Exodus 18:1-27 Sound Advice

Alice needed someone else to give her advice and should FOLLOW it too!

Jethro brings Moses’ family to him. They stayed with him while Moses was working for the Lord freeing Egypt. Now Jethro has some advice concerning every day duties of Moses

Moses sent Zipporah, Gershom and Eliezer home to her father in the beginning of the plagues. He did not want his family endangered or even stressed by the process Israel was enduring. Now that they are a free people it is time to reunite the family.

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Jethro has been caring for his daughter and her children for many months. It is always difficult for children who have been on their own to come back under their parent’s roof but Ziporah adjusted with dignity and obedience. The boys enjoyed spending time with their grandfather, helping him with his herds and daily chores. They made a good team together but they all still missed Moses.

Jethro kept his ear to the ground, so to speak, for information about Moses and the Israelites. First there were a few wild stories being shared in town about the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea. Nothing was consistent in the stories except that Israel’s God had done a mighty work on their behalf. That had been a few weeks ago.

Yesterday a caravan came in bringing a story of Israel defeating Amalek in battle. This was amazing to Jethro after all he had heard about Israel from Moses while he lived in Midian. This was definitely a good sign that it was time to bring Moses’ family back together.

Before the caravan left to make their camp for the night Jethro questioned them about their story. “Where did this take place? Who was their leader?” Jethro was hoping that Moses’ name would be mentioned in the story somewhere.

Jethro was not disappointed. Moses WAS the leader of the prevailing Israelite group. He also learned of the exact location of the battle. He didn’t know for certain if they would still be there when he arrived but he figured he could trail them until he caught up at worst.

When Jethro got home that evening and told Zipporah and the boys what he had learned. They all rejoiced at the success of Israel and the thought of reuniting their family. The boys were also sad to be leaving their grandfather.

Morning came and the family gathered what they would need for their journey. As soon as their supplies were assembled and their meal finished, they set out for Rephidim. Jethro led the donkey on which Zipporah rode on while Gershom led a donkey with provisions for the family. They didn’t want to be caught out in the wilderness looking for Israel without food and water. Jethro also prayed for the Lord to lead them on their journey to join Moses.

Three days later Jethro spotted the huge camp of Israel. There was no mistaking the size of this group. As they drew closer a couple of sentries met them and inquired as to their journey.

“I am Jethro and this is my daughter, Zipporah, who is the wife of Moses. These are his sons. Do you know where we can find him?”

“We can take you to him.” The group fall in behind the scouts and make their way toward Moses’ tent. As they near the camp one of the sentries dispatches a runner to let Moses know they are coming.

The runner makes it to Moses in no time flat. “Moses! You have visitors coming!”

Moses looks up at the runner who is now standing beside him. “Who is it?”

“He says he is your father in law Jethro. He is also bringing your wife and sons.”

Moses jumps to his feet instantly. “Where are they? Which direction?”

The runner points Moses in the right direction. Moses takes off at a quick pace. As soon as he got to the group he bowed down at Jethro’s feet. “Father, I’m honored to welcome you and am forever grateful for your care of my family in my absence. Please, will you join me at my tent for a meal?”

Jethro puts his hand on Moses’ shoulder and pats him. “I would love to join you for a meal. As for caring for our family in your absence, it was my pleasure. But I am honored to turn my daughter and her sons over to you once again.”

Moses rose, gave his father in law a kiss and then the group made their way to Moses’ tent. While Moses settled his family Joshua dismissed all the people who were waiting to have Moses hear their issues. “Moses’ family has come to him today. He will hear your concerns tomorrow.” The people were not happy but they obeyed nonetheless.

As Jethro and Moses settled in Moses’ tent Miriam and Zipporah began making preparations for the evening meal. This would be a family celebration. Gershom and Eliezer went off to explore the camp.

“Jethro, you will not believe all that the Lord has done for Israel! He sent me to stand before Pharaoh with my brother Aaron and demand that he let Israel go. Pharaoh’s heart was hard and the Lord hardened it even more so that His works would be told throughout the generations. He sent plagues on Egypt that brought Pharaoh to his knees, for a time, when he would consent to let Israel go but he went back on his word time and time again.

First there was the plague of blood where ALL the waters of Egypt were turned to blood, even those in the pots. Next he sent frogs. SO many frogs that they covered the land, including invading every house. Next he sent gnats to torment the land. The very dust became gnats and they were EVERYWHERE! Then the Lord made a distinction between Egypt and Israel. The rest of the plagues only fell on Egypt. The first of these was a plague of flies. The whole of Egypt was filled with them. Even Pharaoh’s throne room was buzzing with their presence. Next the Lord killed all Egypt’s livestock. There wasn’t a cow, donkey, oxen, camel, sheep, or goat left when the Lord finished. Then He cursed the Egyptians with boils. They were in misery and covered from head to foot with these sores. Next the Lord sent hail so strong that it flattened crops and killed any man or beasts in the fields. Many of Egypt’s leaders heeded the Lord’s warning about this plague and protected their servants and livestock by bringing them in. Next the Lord sent locust. They covered the land and ate EVERY green thing in Egypt but Goshen, where the children of Israel lived was still lush and untouched. Next the Lord sent a darkness so black that it could be felt as well as seen. It was a spiritual darkness as well as physical. The last plague was the worst of all. EVERY firstborn male of EVERY home, not covered with the blood of the sacrifice the Lord commanded, died that night. It was the night we left Egypt. The night the angel of death visited Egypt and passed over the homes of those who obeyed the Lord.”

“That is AMAZING! It is hard to believe that Pharaoh waited so long to relent. I wouldn’t have thought he would be so stubborn. What happened to Pharaoh after that? I’ve heard tell there was some kind of incident at the Red Sea.”

“Oh Jethro you would have been SO amazed if you had been there with us. After we left Egypt, the Lord led us to the sea. It took us a few days to arrive as our numbers were so large. While we were gone from Egypt, Pharaoh changed his mind again and came after us with all his army…”

“ALL HIS ARMY! Oh Moses! What did you do?”

“We obeyed the Lord.”

“And?”

“And the Lord opened up the sea! He separated the water into two walls, one on the right and one on the left and made a path of DRY LAND for Israel to cross on.”

“DRY land?”

“Yes! As dry as the ground beneath our feet right now.”

“AMAZING!”

“Egypt was right on our tails but the Lord kept them from reaching us. Then they followed us into the sea. The dry land began to take on water when the chariots were about half way across. The soldiers were so committed to catching us and bringing us back that they didn’t notice the danger they were in. After the very last of our company had made it safely to the other side, the Lord instructed me to release the waters to return to their natural position. EVERY ONE of the Egyptians following us drown in the sea that day. It was a tragic loss of life but an awesome deliverance for Israel.”

“There is NO God like Israel’s! I had heard bits and pieces of that story but many didn’t believe it was true. I wish I could have witnessed it myself.”

“That wasn’t the end of the Lord’s intervention on our behalf.”

“Really? Tell me. What other wonders has the God of Israel done for His people?”

“One night He provided us with meat so plentiful that ALL the people were filled. He also provides us daily with bread straight from Heaven.”

“Bread from Heaven? What is it like?”

“You will be able to see and taste it yourself soon. Tomorrow morning you will bear witness to this miracle too.”

“I look forward to that!”

“The Lord also provided His people with water to drink on two separate occasions. The first was at Mira where He turned bitter water sweet. The second time was at Rephidim where water flowed from a rock; enough for ALL to drink including our flocks and herds.”

“That’s a LOT of water!”

“Yes it is. I’m wondering if that is part of why Amalek attacked us; to get this water for themselves.”

“I have heard of your battle. Tell me more about it.”

“Amalek came up at us without provocation. We were fortunate that the sentries on the outskirts of the camp saw them in time. Joshua mobilized the men and armed them with the plunder we had taken from Egypt’s dead at the Red Sea. I stood watch with the Lord’s staff He gave us from the hilltop. I was astounded to see that as long as my arms were raised with His staff, Israel prevailed. When my arms grew too heavy to lift, Amalek prevailed.”

“My goodness! Surely you couldn’t hold your arms up forever. How did you finally defeat them under the circumstances?”

“Aaron and Hur held my arms aloft for me. They supported me throughout the entire battle. By the time the sun began to set, Joshua and his men had won the battle.”

“I sound like I’m repeating myself over and over again but that is AMAZING!”

“I agree! It is hard to come up with another word for what the Lord has done. As a symbol of our gratitude and desire to honor Him we made an altar and dedicated it to Him on that very hilltop.”

“I would like to honor the God of Israel myself. As a priest of Midian I want to pay tribute to the God above all other gods. May I offer Him a sacrifice?”

“I believe He would welcome your sacrifice with gladness.”

Moses and Jethro walked to the altar Moses had built after the battle. Jethro brought his own donkey forward and sacrificed it on the altar to the Lord. “Blessed be the Lord who has delivered His own out of the hands of their oppressors. He has shown His greatness above all other gods by how He has dealt with Pharaoh and Egypt. Blessed be the God of Israel!”

After the sacrifice was offered Moses and Jethro asked Aaron and all the elders to join them in the meal Miriam and Zipporah were preparing. They had a wonderful meal together that evening. Jethro enjoyed hearing the stories again of the Lord’s provision for Israel from the other’s point of view. Aaron even shared some of the looks they encountered when confronting Pharaoh.

That night Jethro was given Moses’ bed as the guest of honor. Accommodations were also set up for Moses’ family. They would now be a permanent part of the children of Israel. Jethro however had duties he would return to in a few days. Moses’ duties would resume first thing in the morning.

When morning came Moses stepped from his tent and took his customary place. It was time to attend to the people’s needs. They came one group after another to present their issues to him. His job was to listen to their concerns, consult with the Lord in his spirit, and render a decision based on what the Lord showed him. This went on ALL DAY LONG. He only broke briefly for meals and to relieve himself when necessary.

Jethro watched Moses as he ministered to the people. He could see the toll this task took on him as the day progressed. He thought to himself, “Moses will wear himself out at this rate. This task is too much for one man, even if that man is Moses.”

When evening came the crowds left Moses. It was time for the evening meal. Moses’ shoulders dropped and he laid his chin to his chest in exhaustion. He then took a deep breath and rose to join the family in their tent for the evening meal.

“What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand round you from morning till evening?” (verse 14).

“Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and His laws” (verses 15b-16).

“What you are doing isn’t good. You and the people with you are going to wear yourselves out. This is too much for one man alone, no matter who that man is. Listen to me carefully for I’m going to give you some VERY wise advice. I believe it comes from God and He will be with you as you follow it.

You will still represent the people before God and make sure that they know and understand his laws. You will bring their cases to Him and you will instruct them in how they should walk and what they must do to please Him. But for the day to day issues between the people, you need to look for able men from all the people who also fear and honor God. They must be trustworthy and above taking a bribe. Place these men in authority over the people. Designate them as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let THEM judge the people in the small matters. If there is a great matter, let that be brought to you so you can bring it to the Lord. This will ease your burden and also teach the people to care for some of their own needs instead of looking to you for everything. If you do this’ God will direct you and you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace’ (verse 23).”

Moses thought about what Jethro had said. It resonated well with his spirit. “I will do as you advise Jethro. Thank you for your counsel.”

The next morning Moses began by calling Aaron and Joshua to him. They discussed Jethro’s advice and began working together to come up with a list of names of men who fit the criteria laid out. As they assembled their list they brought each name to the Lord and asked Him to guide them in their new role.

It took three days for Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Jethro to complete the new organizational structure and to inform the people of the expectations within it. The people adopted it with little resistance as it meant that their issues would be heard in a much shorter timeframe than having to wait for their opportunity to stand before Moses.

Moses watched the new structure dwindle those standing before him to two or three issues a day for the next two days. The next day was the Sabbath and there would be no issues brought that day. Instead, Moses spent this day with his family. It would be the last day with his father in law for some time.

“Jethro, I want to thank you for your advice and for helping me implement it. I don’t know how long I could have continued the way things were going. I believe the Lord sent you to me at just the right time.”

“I do too Moses. I’m glad I could be of service to you, to the people and to God Himself. It was an honor sharing His leading in my spirit with you. I believe you are well prepared to continue on in His work. I wish it were otherwise but I must take my leave of you tomorrow morning. I have many duties waiting on my return.”

“I thank you for bringing me my family also. I pray that the loss of their able hands won’t make your tasks too difficult.”

Finally the family retired for the night. Their dreams were sweet as they enjoyed their final hours together. In the morning Jethro would begin his journey home. Miriam and Zipporah had already packed his provisions for the journey. All that was left was the final farewell.

Morning dawned bright and clear. Gershom and Eliezer were the first to rise to bid their grandfather a safe journey. After the morning meal was completed the boys walked with their grandfather as far as the sentries standing guard outside the camp. They watched until he had faded from sight. They would miss him and his gentle ways but they were happy to be back with their father. This was really where they belonged.

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Father God, thank You for reuniting Moses and his family. I know how hard it is to be away from your family for a long time. When my children and I lived on the east coast I felt so alone. Coming home was a blessing! Thank You for bringing us home.

Thank You also for bringing my daughter and her family home. I felt so helpless when they were in Arizona all alone. The hardest part was that they weren’t leaning on You on their own. They accepted my prayers for them but seldom sent up any themselves. They still have trouble in that area but I believe they are making progress. Kaden speaks a LOT about prayer; him praying and asking for prayers too. I LOVE seeing that!

Sharing what You are doing and what You have done is SO inspiring, for me and for others who hear the stories. I think those stories are what are softening my kid’s hearts. Please don’t let them turn into Israel’s attitude; “what have You done for me lately?” Have them, and me, looking forward with confidence from the past. No fear; only faith because we know the One who is ALWAYS faithful!

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