You pick up your Bible and wonder, is there more here than meets the eye?
Is there something here for me? I mean, it's just words printed on paper, right? Well, it may look like just print on a page, but it's more than ink. Join us for the next half hour as we explore God's Word together, as we learn how to explore it on our own, as we ask God to meet us there in its pages.
Welcome to More Than Ink. Boy, do you know how many jokes are about in-laws? Oh my gosh, in-laws are part of many, many jokes.
Yeah, over and over, like there's nothing good about them. Well, today we're going to look at Moses' in-law. Yeah, because we don't think of Moses as a family man, but today we're going to meet his father-in-law, his wife, and his sons.
Yeah, today on More Than Ink. Well, a wonderful spring Saturday morning to you. I'm Jim.
And I'm Dorothy. And we again return to the great book of Exodus, because, well, we just haven't finished it yet. That's why we're… Well, we're coming up to about the halfway mark. Oh, yeah, that's true.
That's true. It feels like it's been a long time. Lots of time. You think, you know, if you get to the Red Sea stuff, well, that's, you know, there's just nothing after that. But there's a ton. There's a ton after that. There's the most important part. Yeah, I know. It's really something.
So it's kind of fun. Sometimes you think that Exodus is just about Charlton Heston in the movie Ten Commandments. No, but Ten Commandments are coming up.
Well, it is about the Ten Commandments. Yeah, those are coming up. So plot spoiler, we just spoiled for you. That's next week. That's what we're looking at. But this week and next week we're going to do something a little unusual.
We're going to still stay with the text. We're in chapter 18. But chapter 18 is dedicated to this guy who kind of does a cameo walk-on in the Old Testament narrative, a guy named Jethro, who is actually the father-in-law of Moses. So we've been following Moses and Aaron as they come out of Egypt, as they go into the desert, all these things going on.
And then, boom, there's the father-in-law. So we're going to split this up into a couple of weeks and just slow down. My inkling many times when I'm going through passages of Scripture where I read this chapter 18 about Jethro and then you get past that and you're on to bigger and better things. My inkling is to say, you know what, something just happened there.
I'm not sure what that was. Right. So my instinct then is to say, I'm going to go back and slow down and look at this slower. So we're going to take two weeks to kind of slowly look at Jethro because, as you'll see, it's sort of distinct. Well, it's interesting because of the emphasis on the family relationship. I mean, in like 10 or 11 verses that we're going to cover today, Jethro's name and his relationship to Moses shows up seven times.
Repeatedly. Right. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, his father-in-law, his father-in-law. So that emphasis on that relationship. And we maybe have forgotten that Moses had been part of Jethro's family for 40 years at this point.
Yeah, yeah. Let's review that before we start in the passage here because he does this walk-on. And you remember when Moses was in Egypt and he's grown up now, right?
Right. And he's in Pharaoh's court and stuff like that. He eventually leaves Egypt. He's 40 when he leaves Egypt.
Yeah, he's 40. And he gets in hot water because he sort of acts like the judge of the Israelites. He kills a guy and, anyway, he fears for his life actually because of that. And he ends up leaving and he goes about as far away as you can. He goes to Midian. He goes all the way across the Sinai Peninsula. And he goes from being a member of Pharaoh's court, you know, and becomes a leader of sheep.
And so he goes to Midian and while he's in Midian and sort of cooling his heels over there for 40 years, he meets this wonderful woman, the daughter of Jethro. But his name is not Jethro in that account. His name is... Ruel.
Ruel, right. Well, yeah, and I looked at that story. The account goes that, and actually we read it earlier in Exodus.
We've already covered this. Yeah, it's in Chapter 2. But that when Moses comes into that country, he actually helps the daughters at the well as they're being bullied by the local shepherds. Right, right. And then he becomes acquainted with their father and agrees to dwell with him. So his relationship with Ruel actually comes before his real relationship with the daughters. Yeah, exactly.
I was going to say because of that whole, you know, wandering the sheep kind of incident, he is somewhat impressed with Moses. Right, right. You know, and says, what, did you just leave him out there, bring him home, introduce me to him?
So it's a, yeah, it's a, what do we want to call it? It's a relationship of great respect between these two men to start with. And in the end, Moses ends up marrying one of his seven daughters.
But he becomes Ruel or Jethro's chief shepherd. And that's what he's doing when God encounters him at the burning bush. That's right.
Several years before this. So, yeah, that's important for us to remember at this point. So that all tells us who this guy is. So it's not just an anonymous walk-on by a character. This is someone that Moses knew for quite some time.
For a long time. And then we're told at the very beginning there in Exodus 2 that this man was the priest of Midian. Now, it doesn't say he was a priest of God Most High.
Right. It does say he was a priest of Midian. However, there is some speculation because of the name Midian.
Okay. Actually, it's the name Ruel means friend of God. Well, Ruel means friend of God, but Midian, if this guy is a priest of Midian, can there be anyone who respects the God of Israel in Midian? And that's what I was connecting to because it goes back to Abraham. Abraham's wife Keturah, I think it was, who he marries after Sarah dies. Keturah is one of Keturah's children, sons, is named Midian. Right.
And that nation grows out of him. So these are deep descendants of Abraham. So there could have been some residual knowledge of the God of Abraham.
Exactly. So there is a connection to Abraham. So perhaps, yeah, when we talk about a priest of Midian, he might be right on in many respects.
We'll get some hints that he's maybe a little off, but not much. I mean... Well, his relationship with the God of Abraham seems to be a distant one. Yeah, exactly. Right. And this is the story where it really becomes a personal one.
Yeah. So let's see what happens because he will change his perspective of the God of Israel in this story. Now, before we press into the story, let's just say one other thing. At the end of our last time together, we talked about the battle with the Amalekites. Oh, yeah, right, right. That Moses had sat on the rock, right, and the battle had gone a particular way.
Held his arms up. Well, the Amalekites were also descendants of Abraham. That's right.
Distant descendants. And they were, through the rest of history of Israel, associated very often with the Midianites as people who prayed upon Israel. So it's really interesting to me, since I'm studying Genesis concurrently, that the Midianites were the people who were coming through to whom Joseph's brothers sold him.
Oh, that's right. And they brought him down to Egypt. Now, that's a really interesting connection. They were the traders. That it was because of the Midianites that Joseph was in Egypt in the first place, out of which the whole nation of Israel grew up there. And here we are some hundreds of years later. And Moses, who's going to lead them out, goes and dwells among the Midianites. There's something really interesting there to me.
In fact, in fact, as this Midianite priest meets Moses in the desert, Moses is carrying the bones of Joseph. Oh, at this point. At this point in the story. Yes.
When they come out of Egypt, they're carrying. Oh, that's an interesting connection. So there's a lot of full circle things going on here. Oh my goodness.
See what happens when you really track down his names? It's a small world. Okay, now we really have to get into it. Yeah, let's get into Jethro. By the way, I just love the name Jethro. If we'd had another son, I think I would have suggested Jethro. It's just a… Our son, by the way, is named John. And that's a good start. That's a good start. Jethro.
All I can think of is Jethro Tull, that music group. Let me read. Let me read. Let's get into the passage.
Am I rambling? Stop it. Okay. Chapter 18, verse 1. Here we go. Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people. Now the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom, for he said, I have been a sojourner in a foreign land. And the name of the other, Eliezer, for he said, The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her, Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare, and went into the tent. 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. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Okay.
Stop there. Great meeting. Great meeting. So somewhere in the history of these things, it looks like Moses sent his wife and son, or sons. Well, remember we read that, actually. It's back in Chapter 4, when Moses, they had, Moses had gone to his father-in-law and told him, now I need to go back to Egypt. But what he told him, this is very interesting to me. He didn't tell him, God has told me to go and deliver the people. I need to free my people.
No, no. What he told him was, I want to go back to Egypt and see my people, and see if they're still living. Yes, he was still alive. So he packs up his wife and sons, and takes off across the desert. So that kind of implies that Moses had led Jethro to believe they were just going back to Egypt to live. Right. Yeah, right. Which kind of sets up that whole incident.
Or visit relatives or something. More than Zipporah circumcises the sons and touches Moses' feet. Now we've spent some time talking about that, and that is a cryptic event, and there's a lot there that we don't understand. But in any case, at that point, she seems to go back to her father with the children. Yeah, and that's what I was saying. We don't have that documented.
No. When she's shipped back. However, there's a clue in the names of the two sons.
Right. Because Gershon was clearly there when they left Midian and then went back to Egypt, because his name means he was basically born as a sojourner. But then Eleazar, who's born after that, you know, God is my help, he's delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh. So Eleazar, at least he's named after they get out of Egypt. But anyway, the two sons are sent back along with their mother Zipporah back to Midian and back to live with Jethro.
And now here, Jethro, her father and Moses' father-in-law, is bringing them back to Moses. We don't know precisely how long Moses was in Egypt, right? It could have been a few months. It could have been up to a couple of years, if you figure out how long it took all of those plagues to play out. We really don't know.
But it's been quite some time. And it is implied here, I think, that Zipporah is coming back to stay, because we have another account in Numbers 12, where Miriam and Aaron grumble against the woman that Moses had married, because they had not met her up to this point, until after all of this phenomenal escape from Egypt. So anyway, that's... And it's interesting here, too, that it seems as though Jethro is bringing back the family, because he's gotten news of what's been going on. And like you said, back in Chapter 4, the last words, it sounds like he heard from Moses when he left, was, I'm going to go back and see if any of my people are still alive. Just see if my people are still alive.
That's not exactly it. Oh, so Jethro is getting all this news about what God's doing for Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. And so he's figuring, well, they're out of Egypt. They're out of danger, I guess. They're wandering in a place that I know of, in the wilderness.
I'll just reunite the family. So that's what he does. And what we don't know is whether Jethro expected Moses to lead the people out, because Moses had that assignment from God back in Exodus 3. But we don't have it in the text that he told Jethro, says, I'm just going back to see if my people are still alive. As far as we know, the news is news to Jethro about what's going on.
But there are Midianite traders going back and forth through this part of the land. And so Jethro hears. Here comes Moses with two million people following him. So let's bring the family back together.
Yeah. So that's exactly what he does. And he brings them back to Moses.
And I love when you get to verse seven there, it says, Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. You know, Moses is trained in Pharaoh's court. So he had a kind of an uppity problem to start with. But now he's literally in charge of, you know, over half a million families going through the desert. And you would think because he's in charge that that would do something to his humility. But here his father-in-law shows up, and he pays such a great, respectful welcome.
He bows down and he kisses him. That's an astonishing thing to me. I would think it would have gone to his head. Well, they had a long relationship. Yeah, that's true. But you know, they talk about the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts. You know, it doesn't seem to happen to Moses right here. Because when he sees his father-in-law, he does such a warm welcome, respectful. And this guy's, you know, this guy's president of the country.
Okay. Well, Moses has come down from his lofty place after being raised in Pharaoh's court and having at least the appearance of power. And then having to run away from there, and he winds up spending 40 years herding sheep in the desert.
Very humbling. You know, those 40 years were a lot of time to think, well, this is my life now. Right?
Moses never expected the call of God to come. Yeah. And he lived largely on the grace of Jethro. You know, in fact, even to the end when he leaves Jethro, he's still tending Jethro's flock.
Right. His own flock. So, and again, these men are tight to start with, but you would normally think, if you think of someone in power like a king or a president or something like that, and someone says to the president, oh, you know, your father-in-law is here, you go, eh, well, yeah, whatever.
But that's not the case here. Moses is still a really humble man. In fact, later on in the narrative, you'll see it said, as they talk about Moses, that he was the most humble man that ever lived. And you see it here just in this simple thing of him bowing down and kissing his father-in-law. Then they asked each other about their welfare.
They caught up and they went into the tent. That's a sign of great hospitality, like let's sit down and talk some more. And then I love this in verse eight, Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh, to the Egyptians, for Israel's sake, all the hardship, he didn't leave out the bad times, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.
I really like that. I like the fact that he included the hardship, says, you know, it wasn't an easy thing that happened. It was.
But it was tough. Well, if you think back over the 10 plagues, that would have been horrendous enough. But then think they've been three months, they're roughly three months into the wilderness at this point, and they have experienced some rough things, battle, no water, no bread. But God has begun giving them manna.
He has provided water for them. So Moses has seen not just the God of Abraham, but the Lord, the I Am, become a very real intimate, present God who does. Not just a theoretical God. So that's interesting to me, because at this point in the text, the conversation shifts from being about God to being about the Lord by name, the name that he had given to Moses back in chapter three. Yeah, the good that the Lord had done to Israel.
This would have been just a great conversation in the tent, you know, over tea and sitting there, and then Moses sits there and just spells out the entire history. Like since I last saw you, guess what God's been doing. Look what happened. Yeah.
You won't believe what we've been through. Yeah. This is just an astonishing thing. And that had, for Jethro, who's, okay, he's a priest of Midian, this is doing something, I think, to his theology. I mean, he's listening to the intimate and insightful care that God has given to his people, following through on his promises, the way that God deals with the most powerful nation on the earth and the most powerful man on the earth, Pharaoh. I mean, this has got to be expanding the boundaries of his understanding of who God is, just tremendously so, in real flesh, in real shoe leather.
And he's hearing it first person from his son-in-law. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. So this would be just thrilling. So after the end of hearing this astonishing story, which, by the way, listeners, you just listened to with us as we've been going through Exodus.
For the last few weeks. You just heard up to this point what Moses told Jethro, you're in Jethro's shoes, so there you go. And you're understanding who this guy is and his heart for this people that he cares for, how he shepherds them. And so now Jethro's response is just really touching, and it comes up in the next verse. You want to read that verse?
Oh, it's beautiful. Yeah, chapter 10. So Jethro said, blessed be the Lord, he uses that proper name, 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. Isn't that fascinating? It's a lovely end to this part of the story. It is. It really, really is. And it's expected, but it's just heartwarming. You know, Jethro says, blessed be the Lord, blessed be this covenant God of yours.
Because look what he's done. He's delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, out of the hand of Pharaoh. That's just nearly impossible in the ancient world, delivered you from the hand of Pharaoh, delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
I mean, astonishing. There's a tremendous emphasis on deliverance here. It shows up four times in just a couple of verses. The Lord delivered. The Lord had done this. The Lord delivered. Blessed be the Lord who delivered you. He's delivered the people. So that really underscores that he's suddenly aware that God has done something amazing and he's looking out over these two million people while he's saying it. And again, what you don't see here is a proud father-in-law saying, well, Moses, you know, you were my chief shepherd, but you've really made a name for yourself. You're really gone places in the world. You really come up in the world. It's not about Moses at all.
Not at all. It's all about God. It's all about what you expect, you know, because here's his top shepherd who goes off and comes back and he's leading a nation.
Well, you know, the question that was ringing in my mind as I was reading this is how have we seen Moses change, right? Because as he leaves Jethro sometime before, how did he get there in the first place? Well, he met Jethro because he was on the run. On the run, yeah.
Right. He was scared. He was disoriented. He didn't know who he was. He didn't thought his life was over. He didn't know what was coming.
Right. They enter this family relationship. And he hears taking care of Jethro's sheep and becoming part of his family. And then says, he doesn't even tell them I'm going back to deliver my people. He says, I'm going back to see how they are, right? Now it's possible that he had told him the story.
But it's not in the text. And here he comes. He returns as this leader.
God has shaped him and grown him so significantly and will continue to grow him. But Jethro must see the difference in Moses. He must.
He must. And yet in the discussions in the tent and all the celebrations, it's all about the Lord. It's all about the Lord. It's all about the Lord. And I think that's a telling thing, too, when we talk about leaders in present Christendom. We boost up the man a lot, which I think is an error.
We shouldn't boost them up instead. And the humble ones will say this, it's really not about me. God's made me who I am. God's the one who's doing this. But we give lip service to that without truly believing it. So when we talk about a great leader, a great teacher, a great pastor, stuff like that, we really ought to focus and say, look what God has done, what God has done here. And that's the focus here as Moses is telling about what God has done. Because clearly Moses, I mean, Moses can't bring the plagues in the story he gave to. So when you get to this point, what he's impressed with, what his father-in-law is impressed with is not Moses. Although Moses has changed.
And I think he's worthy of some praise for this change, I think. But in this discussion, has nothing to do with who Moses is. No, because Zethro says, now I know that the Lord, Yahweh, the God who introduced himself to you as the one who is the I Am, now I know he's greater than all gods. So there we have a little inkling that perhaps being a priest of Midian encompassed other gods, not just the God of Abraham. And we don't know where his allegiance is, although he could also be talking about the evident gods of Egypt that were conquered through all this. So I mean, but he's saying, you know, your God, he's the guy. There's just no doubt about this.
I'm convinced of this. And so he's driven not just to proclaim and glorify who this God is, but he says, we need to sacrifice. So he brings the sacrifice, which I think is fascinating. He as a priest had been in the custom, right, of offering sacrifice. That's right.
That's what he does. This is what you do when you worship. So he brings the sacrifice, and Aaron came. So you know, Aaron had not actually been officially instituted as the high priest of Israel at this point. This is before the giving of the law, not yet.
But Aaron as Moses' brother, he probably hasn't met Jethro. No. So this is a first. This is a first. And so here comes the family.
Right. And here's all the elders of Israel coming as well, you know, and they come to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law. I mean, this is a big deal. It's really a great celebration, a great honor to Jethro. It's a great, it had to be a great encouragement in the midst of all this wandering. It's an evidence of peace, right, to sit down to a meal after a sacrifice together is only something done in peace. We recognize we all are eating at the same table, we all are worshiping the same God here.
Yeah, yeah. And so even though, you know, I think Jethro's primary motivation to come out and meet Moses was to reunite the family, which makes a lot of sense. In the end, the family's not even figuring in the end of this. There's just a great encouragement that God has designed through the priest of Midian, through Jethro, to encourage Moses, to encourage Aaron, to encourage the elders, because they all get together at this point and basically love each other. And I had to think, you know, this is a wonderful thing because through the trudging through the desert and stuff like that, there have been lots of ups and lots of downs, lots of drama, lots of conflict as we'll see next week. But to have this very warm little island in the middle of what is a tough thing that they're doing as God leads them through the desert, wow, what a great encouragement.
It makes me think that, you know, when you least expect it, when you're going through some of the deepest waters in your life, even though God is still on his throne and things, you know, are working okay, but life can be tough by God's design, still God comes out of the blue and says, you know, I think you need to do a little kick back. I'm going to bring you your father-in-law. Remember that guy that you love so much, and we're going to sit down in the tent, get our tea out and talk about the great things that God has done. And you will be deeply encouraged, you and Aaron and all the elders. And I'm bringing your wife and your kids.
And your wife and your kids. We don't often think of Moses as having a wife and children, and it must have been tremendously meaningful to him, to see his wife and his sons. So this is like an oasis, this is an emotional oasis in the middle of Exodus, so many ups and downs. And then next week, as I mentioned, we're going to get to the fact that there's some struggles going on with this new nation that's wandering. There's more than just the grumblings we talked about at Maribah and stuff like that, but I mean, it's tough. So to have this kind of guest appearance of his father-in-law, whom I think he always had deeply loved, because he'd been in them for 40 years and respected, and then out of the blue he's there to encourage Moses, I think is just great.
I love it. It is encouraging, even as we're talking about it, and to have that kind of validation. You're still a part of the family, I still love you, here's your wife and kids, we're still your people.
Right, yeah. And you know, although we don't know, but think about what might have happened through Jethro as he goes back to Midian, this man who now, one of the few people in that whole region of the world has a front row seat from the lips of Moses himself, about what this God had done in Egypt that they'd heard about, but they didn't know the half of it until he sat down with Moses. What is that going to do to this spiritual climate in Midian when he goes back home and says, I've got a story to tell you and you won't believe about the God of Israel.
I mean, that's got to be a big thing, but I don't have any clue what happened when he went back. But there's an investment in Jethro as well in terms of giving and understanding of the truth. Well we're out of time. Our time's up. And so next week we're going to come back, we're going to finish chapter 18, and we're not done with the visit of Jethro. We're not done with Jethro. We still have some good visit time on the books, so you'll want to come back and hear exactly what that's all about because that ended up being something that changed the nature of Israel for a long time, this discussion with Jethro out in the desert. So I'm Jim.
And I'm Dorothy. And we're glad you're with us. We hope you're reading with us. If you are, pick it up in the middle of chapter 18 and that's where we will be next week. So join us there on More Than Ink. More Than Ink is a production of Main Street Church of Brigham City and is solely responsible for its content. To contact us with your questions or comments, just go to our website, morethanink.org. And in this, yeah, right, okay, let's start that again.
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