Jethro Advises Moses, Exodus 18:1-27

Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” –Exodus 18:10-11

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, had heard of God’s deliverance and protection of the Israelites. So he decides to pay Moses a visit. Not only is he anxious to hear from Moses himself, but he also aims to reunite Moses with his wife and sons. Shortly after his arrival, however, he observes a serious problem in Moses’ life. His wise advice enables Moses to keep his sanity as he balances his workload.

You may read Exodus 18:1-27 here: Bible Gateway.

The last mention of Moses’ wife and two sons—Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer—is in chapter four. We’re not told why Moses’ family separated. But one might reasonably guess that safety was a pressing concern for Moses. Or, perhaps the weight of leading Israel and confronting Pharaoh made him feel inept in his role as husband and father. Whatever motivated Moses to send his family away, Jethro’s visit is laced with concern and compassion.

After listening to Moses’ report, Jethro rejoices and praises God for His merciful acts toward Israel. For the first time, perhaps, Jethro acknowledges God’s superiority over all other gods. This is an unusual event since Midianites often indulged in idolatry (Numbers 25:17-18; 31:16).  But Jethro demonstrates his newfound faith by offering sacrifices to God before sharing his sacrificial meal.

Jethro’s Advice

In her post, Moses and Jethro, Vivian Mabuni writes: “We need someone who will patiently build our trust by observing and listening without judgment. We need people to seek out our hearts, instead of quickly offering unsolicited advice. And should we be blessed with such a friend, may we learn from their wisdom and heed their advice. ‘Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.’” -Proverbs 19:20

“What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge?”

Jethro is baffled as he witnesses Moses’ attempt to solely govern nearly two million people. Moses’ response reveals his misconceptions about his leadership role.

As he observes Moses’ edging toward burnout, Jethro advises him to delegate most of the work to others. Then Moses could focus on the jobs most suited for him, primarily teaching the people God’s principles, precepts, and guidelines for problem solving.

Reflect

Moses failed to see the importance of having a strong network to support him. His sense of public duty overshadowed his sense of personal responsibility. But despite his failings, God blessed him through a loved one’s wise advice and continued to use Moses as Israel’s leader. As he learned to delegate, his stress decreased and the quality of government improved.

Jethro’s advice is timeless. Layman’s Bible Commentary challenges us with the following take-away: “How can you facilitate the ministry of others by encouraging and equipping them to do what they do best? Faith is required to trust God to enable you to do what He has called you to do. Faith is also required to enable you to leave what you should not do to others.”

Hmm. . . think I’ll be doing some more house and yard work delegation! 🙂 Have a wonderful week!

God Defeats Our Enemies, Exodus 17:8-15

In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without heart.” – John Bunyan

In our faith journey, we will not only face trials involving the necessities of life—as the Israelites did—but will also face battles involving our enemies. In this passage, Israel soon discovers they have a fierce enemy as they are attacked at Rephidim by the Amalekites. You may read Exodus 17:8-15 here: Bible Gateway.

Who were the Amalekites? This fierce nomadic tribe lived near the Dead Sea and made part of their livelihood through frequent raids. They would kill for pleasure before carrying off the booty. They were descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau (Jacob’s brother).

Despising spiritual things, Esau lived for himself. He is described as “a profane person” (Heb. 12:16). Our English translation of profane stems from the Latin and means “outside the temple,” which could be translated “unhallowed and common”. As Esau had threatened to kill Jacob (Gen. 27:41), his descendants also opposed Jacob’s descendants (Israel). Annihilation of Israel soon became their goal.

From a human standpoint, Israel defeating the Amalekites would appear next to impossible. For Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for the past 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6) and never had an army. (For an interesting read on Israel’s timeline see: How Long Were the Israelites in Egypt?.)

Gaining Victory

Moses was careful to give God all the glory for Israel’s victory by building an altar and naming it “The LORD is my Banner”.

Victory over Amalek wouldn’t have happened without God. Although He could have sent his angels to wipe out the enemy (Isa. 37:28), He chose to empower and use His people. God worked through and sealed the victory with Joshua’s leadership skills in conjunction with Israel’s army; and the intercession of Moses, Aaron, and Hur.

This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned in Scripture, but he will be mentioned two-hundred more times before Scripture ends (Wiersbe). Moses must have seen his aptitude for military leadership when he promoted him as his servant and general of Israel’s army.

Intercessory Prayer

Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands during prayer (Ps. 28:2; 44:20; 63:4; 134:2; 1 Kings 8:22, 38, 54; 1 Tim. 2:8.) Total dependence on Jehovah’s authority and power was signified as Moses lift up God’s staff in his hands. When Moses’s hands came down, Amalek prevailed. But when his hands (and staff) stayed up, Israel prevailed.

Wiersbe notes: “We can understand how Joshua and the army would grow weary fighting the battle, but why would Moses get weary holding up the rod of God? To the very day of his death, he didn’t lose his natural strength (Deut. 34:7), so the cause wasn’t physical. True intercession is a demanding activity.”

Reflect

In the Christian life as we are told to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). When we identify with Christ, His enemies become our enemies.

Our biggest enemy is Satan and his demonic army (Eph. 6:10-12). He often attacks believers after spiritual victories and/or special blessings. Warren Wiersbe offers a fresh perspective for the battle: “God can use those attacks to keep us from trusting the gifts instead of the Giver. . . . We need the battles of life to help balance the blessings of life; otherwise, we’ll become too confident and comfortable and stop trusting the Lord.”

Why God chooses to use humans to accomplish His purposes, I don’t know. But He does. Although He may choose fewer up front leaders such as Moses, or Billy Graham, He uses all of our efforts in intercessory prayer to win spiritual battles. He is looking for people who will continue steadfastly in prayer to share in the battle and help seal the victory (Rom. 12:12; Isa. 59:16).

“Joshua couldn’t have succeeded without Moses, but Moses couldn’t have prevailed without the support of Aaron and Hur,” (Wiersbe).

We can be like Aaron and Hur by “lifting up the hands” of our spiritual leaders not only through prayer, but also with words of encouragement, or helping shoulder their workload. . . . Have a great week!

Life is a Journey, Exodus 17:1-7

“Where are we going!?” My oldest son asks as we settle into our van after taking in a Mariner’s game. Weaving in and out of neighborhoods really isn’t the ideal route to the freeway entrance.

“I don’t know, but Google Maps is usually pretty accurate,” I assure him. But so far, Ms. Google seems to enjoy leading us on a wild goose chase. I don’t know why 20 minutes passes before the now obvious clue is processed: There is a sprawling bike path beside every meandering street Ms. Google leads us on.

Alas, the light-bulb flashes! (Okay, at least for my husband.)

“Is Google Maps on bike mode or car mode?”

I peer down at my phone. “Uh, that would be bike mode.” . . . . Despite our ignorance, we manage to laugh at ourselves. After all, our trip marked a special get-away as we celebrated my son’s and his team’s baseball state championship.

***

The Israelites did their own meandering. But instead of wandering throughout neighborhoods in a vehicle, they wandered through the Sinai wilderness. Although they didn’t have Google Maps, they had a far superior navigational guide: God Himself.

God led them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Although He knew the easiest and most direct route to the Promised Land, He led them instead where they would encounter difficulties. This passage marks the second time that God leads the Israelites to a place without water. About three months passed since He had miraculously delivered them from Pharaoh and his army. And now their celebratory mode faded with every dusty step.

You may read Exodus 17:1-7 here: Bible Gateway.

Why would God lead the Jews to Rephidim, where for the second time there was no water? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “The Lord was still directing Israel into difficult and trying situations in order to prove His power and build their faith and character. After all, life’s journey involves much more than merely reaching a destination. If we aren’t growing in faith, in the knowledge of God, and in godly character, we’re wasting our opportunities.”

I wonder how many times they demanded: “Where are we going?” And, “Are we almost there?” before working themselves into an irrational desire to stone their leader (17:5)!

Wiersbe admonishes: “Every difficulty God permits us to encounter will become either a test that can make us better or a temptation that can make us worse, and it’s our own attitude that determines which it will be. If in unbelief we start complaining and blaming God, then temptation will trap us and rob us of an opportunity to grow spiritually. But if we trust God and let Him have His way, the trial will work for us and not against us (Rom. 8:28; James 1:12-15) and help us grow in grace.”

On the bright side, Moses held true to his unfailing resource: God. He called on Him for help. The Lord instructed him to take the staff that symbolized His power, along with some elders, and strike the rock in the sight of the Israelites. As Moses obeyed, the water streamed out. God once again graciously met both the people and their livestock’s needs.

I always wondered how the Israelites could doubt God when He so powerfully worked miracles on their behalf and led them in such an obvious way. But Scripture tells us that their hearts were hard. Instead of submitting to God, they rebelled against Him. As a result, God disciplined them by making them wander in the desert 40 years. Sadly, the older generation remained unbelieving throughout their entire wilderness journey (Ps. 95:6-11; Heb. 3). Consequently, they never did enter the Promised Land.

Reflect

Wiersbe offers a good challenge to help us identify our past attitudes during trials: “On the map of our lives, how many places ought to be named ‘Testing and Quarreling’ because of the way we’ve complained about our circumstances and failed to trust God?”

I know I haven’t always associated difficult circumstances as being a test from God. I also know I’ve failed a few tests. But after digesting this section, hopefully I’ll be more discerning and better equipped.

I hope you are enjoying spring. We’re finally getting some much wanted sunshine. 🙂

Remembering God’s Lessons, Exodus 16:32-36

Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12

A family whom I went to church with as a teenager recently lost their son to a rare kidney disease. He was 32. Though my heart mourns for their loss, I rejoice that he knew the Lord and committed his life to Him. He is now pain-free and no doubt rejoicing in our Savior’s arms.

I’m reminded that life is short. Only God knows our last day here on earth. In comparison to eternity, we only have a brief time to apply the lessons that God teaches us.

In this passage, God instructs the Israelites to put some manna in a special jar as a reminder to future generations of His provision in the desert. You may read Exodus 16:32-36 here: Bible Gateway.

Warren Wiersbe, (Be Delivered), writes: “The instructions in verses 33-34 anticipate the giving of the law (or ‘testimony’; 31:18; 32:15) and the making of the ark of testimony (25:16, 22; 26:33) and the construction of the tabernacle. The information in 16:35 was added years later to complete the account. At that time, Moses wouldn’t have known how many years Israel would march in the wilderness.”

Later in Scripture we learn that the ark of the testimony served as God’s throne—in the Holy of Holies—inside the tabernacle of the Israelites’ camp. God made sure that two tablets of the law, Aaron’s rod, and the golden jar of manna (Heb. 9:4) were placed inside the ark.

Although the high priest was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year, the Jews knew of the the ark’s contents. These symbols reminded the nation important truths about God: He is both King and Lawgiver; He established the priesthood; and He lovingly provided for His people. Jewish parents were to teach their children these truths.

Reflect

(Pinterest)

In our busy lives it’s easy to forget the lessons we’ve learned through God’s dealings with us. Symbols are a powerful reminder of God’s work in Christian worship, as long as they don’t become objects of worship themselves. Some people journal during their quiet time. Others write notes in their Bible margins, or post a picture that reminds them of a truth, or blog. 🙂

Whatever reminds us of life’s important lessons, it’s important that we apply the learning so we might walk with God in obedience because . . . .

Life is short.

The School of Life (Part 3), Exodus 16:16-31

Since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), whenever He starts something new, He always gives the instructions necessary to make the venture successful. If we obey His instructions, He will bless, but if we disobey, there will be disappointment and discipline. The principle is still ‘Let all things be done decently and in order.’” – Warren Wiersbe

You may read Exodus 16:16-31 here: Bible Gateway.

The gathering of the manna. God first instructed the Jews to gather enough manna daily for each person in the family. By pooling their daily supply together, family members never lacked for nutritional sustaining meals to equip them for their day’s trek in the wilderness.

(Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org)

Since the desert sun would melt the manna, the Jews arose early to gather this heavenly bread. Wiersbe points out an important lesson here: “We must start the day with the Lord, gathering spiritual food from the Word, because it we wait too long to meet God, the day will become cluttered, we’ll get distracted, and we’ll suffer from spiritual malnutrition.”

The keeping of the manna. Although Moses warned the Israelites to not save some manna so they could sleep in the next morning, some did so anyway. As a result, maggots were attracted to the rotting manna. Wiersbe again gives a personal warning for God’s people today: “We can’t hoard His Word and try to live on yesterday’s spiritual nourishment. . . . There’s no substitute for a daily time alone with God, gathering fresh nourishment from His Word.”

Manna for the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is called “the seventh day” in Genesis 2:1-3—commemorating the Lord’s rest after six days of creation—Scripture first mentions the name Sabbath in Exodus 16:23. It appears that the Jews were taught to observe the Sabbath before God gave them the Ten Commandments.

Wiersbe writes: “The Sabbath was a day given especially by the Lord to the Jewish people as a reminder of His covenant with them (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Neh. 9:13-15). The word Sabbath in Hebrew means ‘to cease working, to rest’ and is related to the Hebrew word for ‘seven’.”

The Jews were supposed to prepare their meals in advance, including the gathering of the manna, so they wouldn’t have to work on the Sabbath. On the sixth day, they were permitted to gather twice the amount of manna. God not only miraculously showered down the manna, but also miraculously kept it from rotting on the Sabbath.

However, there were some who failed God’s test of obedience as they searched for manna on the Sabbath. This insult to the Lord showed Him that those who disobeyed his instructions regarding the simple gathering of manna would most likely disobey His statutes and laws that He prepared to give them.

Question of the Day

As God tested the Israelites with instructions for the manna, where might God be testing you in the area of obedience?