse 12: And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
Notice that in the formality and respect offered between Moses - God’s chosen deliverer and leader of God’s people - and Jethro the priest slash father-in-law from Midian - it’s Jethro who takes leadership and offers sacrifices to God - brings his family and the nation to worship God - to eat this meal together before God.
Notice that there’s no conflict. No drama. No competition for leadership or headship. That the whole focal point of this heart warming family reunion - even the meal they share - the whole focus isn’t on the individuals and personalities - but on recognizing that it’s God Who has delivered and dwelt with His people.
that honoring of each other is ultimately focused on
The humility - the respecting and honoring others - the minimizing of drama at home - the conflict between parents and spouses and siblings and in-laws and out-laws - what God can do in and us and through us as we live focused on God and not us. When our desire is to see God glorified and not us. If we’re living our lives and leading our families towards God. Helping our families to see where God is at work. Helping each other to follow God in the real time real places of our lives.
That’s a heart level reality check. Who really is the focus or your life - of your life together as a family? The temptation is to come up with the boiler plate Sunday School expected Christian answer: God.
There is no way we can expect our kids or grandkids to become life-long followers of God - of Jesus - if they aren’t seeing that lived out in the real time of our lives and the priority decisions that we’re making as a family. Actions coming from the heart speak volumes louder than words and intentions that have no basis in how we actually live.
Here before the Mountain of God - this heart warming family reunion - the focus is on God. Trusting God. To God alone be the glory.
The second part of chapter 18 begins in verse 13 with Moses Holding Court.
Verse 13: The next day - after the reunion and meal - the next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Reality check. There are about two million plus people in the camp. How long is the line to see Moses? At this point DMV is looking good.
Morning to evening there’s a line of people with life changing crucial issues: “He got my goat.” “Well, you’ve pulled it my leg.”
Jethro takes one look at the endless conga line and says, “Moses what are you doing?”
Verse 15: And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”
Who do the people come to? Me. “Moses”
We wouldn’t be reading anything into the account here if we assumed that Moses was innocently doing what he thought God had prepared him to do. This is the kind of position that Moses - Prince of Egypt - was bred for. Moses was probably a great judge.
And just maybe some of that might have stroked his ego a tad. Maybe in all that there was a certain feeling of vindication - after being rejected in Egypt and by his own people. Now Moses - the judge - sits before the people as God’s representative.
But there’s a huge problem here. What we just saw at the family reunion. Who delivered Israel? God. Who’s plan for God’s people is being worked out? God’s. This whole camping trip at the mountain of God - coming to God - is about who? God.
“Why are you doing this?” “Because they come to me.”
Is it possible to serve God without serving God?
Some of us type AAA personalities are good at that. Because we’re good at what we do. Where we’re plugging along - doing really excellent at what we’re doing. Doing really good things - even here at Creekside. Or maybe we’re just flowing along in our comfort zone.
Sometimes even with good intentions we can get into things - or into a track of doing things - that we have no business getting into. That may actually be holding back what God desires to do. Hurting us or hurting others.
There are times when the results aren’t what we imagined. Or the pressure - the urgency - is just overwhelming. The stress level is off the scale. We need to make sure that what we’re doing good at is what God has for us to do good at and not just something we’re doing because of our own motivations and issues.
One of the questions I’m learning - emphasis “learning” - one of the gut checks I’m trying to think through when I’m getting stressed out over all the things I see myself as responsible for - and fully capable of doing - and stuff isn’t going the way I think it should - is to ask the Jethro question, “What is this that you’re doing?” “Am I doing this for me or for God?”
If my answer is, “Because they come to me” or something like that - focus being on how all this effects me - chances are really good that I’m doing it for me and not for God.
Try that sometime when you’re getting stressed over what you “have” to do. Honestly ask yourself, “Am I doing this for God or for me?”
The third part of chapter 18 is Jethro’s Advice to Moses.
Verse 17: Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.
Notice that Jethro doesn’t shred Moses. “Moses, you’re such a dweeb. Look how you’re messing up here. I knew my daughter was too good for you.”
Jethro’s focus is on what Moses is doing. His concern is for the well-being of the people - for Moses. Not Moses being an insecure failure with issues. There is such a depth of love and wisdom coming through Jethro’s words.
Ever been hurt because someone focuses on you rather than on what’s going on in a situation? Rather than building us up and helping us to change our actions - to see that we have the potential to do something so much better - instead we’ve been told that we’re schleps or worse. We are the failure not the action. Those are wounds we can carry with us for a lifetime.
God - in His grace and mercy and love - sees us as He created us in His image - and works to redeem us from our sin and the consequences of our sinful action.
Bottom line of Jethro’s observation: This ain’t working. Moses you’re going to burn out. The people are burning out - at least they were burning up in line. This whole system is about to crash. His tone and focus prepares Moses for the fatherly advice that’s coming.
Let’s walk through Jethro’s advice. Verse 19: Now obey my voice - meaning: “Moses, pay really really close attention to what I’m about to tell you.” - I will give you advice, and God be with you!
Literally the idea is - follow my advice and God will take His stand with you - meaning God will support you - prop you up. Keep doing this your way and you’re on your own. Epic failure. Burn out. Do this God’s way and God will be right there with you through it all.
Number One: You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.
As God’s representative to God’s people you’re suppose to instruct them and help God’s people to understand - the statues and laws of God. Meaning the whole big picture of what God is going to reveal to you -Moses - all those laws and regulations - and the day-to-day of what all that law looks like in real time. How to live life together before God as God’s people. You’re suppose to communicate all that to God’s people.
And Moses, as the people’s representative to God - when issues come up and God’s people need further instruction from God - you’re suppose to go to God and ask for clarification.
God has called you to be His advocate before the people and the people’s representative before God. Being between God and the people and the people and God isn’t about you being between the people and the people. You’re trying to do what God never called you to do. No wonder you all are wearing out. The whole Exodus camping trip is in jeopardy here.
Which happens. Doesn’t it? We burn out and others burn out. Life together as the Body of Christ can be more about survival rather than knowing the joy of God standing with us - upholding us - blessing us. That happens when we or others here are not stepping up or stepping in or we’ve stepped out of what God has for us to do.
Second: Empower and encourage others to be who God has created and called them to be.
This whole administrative structure that Jethro is talking about here potentially involved over 260,000 men in a nation of over 2 million. Which meant that Moses was trying to do the work of 260,000 men. Are we together on how out of balance that was?
Ministry - or just living together as the Body of Christ - isn’t about job security. Or insecurity. Hanging on to our own little piece of the ministry - or our little happy spot in what goes on here - hanging on to that because we need that to feel good about ourselves.
Too many of us have seen the ugly side of this. People getting really territorial - bent way out of shape over - for what in the grand scheme of what God is doing in His creation - is really insignificant.
Ministry is about empowering and encouraging others to grow up to be the people that God has created them to be and to live out the roles that God has created them for. One word: Discipleship.
Find men who fear God - who are truthful and honest - who won’t serve for their own profit or gain. Teach them God’s law and statutes. Let them handle the minor disputes. The major disputes - where you have to intercede for the people before God - Moses - you handle those. Which is what God has prepared you for and the role God has placed you in to do anyway.
Paul told Timothy: “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
Empower and encourage others to step up or to step in to the roles that God has created and called them to step up or to step in to - to be life long followers of Jesus Christ who will encourage and empower others to be life long followers of Jesus Christ.
Third - Expect Godly results. Expect God to show up - to be working and fulfilling His promises.
Verse 23: If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”
If you do this - means you need to choose.
I’m giving you my advice and the success of the Exodus hangs in the balance - even the future of my daughter and grandsons. But, it’s up to you to choose if you want to go there.
If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”
If you follow my advice and God does shows up and moves this plan forward - and we can expect that He will - then you will be able to endure. Meaning you won’t burn out because God Himself will supply everything that you need to accomplish what God has created and called you to do. And all these people in that long hot endless conga line who are seeking God - all those people will know God’s peace in the midst of the issues of their lives.
God - our creator - is always unimaginably way ahead of us. He’s had all this figured out before creation was creation. All of this is about God and what He’s doing in His creation. Jesus - redemption - bringing glory to Himself. Maybe we know that. But we still need to choose in the day-to-day whether or not we’re going to follow Him.
What is encouraging for us - the advice of Jethro - is that even if we’re struggling with our issues or the overwhelminness of the task at hand - God has already got it worked out as certain as if it’s already happened. He is 100% reliable - trustworthy - and He will lead us and sustain us and be with us in the midst of whatever it is that lies ahead. So, by faith, expect it.
With so many options pulling at us - and trying to deal with our own issues and so many other issues - trying to balance all that out in our lives - and somehow serve God - we need to hear Jethro’s advice.
Focus on doing what God has called you to do - encourage others to do what God has called them to do - and trust God for the results.
Verse 24 - The Importance of Relationships: So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.
Moses listens. Moses chooses. Jethro departs. End of chapter 18.
The way the account ends - the family reunion - where Moses is at and where he needs to get back to - the advice given by Jethro - all of which focuses on God and what God is doing in and through His people - God’s unfolding work of redemption - the way all of that comes together here at the end emphasizes how all of that is woven in and around the relationship of Jethro and Moses. A relationship that’s probably been developing for about 40 years. An crucial snapshot of which we see here in chapter 18.
Point being that none of what takes place, takes place except in the uniqueness of the relationship of Jethro and his son-in-law Moses.
Processing that there are two takeaways that can be helpful for us.
First: Who is your Jethro? Every one of us needs a Jethro. Someone who will speak God’s truth into our lives. Who will lovingly keep our feet to the fire.
Every one of us needs someone to help us stay on track with God. Who will step into our lives - to listen to our hearts - to affirm us - to see clearly what it is that we’re valuing - to respectfully challenge us to choose greater obedience to God. Maybe even pattern that for us. And then to step out of the way. So that we’ll learn for ourselves what it means to follow God through life. So that we’ll learn that with God working in and through us we do have what it takes.
Like Abraham who stood by Lot - no matter how badly Lot messed up - Abraham looked out for him, rescued him, interceded for him.
Or like Jonathan who was willing to risk his life for his friend David - to set aside even his own future as king - because he believed in David and what God was about doing in David’s life.
Or Barnabas who saw God at work in Paul and risked everything to bring him before the church leadership - who served with Paul as Paul evangelized the world.
Or, Jesus Who saw more in Peter than Peter saw in Peter. Jesus Who told Peter, “Simon. You’re the Rock. You’ve got what it takes even if you can’t see it yet. Dude. I believe in you.”
Can you imagine hearing those words? From God. To you. “I believe in you.” He really does.
Second question: Who is your Moses?
Every one of us - at one time or another - is given the opportunity to pour ourselves purposefully - meaningfully - into the next generation. At home - at work - at school - here at Creekside. To speaking God’s truth into the lives of other men and women - maybe even our children.
And yet to do that - to step into a loving - God focused - vulnerable - roll of discipleship pouring lives into someone else - may invoke the deepest kind of fear in us. Probably, because most of us have never or rarely experienced that kind of relationship. There’s an uncomfortable unknown in that.
We’re struggling to be a Moses. How could we ever be a Jethro?
As Jethro is telling Moses he needs to pour himself into others - Jethro focuses Moses on… God. Because the confidence for being a Jethro - the strength - the overcoming of our fears - all that comes from God. Not us. From God Who speaks to us, “I love you.” Who believes in you. Who died out of love for you to redeem you from sin. Who empowers and encourages us for what He calls us to be.
It comes down to a personal choice. To choose to focus on God and what God has for us - to choose to commit ourselves to encouraging and empowering others to follow God - and to choose to expect that God will show up and be there to supply whatever it is that’s needed - especially what we need to get beyond our fears and weaknesses. Because God has and God does and God will.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.