Sunday March 18th
I’m sorry, but I just can’t help thinking about the Beverly Hillbillies whenever I read about Moses’ father-in-law Jethro!
I don’t know if we can learn much from Jethro Bodine, but I think we can learn a lot a from the Biblical Jethro. Let’s look at verses 1-4 of Exodus 18:
Now 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. 2 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” 4 The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”
We know that Moses lived with Jethro during his time in Midian. We also know that Jethro gave his daughter Zipporah to be Moses’ wife. And we also know that when Moses headed back to Egypt, Zipporah went with him. We saw that back in chapter 4. But what we’re learning this morning is that somewhere along the way, Moses sent Zipporah and their sons back home to Midian. It could have been at some point during his conflict with Pharaoh. Possibly he was trying to protect them from Pharaoh’s anger, or it may have been after the Exodus from Egypt, while they were in the wilderness.
In any event, Jethro has now decided to reunite the family and to join Zipporah and the boys in congratulating Moses for his victory over Pharaoh.
One thing that I want you to notice here is that Jethro is referred to as “the priest of Midian”. Now Midian was a place, not a god, so we can’t be too sure who exactly Jethro was worshipping, but what we will see next is how the freeing of the Israelites was a great testimony to Jethro about the power of the God of Israel:
5 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God.6 He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” 7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. 8 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 befallen them on the journey, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 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. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.”12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
I think it’s a little odd that Moses kissed his father-in-law but it doesn’t say here that he kissed his wife or his sons. Maybe he did and it just wasn’t written, or maybe that’s just how they did things back then, but I think if I was Zipporah, I might’ve been a little ticked off!
Notice how Jethro now proclaims that “the Lord is greater than all the gods”, and he offers his sacrifices to the God of Israel!
When Jethro says “Now I know” it indicates a shift in his understanding of who God really is. We see the Syrian general, Naaman saying a similar thing after he is healed of his leprosy in 2nd Kings 5:15
“Behold now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel”
Do you remember how we have been talking about the power of our testimony? That’s precisely what brought Jethro to a place of worshipping the true God – he had heard of what Israel’s God had done for His people. No god in Midian had ever shown such power!
When you have a powerful testimony of something that God has delivered you from, you need to make sure that you are sharing it. Other people’s lives can be impacted by your testimony! It can draw them to God.
There’s something else that I want you to recognize in what’s about to happen next. Sometimes we think that unsaved people need to learn from us, which is true, but we can also learn from them too!
13 It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening.14 Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” 15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 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.”
Moses doesn’t see this system as a problem, but Jethro recognizes it as a formula for burn-out! So he says:
17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.19 Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, 20 then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. 21 Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”
That’s some very good advice, spoken with wisdom and clarity. Did you ever have someone speak into a situation in your life, and as soon as you heard it, you knew they were speaking truth? You might have wondered, why didn’t I think of that?
Moses just had one of those moments.
Of course, there’s a big difference between hearing the truth and following the advice that you’ve been given. Thankfully Moses is not just a hearer of Jethro’s words, but also a doer!
24 So Moses listened to 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, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.26 They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge.27 Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land.
Solution found – problem solved!
Now an interesting thing about this incident is that the same situation came up again in the New Testament. When the early church, led by the Apostles, was starting to turn the world upside-down with the gospel, the Apostles, just like Moses, were getting burdened down with doing things that other people could have and should have be doing.
We see the story in Acts chapter six. The church in Jerusalem was growing rapidly, numbering possibly in the thousands. They had a ministry of distributing food to widows. But the Greek speaking widows felt they were not being treated fairly compared to the Hebrew speaking widows, and they brought their complaints to the apostles.
The Apostles did something to correct the problem, but not by getting personally involved. They delegated the responsibility to others, which led to establishment of the role of deacons.
They said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2b-4).
What they did here was essentially the same model that Jethro recommended to Moses – Don’t try to do it all yourself – Find capable people and let them handle some of the responsibility.
Jethro told Moses in verse 18, “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you.”
Nobody benefits from a system that is unbalanced. But we see that in Acts 6 verse 7, once the deacons were in place, “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”
When we follow a healthy model for effective church ministry, the kingdom of God expands and people are blessed!
And the healthiest model for the church is found in Ephesians 4:11-12“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
Different people might hold specific roles within the church, but the goal of every role is the same – to equip the saints – which includes every one of us – to do the work of serving God – which builds up the church – which is the body of Christ!
That’s why it’s so important for us to help each person here find their place in God’s plan. And as Pastor Josh has been teaching regarding the 7 mountains, your role isn’t necessarily limited to things that go on here in this building. You might have a certain role here but an equally important role serving God in your family, your neighborhood, your school, or your workplace!
Your life and your role MATTER to God and to His work through this church. Without YOU we can’t do the job!
In 1 Corinthians 12:14-25 the Apostle Paul gives this wonderful illustration regarding the importance of each part of the body of Christ:14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
So that’s the proper way to see ourselves as connected to one another in the body.
I read where someone said that there are three classes of bones within the skeleton of any group or body: wishbones, jawbones, and backbones.
The wishbones are folks who are simply hoping that things will somehow work out without their effort.
God has not made you to be a wishbone!
The jawbones are folks who simply talk about how everyone else should be doing things.
God has not made you to be a jawbone!
The backbones are folks who support the church in any way that they can and do whatever it takes to get the job done.
God has made you a part of the backbone of this church!
And keep this in mind – If Jesus Christ is the HEAD – what comes directly under the head?
The backbone is actually made up of many parts. I want to remind you today that each one of is an important part of the backbone of God’s church and His kingdom! And working together, by God’s grace, we can do great things!