Sunday, March 27, 2011

Exodus 18: 1-12

Word soon reached Jethro, the priest of Midian and Moses’ father-in-law, about all the wonderful things God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He had heard about how the LORD had brought them safely out of Egypt.
2 Some time before this, Moses had sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons to live with Jethro, his father-in-law. 3 The name of Moses’ first son was Gershom, for Moses had said when the boy was born, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.” 4 The name of his second son was Eliezer, for Moses had said at his birth, “The God of my fathers was my helper; he delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” 5 Jethro now came to visit Moses, and he brought Moses’ wife and two sons with him. They arrived while Moses and the people were camped near the mountain of God. 6 Moses was told, “Jethro, your father-in-law, has come to visit you. Your wife and your two sons are with him.”
7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law. He bowed to him respectfully and greeted him warmly. They asked about each other’s health and then went to Moses’ tent to talk further. 8 Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to rescue Israel from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He also told him about the problems they had faced along the way and how the LORD had delivered his people from all their troubles. 9 Jethro was delighted when he heard about all that the LORD had done for Israel as he brought them out of Egypt.
10 “Praise be to the LORD,” Jethro said, “for he has saved you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. He has rescued Israel from the power of Egypt! 11 I know now that the LORD is greater than all other gods, because his people have escaped from the proud and cruel Egyptians.”
12 Then Jethro presented a burnt offering and gave sacrifices to God. As Jethro was doing this, Aaron and the leaders of Israel came out to meet him. They all joined him in a sacrificial meal in God’s presence.

Points of Interest:
• ‘Word soon reached Jethro’—it’s possible that Moses himself has sent Jethro a message, but it sounds more like Jethro has heard the news through other sources. There were many caravans of traders that passed back and forth between Egypt and other parts of the Middle East; perhaps the rumors are spreading of what God accomplished. The victory over Pharaoh was not a private contest; it was meant to be shown on a world stage. One of God’s hopes was to show the whole world how much greater the Lord is than Pharaoh. It seems he has succeeded. We learn now that Moses had earlier—apparently while he was still in Egypt—sent his wife and sons to stay with Zipporah’s family. Now that Jethro has heard that it is safe, he’s bringing his family back to Moses.

• ‘the mountain of God’—Mount Sinai, that is. Understandably, places where God appeared were commemorated as sacred sites. Mount Sinai later becomes known as ‘God’s Mountain’ because it’s the site of the burning bush and—later in the story—the Ten Commandments.

• ‘bowed to him respectfully and greeted him warmly’—Moses’ heady experience as rescuer of the Israelites hasn’t changed his feelings toward his father-in-law. He still treats him with the respect due an elder and the affection due a friend.

• ‘They asked about each other’s health’—it’s a little funny to imagine Moses asking, ‘So, how’s it going?’ and Jethro responding, ‘Good. Good. How about for you?’ But that seems to be pretty much how it happens. They start with a few minutes of idle chit-chat; then, once they warm up a little, they go into the tent for deeper conversation.

• ‘Moses told his father-in-law about everything’—I wonder if Moses gets lonely. He seems to jump at the chance to talk things through with this person whom he can treat as a peer, or perhaps even an older advisor. Moses’ many responsibilities and his unique position of authority probably mean there aren’t very many people with whom he can just let his guard down and be himself.

• ‘I know now that the LORD is greater than all other gods’—Jethro’s relationship with the LORD before this point—and even after it—is something of a mystery. We are told that he is a priest, but not what god he serves. Virtually anything is possible. It’s conceivable that he has always been a worshipper of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Maybe he’s been a priest of the same God as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but has known him by a different name. He might have been a worshipper of a different god completely, or of many gods. We don’t really know whether Moses and Jethro conceived of themselves as sharing the same faith or not. What we do know is that Jethro displays a character exactly opposite to Pharaoh: he has a very soft heart toward the LORD.

Taking it home:
For you: In this passage, Moses enjoys the chance to talk about everything that’s been going on with someone he knows and trusts. Has God given you people like that in your life? If so, thank him for the great times of deep community you’ve experienced with them. If not, ask God to send someone your way, just like Jethro unexpectedly showed up for Moses.

For your six: When Moses shares honestly with Jethro about what’s been happening in his own life—both the joys and the hardships of following God—Jethro responds by delightedly worshipping God. Share with your six what it’s like for you to be on the journey of faith, and see how they respond. Pray that they will be as joyful as Jethro was when he heard from Moses.

For our church: In this passage, we see Moses’ whole family participating in this hero’s journey of faith together: Moses’ wife, children, and father-in-law all join him on his path. Pray for the families in our church, that they will experience the joy and excitement of going on this adventure together.