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Jethro, Father-in-Law Extraordinaire

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Jethro was a wise and generous Father-in-Law

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I. Jethro, Father-in-Law Extraordinaire

Exodus 18:13–24 NASB95
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. 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?” 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.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. “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. “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, 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. “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. “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. “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.” So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
Exodus 18:13-24
Introduction:
Exodus 2:15–21 NASB95
When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.
Exodus 2:15-21

In the Doghouse With The In-Laws

Engaged, home, In-Laws, Silly, Texas, USA | Related | April 7, 2019
(My fiancé and I recently got engaged. We’ve just arrived at his parents’ house. This is not the first time I’ve met his parents, thankfully, but it is the first time I have visited them since the engagement. On walking in the front door, my fiancé throws his arm around me and says to his parents:)
Fiancé: “She followed me home! Can I keep her?”
His Dad: “Only if you promise to take care of her. I’m not going to be the one to clean up after her.”
(I love their strange sense of humor!)
In-laws. You never know what to expect. They have a bad reputation, however, this is not always the case as we saw with Naomi. Today, for Father’s day, I have another extraordinaire in-law. His name was Jethro. He is only mentioned a few times, yet we find he was a man of significant influence in the life of Moses. Bow your heads and pray with me that we learn from this man of God.
Pray
We first meet Jethro early in Moses story. Moses was in a most difficult position. He was raised in Pharaoh’s household as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but was actually a Hebrew. It would be a lot like being a half-breed accepted by neither side. I am sure it was truly difficult for him.
Moses killed an Egyptian that was beating one of his fellow Hebrews, however, that did not get him any kindness from the Hebrews. Upon finding out about it, Pharaoh was quick to try to have Moses slain for his crime. So, Moses flees into the wilderness for his life.
We see and understand that God’s hand is upon Moses life when he is spared from the executions that took place when he was a baby, not to mention many other times in his life we are familiar with. But have you ever considered God’s hand in leading Moses to Jethro? Moses runs out into the wilderness with no idea where to go, only just to escape execution. And where does he land? At the footsteps of a priest who knows of God. To better understand the significance of this, allow me to give you some back story of Jethro. Not much is known and some of what is known is speculation, but there is enough known to understand that there is probably some truth in these suppositions.
First, we find that Jethro is “the” priest in Midian. The question is then asked, “what kind of priest is he? Is he a priest before God or a priest before false gods?” In all Jethro says and does, he appears to be a priest for God, the same God of the Hebrews. Look at his response to Moses after God delivered him and the Israelites from Egypt. It is found in .
Exodus 18:9–11 NASB95
Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 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.”
This begs another question. Where did Jethro get his knowledge of God? How did he become a priest of God? Well there is an interesting possibility found in the details. Jethro was a Midianite, but he is also called a Kenite in . The Kenites were descendents of Cain. It is believed that even though Cain left in disgrace, he took his knowledge of God and taught it to is children. In fact, some believe that the Hebrews learned a lot about God from Jethro. However, we will get to that later. For now, it is interesting to notice that Moses, delivered from death on two separate occasions finds himself in the presence of a priest of God who will have great influence on him.
Upon Moses first meeting of Jethro, we see evidence of two of Jethro’s characteristics.

A. Jethro is hospitable and generous.

Exodus 2:20–21 NASB95
He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses.
Exodus 2:
Jethro is in a household of women. God bless him! (This story gives the idea that there were no sons, but we do know that there was at least one. His name was Hobab and he later accompanies Moses to Canaan. But there is nothing to indicate there are any others. It is possible that Hobab was young at this time). His daughters do the best they can, but they are picked on by other men in the area. In their distress, Moses comes to defend them. They immediately go and tell their father what has happened. Now we all know how protective father’s can be of their daughters. They are usually not fast to encourage the relationship between a stranger and their daughters. However, Jethro recognizes that this man Moses is not the norm. He generously opens his home to him and feeds him.
Jethro does not stop there. He invites the man to stay with him. Now Moses has nothing to offer Jethro, but Jethro is seriously lacking in the department of sons. Based on the response of the other shepherds to Jethro’s daughters, I suspect there were few options for son-in-laws also. Typically, a son-in-law took his wife to live in his home, with his family. However, Moses has nothing to offer, yet Jethro invites Moses to marry his daughter and to live with him as a son caring for Jethro’s flock. Moses accepts and lives as such for many years.
It is sometimes difficult to accept new people in our children’s lives whom they may marry. However, we need to be careful how we receive them. Our opinion will carry more weight with our children if we receive their friends in a respectful caring manner than if we are rude. To be hospitable and generous are characteristics we are all to have as Christians. Not just with our children’s friends, but with all people. We should be respectful, even when we disagree or do not particularly care for someone. We are concerned at times that we will be taken advantage of, however, God knows all things and calls all things into account. We are never judged for being hospitable and generous, but we are judged if we are inappropriately not so.
Things appear to go well with him and he seems content. But then something happens that could possibly cause conflict between Jethro and Moses. However, it does not due to two new characteristics we find in Jethro. We find that...

B. Jethro is trusting and supportive.

Things change one day when watching over Jethro’s flock, he notices a bush burning on Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. Curious as to why this bush burns without burning up, he goes to inspect it and has a personal encounter with God. By the time he leaves, he knows he must leave for Egypt, but what will Jethro say? Jethro has been good to Moses and given him responsibilities within the family. What of his wife and children? You can just imagine Moses making his way back to Jethro all the way trying to decide what to say and how Jethro might respond. However, there was no need to be concerned. Look at the interchange with me.
Exodus 4:18 NASB95
Then Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”
Exodus 4:18-
Jethro shows complete trust in Moses and gives his support by allowing Moses to go in peace. This could not have been easy for Jethro. He had obviously come to rely a great deal on Moses as a son. I am sure there were a lot of stories of harassment before Moses came, but with Moses there this would have been less frequent if any. Not only that, but a male family member would have been a blessing to Jethro in this household of women (we really do not hear anything about Hobab until much later). Oh, there would be male servants, but that is not the same as a son. Without any arguments or doubts, Jethro releases Moses to go “in peace” to do what needs to be done.
As parents of adults and in-laws, we need to respect the decisions that are children make. We need to respect the calls God makes on their lives. I remember when I first shared with my parents that I felt God was indicating that He was calling me to take my son and move a long distance from home. I knew this would not be easy for them. We were close. I had had a lot of physical issues and in those times relied on them being there. Not only that, but I would be taking their first (and at the time) only grandchild. They encouraged me that they would support me in whatever I felt God calling me to do. This was a relief. I was afraid they would argue with me and I was already facing a lot of challenges as I was moving from Washington State to Colorado state with no job or home to go to. It was a total faith move. It all turned out great. God provided a nice family willing to share their home with us for a few weeks. In that first month, God performed miracle after miracle providing me with a town home to buy and a top paying job in a town which bragged no one was ever paid more than minimum wage. Years later, my mom confessed to me that she was afraid for me to make that move, but that God had directed her to keep quiet.
There comes a time when we have to allow our children to make their own way in the world, for good or bad. In those times we need to trust their judgment and be supportive.
There is an other characteristic and fact to this story that we do not often hear told. It was the fact that...

C. Jethro is a kindred-spirit spiritually.

I addressed this briefly in the beginning. We learn right away that Jethro is not only a priest, but “the” priest of Midian. “Some scholars contend Jethro was likely a priest of El, the God of the patriarchs (cf. Reuel, “friend of El”).” This is important. Remember, the Hebrews in Egypt have been out of touch with God in many ways for 400 years. There would be the stories handed down from generation to generation about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph was revered and God had been an important aspect of Joseph’s life. However, there as not been any current stories since Joseph’s death. They are surrounded by a people who believe it multiple gods and this influence has taken a toll on these descendents of Abraham. In many ways, they are rather ignorant of this God they believe in. They do not even have a name for Him. All the others have a name, but the true God does not need a name. “I Am” is the name He gives Moses. He does not need a name. God is who He is…God!
I cannot believe there is anymore proof that there is a God than this aspect. Moses is protected from death by God, but Moses does not really know God very well. He flees for His life and runs into the tents of a priest of (ta! da!) God! Someone needed to help prepare Moses for the encounters with God he is about to have. Talk about coincidence. Moses has a call of God upon him since birth and he just happens to run into and become the son-in-law of a priest of God that is not an Israelite? I mean, there are no Israelites to help him, but God provides what he needs. I am sure that Jethro taught Moses a lot about God before that day when Moses encounters God on Mount Horeb.
After Moses and the Israelites escape Egypt, they are sitting around the foot of Mount Horeb. I wish to take the story up at this point. Look with me at .
Exodus 18:1–12 NASB95
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. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” 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. He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” 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. 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. Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 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.” 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.
The laws and appointments of God have not yet been made, so the Levites are not yet priests. However, Jethro is a priest. He offers the sacrifices of thanks and worship on behalf of the Israelites. I believe that Jethro was probably a bit of a teacher for Aaron at first. Jethro rejoiced and worshiped with them in all that God had done.
There is a special kinship between people who share the same faith. It goes deeper than an ordinary friendship or family relation. We see this kinship between Jethro and Moses throughout the rest of the story. We see this kinship in the fondness of Moses receiving Jethro after their absence from each other.
Exodus 18:7 NASB95
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.
Exodus 18:7–8 NASB95
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. 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.
Exodus 18:7-8
Exodus 18:
And again in Jethro’s response.
Exodus 18:9–11 NASB95
Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 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:
There is an additional blessing for us if our children marry fellow believers. There is a rich bond that is deeper than comes from a marriage. It is the bond of God.
Not only is Jethro a priest, but...

D. Jethro is a wise counselor.

Exodus 18:13–24 NASB95
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. 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?” 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.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. “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. “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, 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. “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. “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. “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.” So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
Exodus 18:
One of the blessings that come from a rich relationship, especially one punctuated by a spiritual kinship, is that you can speak truth into each others lives. Jethro had been a supportive father-in-law for a long time, but now he sees something that brings concern. Something that he recognizes can bring harm to Moses and his family and he speaks up. I really like the way Jethro does so. Not only is he wise in what he advises, but he is wise in how he does so. Look with me at Jethro’s...

Steps to giving advice.

i. First, he observes what is happening.

a. First, he observes what is happening.

First, he observes what is happening.

b. Second, he asks questions about what is happening and why.

When I was a supervisor in the corporate office, I learned it was best to start with questions when I thought something was being done wrong. Sometimes there were details that I was unaware of that caused things to be done in a different way than was the normal. After a couple times of jumping on someone accusing them of wrong, but then finding out they were right, I learned to ask questions first before passing judgment that something was being done wrong. Jethro does the same thing.
Exodus 18:14 NASB95
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?”
Exodus 18:14

c. Third, he listens to Moses as he explains.

Jethro does not just charge in that what Moses is doing is not good, but he listens to all Moses has to say first.

d. Fourth, Jethro then gives feedback and advice.

Jethro does not just start telling Moses what to do. Instead, he gives Moses feedback on why what he is doing is not a healthy thing to do and then he gives advice that probably comes from years of experience as a priest and leader of a household. Here again we see evidence that Jethro was a man of God. He gives wise counsel that places God in the center of the advice.

e. Fifth, Jethro steps out of the way.

Jethro gives the advice, but then turns it over to Moses whether he will accept the advice. Look at verse 23.
Exodus 18:23 NASB95
“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.”
Jethro is not commanding Moses, but advising him and Jethro leaves it in Moses court whether or not he will accept the advise. It is commended to Moses that he did listen (vs 24).
Exodus 18:24 NASB95
So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.
The instructions that Jethro gave that day have benefited not only Moses, but also many others. Even in big businesses, you find these concepts taught and Jethro is given credit even in secular places. Many have learned from Jethro’s advise, but we need to learn from Jethro how to give advise also.
Conclusion:

Conclusion:

Many would tell you that the story of Jethro ends with the above, however, Jethro pops up in a couple other books of the Bible. Look with me at .
Numbers 10:29–33 NASB95
Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out to the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you’; come with us and we will do you good, for the Lord has promised good concerning Israel.” But he said to him, “I will not come, but rather will go to my own land and relatives.” Then he said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us. “So it will be, if you go with us, that whatever good the Lord does for us, we will do for you.” Thus they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them.
Conclusion:
Conclusion:
Jethro was an intriguing person. James Crichton in The International Bible Encyclopedia had this to say about Jethro, Moses father-in-law.
The story of Jethro reveals him as a man of singular attractiveness and strength, in whom a kind, considerate disposition, a deeply religious spirit, and a wise judgment all met in happy combination. And this ancient priest of Midian made Israel and all nations his debtors when he taught the distinction between the legislative and the judicial function, and the importance of securing that all law be the expression of the Divine will, and that its application be entrusted only to men of ability, piety, integrity and truth ().
Crichton, J. (1915). Jethro. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 1675). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.
If there were any person you would wish to emulate as a father or father-in-law, you can not go wrong by emulating Jethro, priest of Midian.
Pray and dismiss
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