Jethro Advising Moses" by Jan van Bronchorst

Exodus 18:1–20:23: Like Father, like Son

At Mt. Sinai, the Creator testified what “love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength” really means. In the Torah reading יתרו Yitro (Genesis 18:1-20:23), we explore how Heaven gives us different tasks and different means to fulfill those duties.Heaven gives us different tasks and different means to fulfill those duties. These are not only money but also talents.

We shouldn’t spend so much energy trying to develop or “correct” someone else’s talents, instead of developing and molding our characters to match the Father’s testimony, broken down to its core in the 10 Commandments.

In this first vignette, we see Moses’ humility and character. He had demonstrated great power in splitting the Red Sea. Moses brought the plague on to Egypt. When you see this great man, who has performed so many miracles, bowing himself down low to this older man.

Who was Yitro?

Even though Yitro (Jethro) was a priest of Midian, a pagan priest, Moses still showed him this great honor just because he is his father in law and his elder.

It was only after Jethro saw how much power and might God had shown to bring Israel out of Egypt, that he believed in God. Jethro realized how great his son-in-law had become.

The Midianites were descendants of Abraham, and although Abraham would have taught them about the true God, only the descendants of Isaac followed God faithfully. The descendants of Esau, Ishmael and the sons of Keturah all fell away from the straight path.

Moses’ father in law has seven different names or titles.

  1. Reuel (he might have actually been Moses’ grandfather in law)
  2. Jethro
  3. Jether
  4. Hobab
  5. Heber―names of Jethro’s descendants
  6. Kemi―names of Jethro’s descendants
  7. Putiel―names of Jethro’s descendants

As Moses’ father-in-law grows spiritually, his titles change. But he hasn’t given up his position and way of life at this point.

“So Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.’”(Exodus 18:10–11 NASB)

Did Yitro visit Moshe before or after the 10 Commandments?

It appears that Moses is already teaching God’s law to the people even before Mt. Sinai.

“Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.’” (Exodus 18:15–16 NASB)

The truth of the matter is that this story is plucked out purposefully out of sequence. They didn’t arrive at Sinai until Exodus 19, yet we see in Exodus 18 that Jethro arrives after they reach Sinai.

We saw in Exodus 17 that when Amalek saw Israel, they attacked, which seems like strange reaction. The people of Amalek had to have heard of all the miracles that God used to bring Israel out of Egypt. Yet all they want to do is kill the people of Egypt.

We see a contrast in Exodus 18. When Jethro the priest of Midian sees the people of Israel, rather than attacking the children of Israel, he is in awe and wants to learn more.

When Moses is sitting in front of the people and judging them, this is after the law was revealed at Sinai.

Jethro’s advice to set up different levels of judges was a two-edged sword because later, these judges start leading the children of Israel astray. It’s not always a bad thing to delegate workload but it has to be done carefully. We see something similar in Acts 6 when the 12 apostles were called to do the same thing because they saw their time was being divided up to take care of people’s daily needs when they needed to be out teaching the word.

In our lives, when we have a problem, we go to God. We can also go to the Messiah. Jethro said that breaking up Moses’ workload was to take care of Moses’ physical limitations, not his spiritual needs.

God does not delegate our prayers to anyone else. Our prayers belong to God. God can’t be stretched too thin.

When you have a physical problem, we go to court, not to God.

Why the Exodus?

God explains to Moses why He brought Israel out of Egypt.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:4–6 NASB)

The whole world belongs to God but God tells Israel if they will keep his covenant, they will be his special people.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” (1Peter 2:9–10 NASB)

When Israel came out of Egypt, Israel received mercy and Egypt received suffering. To be God’s beloved people, requires something form the people. They are required to listen to and follow God’s commandments.

We know what God wants: a kingdom of priests who will obey Him. How does God get His people to listen to Him? Fear. It can be very successful motivator, but not always. This mountain which is on fire, which one could not touch on threat of death brought great fear on the people.

Approaching the mountain of God through Messiah

“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. … But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:18–19, 22 NASB)

Mt. Sinai is not a holy mountain anymore. He is not there. God now has placed His name on Mt. Zion. Yet we are allowed to approach Mt. Zion in a way that the people of Israel were never allowed to approach Mt. Sinai in Messiah when we believe and trust in Messiah’s sacrifice for us.

Being made perfect doesn’t mean you don’t ever made mistakes but it does mean that we can walk on the mount and not be afraid, not in arrogance but in confidence.

Point behind the ‘Big 10’

We are fairly familiar with the 10 Commandments, but there are a couuple of things I want you to draw your attention.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2 NASB)

There is a reason this commandment is listed first. If you can’t identify who God is, the other commandments, such as not bowing down to idols don’t matter much.

God repeats the command about not buiding idols twice (Exodus 20:4–5, 21–23). The fact He repeated Himself on this matter shows us how important this issue was to God.

This is their weak point and He knows that they will disregard it. They also will disregard the command not to take God’s name in vain when they put His most holy name on these idols. God doesn’t look kindly on people putting His name on something that is not His.

Coveting is both an action and a desire, you are doing something to obtain something that belongs to someone else. When you desire something that God didn’t give you, you are telling God that what He has given you is not good enough for you.

We are all slaves or servants of God. He gives us different tasks and  different means to fulfill those tasks. These means are not only money but also talents. We shouldn’t spend so much energy trying to develop or “correct” someone else’s talents, instead of developing and molding our characters to match the Father’s testimony.

Summary: Tammy.

Banner image: Jan van Bronchorst, “Jethro Advising Moses,” Painting, Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Public domain (U.S.) via Wikimedia Commons, 1659.

*{Yitro}: Jethro. It means “abundance.”


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