Moses and Jethro
Well, good morning everyone! Glad to have you here. If we haven’t met, my name is Dan Osborn, the pastor here at Park’s Forest Glen location. If you’ve got a bible with you this morning, open up to Exodus chapter 18. If you need a bible, you can grab one from the seat in front of you and is on page ***.
We’ve got a very interesting story that we’re looking at—one that is probably one of the less familiar ones from the Old Testament, but I think one that speaks very directly to us today.
One of the hard things about living in the city—and I’m speaking as a younger guy—is moving. If you’ve been around Chicago for a while, you know how delightful of an experience moving is, right? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really mind helping people move (unless of course you get there and they still haven’t packed anything). But I’m not the biggest fan of the whole moving process itself.
That said, in the 6 years that Courtney and I have been married, we have moved 4 times. When we first got married, we moved to Old Town…then Bridgeport…then Lakeview…and finally Irving Park where we’re still at on the corner of Irving and Elston. The only plus side to moving so often is that you actually pick up some tips and tricks along the way so that the next move isn’t as bad as last.
With the second move…I learned not to move when you wife is 8.5 months pregnant. Seems like foresight should have caught that one but I guess lesson learned!
Another tip: people are more likely to be ‘busy’ when they find out you’re moving in to a three story walk up. Lesson we learned—don’t tell them it’s a three story walk up until they get there! Make sure you have plenty of food…and then promise those friends that helped you that when you move OUT, you’ll definitely hire movers.
But the most important lesson we learned with moving was the necessity of having shifts. By the 3rd move—I had everything timed out so that Courtney had her mom in town to help her pack up and label everything—I had a crew scheduled to come and move stuff out of our old place and into the truck…and that was it. Another crew to help us get to the new place…some to unload the truck, some to go up and down the stairs, some to start unpacking…and they could switch in and every so often. And while it certainly was not easy…what Courtney and I had realized is the necessity of sharing the load with others. We recognized that we needed other people to help—and what we really couldn’t do by ourselves was able to be done when we had those around us who were willing to share the load with us!
It’s for my good and for the good of everyone involved, right? We share the load.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because in the passage we’re looking at this morning, this same principle is at work—the necessity of sharing the load. And what we’ll see is that this is not just a simple organizational principle…no, it’s much bigger than that—it is still a way that God actively uses to mobilize his people today to get after what He’s called us to do!
Share the Load.
Alright, if you’re not there yet, open up with my to . Then I’ll pray, and we’ll get started.
If you weren’t here last weekend, let me quickly cover what we covered in chapter 16—that as Israel was continuing to move through the Wilderness—they were regularly grumbling against Moses about what they were experiencing—saying that it would have been MUCH better for them if they’d never left Egypt in the first place. And yet, the way that Moses responds to them—is by calling them to remember and be thankful for the ways that God has already provided for them!
And it really is this simple but PROFOUND idea that the Israelites just seemed to have missed…that if they had taken a moment to look back at what God had already done in the last few months right in front of them—that He had brought them out of Slavery in Egypt—that He had demonstrated His power and authority over Pharoah in the Plagues—what He had shown them in literally splitting the Red Sea right open so that they could pass through the waters…that should have been enough to remind the Israelites that in whatever they are facing now, God is bigger.
But as the storyline of Exodus continues, what we find out is that what God has done for Israel in bringing them out of Egypt is not just something God’s People have seen—the word has spread all though-out the region. People are hearing news of what God has done for his people.
Jethro Hears about God
Jethro Hears about God
Look with me at v.1 ()
Moses’s father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything that God had done for Moses and for God’s people Israel when the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt.
Which, as we’ve been talking about the last couple of weeks, it’s an impressive roster! And Moses’ father-in-law hears about this and he decides he would like to hear the story first had from Moses.
Now, we don’t know way too much about Jethro—really, all we know is that he is a Priest of Midian—in fact whenever he’s talked about in Exodus before chapter 18, Jethro is generally referred to as the Priest of Midian. Here’s the thing: we don’t know exactly what the Midianites believed—though they did have a different set of religious beliefs than the Israelites—in all likelihood they are poly- theists like many of the other people groups from this time period....and again, Jethro is one of their priests—so he is a believer in the god they worship.
But he comes to Moses because he’s hear
Moses Tells Jethro about YHWH
Moses Tells Jethro about YHWH
And when he arrives, Moses sits him down and he begins to recount the story. Although, there is a very important detail in the way the Moses tells it—one that, if we’re familiar with the bible, we’d easily overlook. Take a look with me at v. 8 ().
Then 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 come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.
Some of you know this, but whenever you see in your bible the word LORD written in all caps or maybe just with a capital L in some cases, that means it’s an english translation of the special name for God, Yahweh. You’ll remember from earlier in Exodus chapter 3, this is the FIRST place that God reveals His name.
And the reason we’ll miss why this is important is because we often think of the word LORD as just another way to say ‘god’. And it’s become so familiar that we forget it is actually a PROPER NAME! So you’ve got to see what Moses is doing here.
Verse 1 () tells us Jethro has come because he heard what god had done…it’s the general word for god or gods—the Hebrew word אלהים. BUT when Moses sits down with him, he makes it very clear that it wasn’t the gods who did this like Jethro thinks…it is THE God who did this; Yahweh who delivered them! Moses wants to be very clear about this for Jethro—and check out what happens!
Look what he says in v. 10 ().
Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.” And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.
This is a big deal that we can’t jump over because it will help us make sense of what is coming up next. As Moses shares what YAHWEH has done—Jethro has this incredible response, right!? Because what says and does clues us in to the fact that he becomes a believer in Yahweh—that at hearing what has been done, he is now convinced that there is NO other god like Yahweh—that the Lord is greater than all gods.
Many theologians look at this passage and they call it Jethro’s conversion—where he abandons the faith he once practiced so that he can now worship Yahweh, the God of Israel. And it’s not only what he says here that makes me think this is what’s happened, you also see hints of this in other parts of the story! Remember, this isn’t the the ONLY time we read about Jethro in the bible, he’s already shown up earlier in Exodus and he shows up again later on in the Old Testament…but what you’ll notice is that BEFORE Jethro talks in v. 10 (), he often described as the Priest of Midian. But, AFTER he has this conversation with Moses—when he says, “Now I know that יהוה is greater than all the gods...” He is never called a priest of Midian again.
Well, as I look at it, it’s because he has become a follower of the LORD. He is now grafted in to God’s family, a part of His people, right? All because Moses sat down with Him to share what God had done for him and the Israelites.
And just as a side note. To me there is something incredibly comforting in this story that through Moses sharing what the Lord had done—it led to his father-in-law…someone who was deeply embedded in a whole separate belief system…committed to a different worldview....someone far from God…it led to his belief and conversion, and ultimately a restored relationship with the God of the universe. I wonder how many of us have family members who are like Jethro—far from any kind of meaningful relationship with God…deeply committed to another belief and worldview system…just an encouraging piece of this story is a reminder not to give up. Not to give up having conversations with them, talking with them, and as best you can, bringing it back to what God has done in your life!
[Expand} But I love what happens next in this story—it’s what really brings us to the main point of what this passage ultimately teaches us.
Take a look a v. 13 (; )
The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”
And Moses explains to him that he all of the people are coming to him to get his advice on what they should do in certain situations. Explain that he is supposed to represent the people to God and teach them what God is calling them to do.
Which makes sense, right? Moses is clearly the leader—the Lord is speaking to him, leading him…all of the signs that God had done in Egypt—the plagues, the splitting of the Sea…God did ALL of it through Moses. and if the people want to know what God thinks about something, Moses is the logical choice to talk to!
But you can imagine that this would be an enormous task—right? Even the most conservative estimates for how many Israelites came out of Egypt are in the realm of hundreds of thousands of people—and we know from what we looked at last week—that they’ve got some complaints and are VOCAL about them! And in the current set up…Moses is the only one they go to to work things out!
It would be like if the entire NW side of the city has one DMV location---with ONE employee! We can all imagine the joy that would be flowing, right?!
And I love how much of a straight shooter Jethro is, he calls it like he sees it. V. 17 ().
Jump down to v. 17 (). Jethro continues...
Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.
In other words—Moses, you can’t go on like this. It’s not good for YOU to be the only one to hear these cases…and it’s not good for everyone else for YOU to be the only one to hear these cases!
And he goes on to share some of this thoughts one what Moses should do instead and how he should organize things going forward!
He says that Moses should look for a team. That he should find men who fear God and are trustworthy, to share the case load with them! To organize them over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. In other words; to essentially create a chain of command so that only the hardest cases that cannot be decided by the other people are filtered up to Moses.
And Jethro ends his talk on organizational structure this way at the end of v. 22 () , “…it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden WITH you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people will go to their place in peace.”
He says, Moses, ‘Share the Load!” It’s for your good and it’s for their good! Share the load!
And Moses takes the advice, he builds the team and instead of taking all the responsibility on himself, he is able to share the load with others—and as the story ends, Jethro goes on his way, back to the region of Midian.
And at face value—it’s like this oddly practical little chapter in the Bible—it doesn’t really seem to progress the storyline of Exodus along and I think if we’re honest, many of us would read this and maybe pause with a ‘That’s interesting’ kinda response and then move on.
But actually, I think if we dig into this story a bit more, what we’ll quickly see is that this is not just some advice that Moses recieved from his father in law a couple years ago…but what happens in the second half of is in many ways a model of how God continues to organize and mobilize his people to this day! This same principle is at work today for the church—to share the load. So much so that the local church functions best when it has built around people who come together to share the load of the work that God has called us to!
Let me remind you of our vision statement here at Park—the task we believe God has called us to —to be a biblical community, where the Gospel of Jesus Christ: transforms lives, renews the city, and impacts the world. And the way we’ve talking about here at the Forest Glen location for the last year is like this: that as a church, we want to be a LIGHT HOUSE on the NW side of the city. That God is using our church to make himself known all across the NW of Chicago and beyond.
We want to see lives transformed—meaning that people hear the good news about Jesus—that through Him, they can find forgiveness from God and start a new life, living the way they were created to live.
We want to see our city renewed BY the Gospel—that we would understand part of our call as Christians to be actively engaged in the issues that are at play around us! [To seek the GOOD of the city Chicago to the fame of Jesus!
And we want to have global impact—not so that Park is known around the world but so that we, along with MANY OTHER churches can work to making sure that people from every language, nation, and tribe all hear the good news of Jesus.
Friends, THAT IS AN ENORMOUS vision! That is an immense amount of work!
And when you stop and think about all that God has called us to…it becomes absurd to think that any healthy church could be a one man show! That’s it’s the role of the Pastor to make this happen.
Friends, the church is not a one man show. In fact, it really can’t be!
And when we take that same principle that Jethro laid out for Moses, we begin to see what it means us today! It means that for those of us who call Park | FG home, we all have a responsibility to this community. It’s not just me. Yes, I am the pastor here BUT it’s a mistake to think that it’s on me to accomplish what God has called us to. And the same is true for our elders, Brian or Moises—we are not, in fact cannot be the ones who do all the work!
It’s all of us! We share the Load Together.
And when you start looking for it, you’ll find this idea all over the New Testament! And the beautiful thing is that every follower of Jesus has been equipped differently so that we can serve uniquely! And I don’t just mean that our personalities are different…that some of us are 8’s and others or 2’s on the Enegram…or some of us or ENTJ or ISFP—it’s MORE than that. As Christians we are each equipped by the Holy Spirit so that we can serve! Let me show a couple of places where we see this idea.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Now, there are other lists in the NT that talk more about specific Spiritual Gifts—which we don’t have time to talk through right now—but the point is, one of the ways that God has ensures that we share the load is by giving His people different spiritual gifts!
Some of you—your thing is organization…like spreadsheets are energizing for you (God only knows why).
Others of you—you are teachers…and you love to be up in front helping people understand things…it’s what you love doing…it’s life giving!
And the list goes on—but in God’s kindness, in the church, He brings different kinds of people together—to SHARE THE LOAD—for their good!
Let me give you another example. . Talking about leadership in the church, Paul says Jesus....
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Those of us in leadership have also been equipped differently—there are teachers, shepherds, evangelists, Paul says—and then look how he ends there…not so that the leaders can do the work of ministry…but so that leaders can equip the saints—thats one of the oldest ways to talk about Christians in general—for the work of Ministry! In other words, the way in which Jesus has established and put together the church has this basic principle built in; we share the load!
And I’ll be honest—as a pastor—this is something that I’ve really needed to be reminded of over the last few weeks. Frankly, there have been some challenges here that needed a lot of attention…and my first response, which isn’t out of character, was to put my head down, push through, and just try to get this stuff figured out. It’s an, ‘I got this’ kind of response.
And in God’s Kindness, He has used some of you to be a Jethro in my life—to tell me straight up, “What you are you doing is not good. You can’t do this alone…you need to share the load.”
And at first, I really struggled with that…and I think if we’re honest, we ALL at some level struggle with the need to share the load at some point—because this need is not just in the church—it’s in the home—it’s in our personal lives. And there are a few reasons for that—and I’ll just use my life as an example.
I want the credit
I want the credit
The first one is that sometimes, I just want the credit when something goes well. Frankly, deep down, I wanted to emerge from this season, having successfully navigated this issue on my own so that you all would be really impressed with me. And I can say that partially because I know I’m not alone in that, right? All of us have at least some inkling for others to be impressed with us…whether your at work and you want your boss or coworkers to be impressed with what YOU’VE been able to do without anyone else’s input…or even if you’re a stay at home parent…and you want to put give off the impression that you’ve got it figured out…whatever it is…one of the reasons we don’t share the load is because we want the credit! For when it goes well.
1.Desire to get the credit.
2. Don’t want to inconvenience.
But that’s not all of it…right, I think there’s also this very real sense of sometimes just not wanting to inconvenience other people with our problems, right? We tell ourselves things like—they’ve got their own things to worry about. I know how busy things are for them…the last thing they want to do is help me with this.
And I get understand both of these things; wanting the credit…not wanting to inconvenience…and if we spent more time, we could talk about a BUNCH of other reasons why we don’t share the load or don’t WANT to share the load, right?
But ultimately, what we have to see is that it is the Gospel itself that confronts both of these reasons head on!
First of all, it’s the gospel that confirms for us that none of us have fully lived the way that God has called us to live. All of us, at some point, have failed…either in what we’ve done or what we haven’t done! This is what the bible means when it talks about ‘Sin’. At its deepest level, it’s our fundamental failure to perfectly live the way we were originally created to live. In short…none of us has it all together.
But the reason the story of Jesus is good news is because where we failed, Jesus Succeeded! He is the only one who lived the perfect life—fully obedient to everything that God had called US to! And while our sin, our failure, resulted in our separation from God, Jesus is the one who had all of our failure applied to Him. He took our Sin on himself as if it was his own. Was nailed to a cross and died in our place! The hope, we have though is that Jesus rose again from the dead with promise that any who who would trust in him could have their relationship with God restored…and is promised eternal life!
And so in many ways, in His resurrection from the dead, JESUS steals the show! It’s all about Him! What we do in this place on a Sunday morning is all about Him…what we’re after Monday through Saturday…it’s all about Him! In fact, you might put it this way—the Gospel is the story of how Jesus is rightfully worthy of all the credit for what we do as his followers! Why? Because HE’s the one who enables us to do it in the first place!
Do you see what this means? When we think about not sharing the load because we want the credit…the gospel confronts this head on! As a follower of Christ, I don’t really get the credit anyway…you don’t really get the credit anyway because at the end of the day, it’s not about US, it’s about HIM!
The Gospel shows us that It’s not about you…it’s not about me!
And when we buy in to this idea that we don’t want to inconvenience others…so we don’t want to share the load…friends, we need to recognize that it is the gospel itself that now compels us to serve one another! It compels us to look to the needs of those around us and find joy in sacrificially serving each other as Jesus FIRST served US! That’s why 59 times the New Testament talks about what we ought to do for one another—it’s because a necessary part of being a Follow of Christ is our desire, in some place, to SHARE THE LOAD! When we don’t ask for help—when we don’t share the load—out of fear of inconvenience, we a robbing other followers of Christ to do the very thing they have been equipped by Him to do!
See, at the end of the day…Jethro’s advice is more just advice. As it plays out today, it’s actually an essential piece of the mission of the church and christian life!
Let me close with this. Friends, some of us need to be reminded that can’t do this alone…and we need to share the load…on an individual level, we need to bring others in to what’s goin on in our lives...
And them there are some of us who need to honestly ask ourselves, where are we helping to share the load? Where am I serving? Where are my gifts being used? Where am I helping to share the load?
And then you come back and realize the Jethro is likely using the same kind of organizational gifts that he had before he became a follower of Yahweh.
Friends, what God has called us to is far greater that what any one of us can accomplish—the work of the church is not my job…it’s not the elders job, as followers of Christ, it OURS…and the reminder we get from is that our role in God’s mission here in Chicago is to share the load.