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!

Israel’s Deliverance, Exodus 14:10-31

Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” – Exodus 14:13-14

You may read Exodus 14:10-31 here: Bible Gateway.

Perhaps this is the first instance of the Israelites’ bitter grumbling as they accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt only to die in the desert. I wonder if the Israelites’ cries were louder than the pounding hoofs of the Egyptians’ horses as the men swept in for the kill.

Moses, however, tries to assure them that God will deliver. But Moses’ words seem to fade in the dust as the Egyptians draw closer. So Moses does what any normal person would do—cry out to God.

Although this passage of Israel passing through the Red Sea is one of the most popular and dramatic events recorded in the Old Testament, the following verse stood out to me: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on . . . . ‘” (v. 15).

Why would God tell Moses to stop praying and get moving? Aren’t we suppose to seek God in everything? Especially in times of great stress and uncertainty?

I found The Life Application Study Bible commentary helpful (and convicting!): “Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action. Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving.”

Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Moses knows that God has guided the Israelites to this place—between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. The pillar has led them there (13:21-22; 14:19), and God has explained His plan to Moses—so that He could gain glory through Pharaoh and his army (14:1-4). Moses knew that God had promised to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan, which was across and beyond the Red Sea (Genesis 15:13-21; Exodus 3:7-8; 16-17; 6:4; 12:25; 13:5). Moses also knew that God had given him power through the use of his staff.”

Well, you know the rest of the story: God delivers Israel—once for all—from Pharaoh’s dominion in dramatic fashion; the nation of Israel is birthed; and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is God’s culminating act of divine judgment.

I love the animation and visual effects from the “Prince of Egypt” movie. Enjoy!

 

Charting Israel’s Course, Exodus 13:17-14:9

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” –Exodus 13:17-18

You may read Exodus 13:17-14:9 here: Bible Gateway.

While Egypt buried its dead, the Hebrew slaves left as a free people.

The Israelites left Succoth and camped first at Ethan before going to Baal Zephon to camp by the sea.

The shortest route would have been the road crossing through the Philistine country. But, as stated in the opening verses, God reasoned that He didn’t want them to face war and lose heart. This sounds strange since verse 18 tells us “The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle”.  Layman’s Bible Commentary helps clarify: “The expression used here has been understood to refer only to the orderly way in which the Israelites (nearly two million people, counting women and children) departed Egypt. Others understand that the Israelites did come out of Egypt at least partially armed, but all seem to agree that Israel was not at all prepared to fight a full-scale battle at this point in time.”

To me, the coolest part of Israel’s departure was how God led them. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people,” (13:21-22).

The Israelites must have felt safe and secure with God leading them in this visible manifestation. However, they probably questioned Moses’ directional sense when he told them to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. But Moses was simply following God’s marching orders. Knowing that Pharaoh would think the Israelites are confused in the desert, God would harden Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh would predictably pursue them.

Sure enough, according to the NIV Life Application Study Bible, six hundred Egyptian war chariots bore down on the helpless Israelites as they found themselves trapped between the mountains and the sea (14:9).

But what appeared to be a foolish idea to the Israelites, God would use for His glory “and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD,” (v. 4).

Reflect

Have you ever felt like you were treading backwards instead of moving toward your intended goal? I know I have. In retrospect I can sometimes see how God’s direction, which seemed confusing at the time, ended in blessing. Other times, I’ve just had to trust that He is working everything out for my good since He sees the end journey from the beginning.

I admit, during the confusing times I’ve thought: if I only had an obvious directional sign—like God leading the Israelites in a pillar of cloud and fire—then I would know God’s will!  But then God reminds me that the Israelites didn’t own a direction manual like we have in the Bible. God manifested His presence to them not only to show His visible presence, but also to protect and lead them on their journey to the promised land.

I’m reminded that we are not only blessed with access to God’s Word, but we also have the same assurance of God’s presence and leading. For example, God’s Word tells us how to discern His will:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2).

And though we can’t see God, we read in Scripture: “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being,’” (Acts 17:25-28).

And when I flip over to Psalm 9:10, I’m reminded that no matter what we face, the Lord never forsakes those who seek Him. What a great assurance! So when in doubt, reroute, to God and the Bible that is. When we seek and pray, He’ll light the way. . . . Have a great week!

Strike Two: Frogs, Exodus 8:1-15

The plague tragedy—a unique judgment on the Egyptians for their oppression of the Israelites—continues. Seven days have passed since the Lord struck the Nile with the first plague of blood (7:25). This time God covers Egypt’s land and people with frogs.

(Courtesy of brothersoft.com) Hoppy New Year! :)

(Courtesy of brothersoft.com)
Hoppy New Year! 🙂

You may read Exodus 8:1-15 here: Bible Gateway. The following story is my fictional translation of this passage.

***

Pharaoh bolt out of bed upon feeling webbed feet pummeling his face. Damp skin clung to him like a wet towel, sending him into a frenzy. He flung green speckled creatures in all directions.

How did all these frogs make their way to the third floor palace?!

When he slipped and fell on the sea of green, expletives rang through the halls with the chorus of croaks. Never again would the croaks from Goddess Heqet’s offspring soothe him to sleep. Their slimy bodies created a slip and slide not only throughout the palace’ halls and rooms, but also in every Egyptian home. So thick were the beady eyed creatures that all the precious wood and ivory furniture inlaid with gold and ivory, not to mention the carpets, lie ruined.

A servant girl brought him his morning loaf of bread fresh from the oven. Pharaoh impulsively grabbed a piece and took a bite. It was tougher than normal, and tasted like smelly swamp water. Upon seeing green slivers and tiny black dots checkered in the slice, he spit it out before vomiting.

MOSES. That guy and his slave brother had some nerve . . . marching into his throne room—catching his guards and himself by surprise—with his silly demand: “My God says ‘Let my people go, so they may worship me!” He managed to pull off his frog invasion threat. But didn’t Pharaoh’s magi also summon frogs to cover their land by calling on their great god Khnum?

“Moses! Bring him to me at once!” he ordered the guards.

His servants brought Moses and Aaron before him. Pharaoh said, “Pray to God to rid us of these frogs. I’ll release [your] people so that they can make their sacrifices and worship God.”

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Certainly. Set the time. When do you want the frogs out of here, away from your servants and people and out of your houses? You’ll be rid of frogs except for those in the Nile.”

“Make it tomorrow.”

Moses said, “Tomorrow it is—so you’ll realize that there is no God like our God. The frogs will be gone. You and your houses and your servants and your people, free of frogs. The only frogs left will be the ones in the Nile,” (Exodus 8:8-11, MSG).

The next morning dead frogs littered the palace, courtyards, houses and fields. Pharaoh ordered the people to pile them in mounds. The palace, houses, and land stunk for months.

As Pharaoh found relief from the massive pileup of frogs, he refused Moses and Aaron’s request yet again.

Review

Although frogs were common around the Nile River, Egypt had never experienced this many. I would take our cold spell over a plague of frogs any day!

Once again, God uses the frog plague to attack one of Egypt’s gods. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Frogs were regarded as having divine power. In the Egyptian pantheon, the goddess Heqet had the form of a woman with a frog’s head. From her nostrils, it was believed, came the breath of life that animated the bodies of those created by her husband, the great god Khnum, from the dust of the earth. Therefore frogs were not to be killed.”

Next week, we’ll visit God’s third plague on Egypt: Gnats. . . . Have a great week!


Abrahamic Covenant Terms, Genesis 17:9-14

My last post covered God’s perfect timing as He clarified His covenant with Abraham prior to launch (Gen. 17:1-8). This post covers God’s expectations of Abraham and his descendants in relation to His covenant. We’ll explore Abraham’s reaction to God and the remainder of chapter 17 next week.

You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s Terms

A covenant is a contract. While most contracts require an even trade, God’s terms were quite lopsided.

What exactly were God’s terms?

Abraham’s responsibility: “Walk before me and be blameless. . . . This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised . . . . It will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” – Gen. 17:1, 10-11

And God’s part?

He would give Abraham property, heirs, wealth, and power (Gen. 17:4-8).

God’s requirement for Abraham to circumcise the males in his household, however, was not conditional to His promise. But disobedience to this command would be costly: “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Typically, this is a reference to execution, sometimes by the Israelites, but usually by God, in the form of premature death.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Circumcision: The Sign of the Covenant  

(todayiamblessed.com)

(todayiamblessed.com)

The word circumcision means ‘cutting around.’ It refers to a minor operation that removes the foreskin from the male organ. Only males underwent circumcision. In the patriarchal society of the ancient Near East, people considered that a girl or woman shared the condition of her father if she was single, or her husband if she was married. . . . It [circumcision] is to an Israelite what a wedding ring is to a bridegroom.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Circumcision was personal for the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. This outward sign symbolized an inward commitment.

Reflect

Although following God requires commitment and obedience, His benefits and blessings far outweigh our cost of discomfort or inconvenience.

How does the biblical command for circumcision relate to us today?

Once an individual was circumcised, there was no turning back. Similarly, God wants us to commit our lives to Him, walking blamelessly before Him by not turning back and indulging in sin. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. It involves cutting away the old sinful nature instead of mechanically observing the written code.

For more on this concept please see The Meaning of Circumcision. . . .  Have a wonderful week!