Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 18 February 2017
Jethro: Revelation and Ministry
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
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).
Copyright © 2017 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.