After the victory over the Amalekites, Jethro arrived with Moses’ family. Jethro came apparently to both see for himself about God’s mighty deliverances and reunite Moses with his family. We must remember that Jethro was a priest descended from Abraham and would have had a particular interest in the actions of Yahweh. We are to know then that the reports of God’s great acts were spreading abroad.
We do not know when or why Moses had sent his wife and family away. It has been suggested that Moses sent them away when he began his major conflicts with Pharaoh so that they would be protected. We should also not that the Hebrew expression “sent her away,” is one normally used for divorce. If this were true, it might explain why Moses seems to have greeted his father-in-law with more warmth than he did his wife. (Exodus 18:6-7)
Moses told Jethro “all that the Lord had done,” and Jethro rejoiced in a cry of praise to God. In addition, Jethro uttered a strong profession of faith when he said, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods.” Such a statement that his earlier faith had based upon ancient reports, while he now could point to contemporary experience as a bases of faith. Jethro then led a service of sacrifice and a communion meal. In such a celebration held “Before God,” it would be assumed that God was a partner to the meal.
The next day Moses was dispensing justice and Jethro was observing. In the ancient world men came to inquire from God’s leaders for rulings on all sorts of things from legal cases to matters of faith. Moses was bogged down with this task and it was keeping him from furnishing the leadership that Israel needed. Jethro boldly confronted Moses by saying, “The thing that you are doing is not good.” The priest of Midian gave Moses a major lesson in effective leadership and administration.
Jethro had called Moses to get his priorities right. Moses’ first task was to be an intercessor, to “be the people’s representative before God.” Moses latter learned this lesson well, as he became one of the Bible’s greatest intercessors. Then Jethro called Moses to be a teacher to Israel, telling them the words of God. Further, Moses was to be a leader, guiding Israel in being God’s people. Finally Jethro urged Moses to set up an organization with competent, honest, godly leaders over small groups of the Hebrews. It would be their task to hear the complaints and to dispense justice. Jethro urged Moses to implement this if “God so commands you.” It was important to Jethro that his advice only be followed if God was in it. Moses found the advice to be good and did as his father-in-law suggested.
Jethro returned home after Moses had implemented the organizational plans for his new administration. It may be viewed that this crisis of leadership was not as significant as the crisis of faith and obedience that confronted Israel. That may be true, but Moses’ leadership was seriously weakened by poor organization and administration. Leadership problems must be dealt with just as effectively as problems with faith and obedience if God’s people are going to accomplish his will on earth.
Every crisis that Israel faced from the night of the Passover was one that could have destroyed them. It was by the patient, gracious leadership of God that they had progressed to Rephidim. From there they were ready at to move to Sinai.
Surrender That Calls for Cleansing
We now have reached the major turning point in the Exodus experience and in the book itself. The Mighty Acts of redemption had been completed, and the divine gift of the covenant was about to be made. In the deliverance from Egypt, the complete sovereignty of Yahweh had been demonstrated. Yahweh had overwhelmingly showed His absolute control over nature, over Egypt, and over the Egyptian gods. Beginning here and continuing through Leviticus and into Numbers 10, Israel was told by God what His redemption really meant. They were given the covenant as well as a multiplicity of related laws. The covenant and the covenant laws set forth what God was expecting from them. There are some occasional brief narratives along the way, but the basic emphasis is the calm of God upon their lives.
This particular chapter sets forth the preparation demanded of them before the giving of the covenant. It involved three basic emphases: (1) God’s invitation to and their acceptance of the covenant life; (2) their consecration in anticipating of the meeting with God; and (3) their realization of the terrifying holiness of God.
Click this link to advance to Exodus Chapter 19.