OT | Jethro’s Advice (Exodus 18)

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

In our last Old Testament Study, we took a quick look at the closing of Exodus 17, and we left room for folks to catch up to where we are in the text. Today, we are going to take a look at Jethro’s Advice recorded in Exodus 18. We are going to see 2 major themes here, first we are going to take a look at the proper (Biblical) sharing of a testimony and worshiping God. Then we will look at Jethro’s advice to Moses and we will examine how churches today get this part wrong.

So let us dive right into the text beginning in the first verse of Exodus 18.

Exodus 18 (ESV) | Jethro’s Advice

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. And when he 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. 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.

Testimony… we give testimony not of ourselves and how awesome we’ve become or how wonderful our life has become now that we made a decision or said a prayer. Our testimony is of what the Lord has done on our behalf. Notice the section that follows that Jethro doesn’t lavish praise upon Moses; rather, he offers praise and worship to the Lord God.

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. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”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.

All praise and glory and honor be to God. They worshiped God (blessed His Name, confessed Him as God, offered burnt offering and sacrifices) and then they broke bread together. Now this act of worship takes a great deal of time, and led to the breaking of bread at the end of the day. The following day, we see Moses fulfilling his role as the Prophet of God to the Children of Israel, in the day-to-day affairs of leading such a large group through the wilderness. Until now, we’ve seen when the people murmur and complain to Moses, who then cries out to God and He acts, granting manna from heaven, quail from the wilderness, and water from a rock.

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 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?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 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. 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 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. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 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. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.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.”

24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 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. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

Now, we have not yet been given the 10 Commandments. Moses was God’s servant and he heard God’s voice and God listened to Moses. Jethro knew that Moses alone could not be the only judge over all of the people. Moses needed to appoint men and delegate authority to them to sit as judges over tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands. Delegated authority, not surrendered authority. Moses was still is held accountable to God for the people… he still represents the people before God. However, the smaller cases that have already been made clear can now be heard by able, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hate a bribe.

So how does the present-day church get this wrong? Modern-day pastors read themselves into the position of Moses when they should be reading themselves into the “able, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hate a bribe”. Jesus Christ is the head of His Church. Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father in Heaven… the role of Moses is a shadow of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the Head of His Church, not your senior pastor. Your elders/pastors are the ones to whom have been delegated authority in Christ Jesus to watch over, tend, teach, and feed His sheep. Some are placed over thousands, some hundreds, some fifties, and some tens. The children of Israel were divided up into tribes, clans, houses… but all were God’s Chosen People. The Church today is even more diverse and equally unified through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as written in His Word. Beware the false teacher, the false prophet, and the falsely anointed one (false christs). In closing, let us visit Paul’s exhortation to the elders of the church in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28-32 (ESV)

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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