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Exodus 18:10-12

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 18 February 2017

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Jethro: Revelation and Ministry

 

10 And Jethro said, "Blessed be ADONAI who delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
11 Now I know that ADONAI is greater than all the gods; because they acted arrogantly against the people."
12 And Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, took a burnt offering and peace-offerings for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with the father-in-law of Moses before Elohim." (Ex 18:10-12 mine)

 

The Parashah text for today relates the visit of Jethro [Heb. Yitro], the high priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses. The location of the meeting is given as the wilderness near the "mount of God" [v. 5], which is presumptively Sinai. Jethro had heard about Israel's Red Sea victory [v. 1], but after his arrival Moses gave him the full story of Israel's deliverance [v. 8]. This chapter then describes three significant actions of Jethro.

First, Jethro offered a b'rakhah to God.

Jethro rejoiced over the report of Moses and went on to describe having received a revelation with the words "now I know that ADONAI." This is the first time Jethro uses the sacred name. Jethro had been a priest of Elohim, the Creator-God, but now he learned of the One who revealed himself to Moses as "I AM." Israel's miraculous victory over the Egyptians was proof that the God of Israel is the only true God. Knowing God in a personal way requires revelation from Him. You cannot think your way to knowing God. To know God personally is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is like the man to whom Yeshua had given sight who said "I once was blind, but now I see."

 

Second, Jethro offered a burnt offering and peace offerings.

This is only the third time since Adam that someone made a burnt offering. The first was Noah [Gen 8:20] and the second Abraham [Gen 22:13]. Aaron had not yet been made high priest, so Jethro took that role. His action portended the day when burnt offerings would occur morning and evening in the tabernacle. Remember that a burnt offering is a sin offering. Jethro then offered peace offerings that could be eaten by the community. Of interest is that this is the first meal described as being eaten "before God" or in the presence of God. They could eat "before God" because the burnt offering made them at peace with God. In the same way the Lord's Table, which we will share later, is eaten in the presence of our Lord and only those who have received the merits of Yeshua's atoning death can partake of it.

 

Third, Jethro offered advice to Moses.

Jethro became concerned when he saw Moses acting alone as a judge [verses 13-14]. Moses explained that people wanted to know God's will in various matters and he would settle disputes by explaining the statutes of Elohim. Since Moses uses the term "statutes" some scholars think this visit of Jethro must have occurred after all the laws were given to Israel at Sinai. However, the expression "statutes of Elohim," which occurs only here in the Tanakh, points back to creation. Beginning in chapter twenty the statutes will be laws of ADONAI. God's standards of right living were well known since Adam, and people and cities were judged by those standards. God said of Abraham "he obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws" [Gen 26:5]. Moses simply applied the laws that had been passed down to him.

 

Jethro offered Moses a solution to delegate authority for judging, using the battle organization that already existed in the nation. By involving the entire community in conflict resolution Jethro was actually very innovative since normally kings and their appointed officers were the only judges in ancient societies. He is also the first in Scripture to suggest qualifications for judges, and names four important qualities: (1) able men; (2) God-fearing men; (3) men of truth; and (4) men who hate unjust gain. Jethro's concept for case handling would simply follow the chain of command. In all ordinary disputes this system would suffice, and the conflict would not have to go further. Best of all Moses would not have to deal with petty arguments.

 

Jethro proposed his plan with the caveat "if God commands." Even though Moses was the leader of Israel he was willing to take advice. He immediately implemented the plan but its not clear whether he actually consulted God. The silence of God would suggest at least tacit approval. Forty years later in Moab God would reveal His will for the Levitical priests to serve as judges [Deut 16:18; 17:9].

 

Jethro offers an example for us to follow. First, we all can rejoice in the personal knowledge of God. I may not know the important people in society, but I know God. What a precious privilege that is! Second, because we can know God we can be at peace with God and celebrate that shalom with one another in the sacred meal. Third, knowing God and being at peace with God serves as a call to keep His commandments. As John the apostle says, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments" (1Jn 2:3).

 

BARUKH HASHEM

Copyright 2017 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.