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Summary: What we learn from the story of Jethro and Moses

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The learning curve

Exodus 18

What we learn from the story of Jethro and Moses

Jethro is Moses’ father-in-law. And he makes a visit to Moses with the intent of giving his son-in-law some advice. Now, I don’t know about you, but, sometimes I have difficulty receiving advice from my in-laws. I love them dearly, but, then I have a “when I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you” attitude; not just with in-laws but with advice in general. Do you relate at all to this? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who sometimes struggles with listening to advice. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and they were finally free from the oppression of Egypt, Moses sent his wife and sons to her father’s house. I believe there are a couple of reasons for this:

1. I wonder if Moses had a lot on his mind leading the people of Israel through the desert to Mount Sinai where they would receive further instruction from God, and felt best if his wife and kids were not around.

2. And I’m positive that life on the trail was very hard. If Moses and a couple of his buddies with backpacks were to hike the distance from the Red Sea to the region of Mount Sinai, it would take them about 3 days. It took the nation of Israel 2 months. I’m sure Moses figured that life would be better for his wife and kids if they stayed with Jethro.

This all makes sense to me but Jethro understood something better. He understood that Moses’ first responsibility was not to the nation of Israel but to his own wife and kids. He also understood that Moses was going to burn out as a leader if he didn’t make significant changes to the way he led the people. Jethro’s advice is just as relevant for us today as it was for Moses. And to Moses’ credit, he respected his father-in-law, he listened, and he took action on the advice he was given. How will you take his advice?

lesson 1: Disciple family first (Exodus 18:5)

God expects mom and dad to raise their kids to know Him and to love Him. Jesus tells us that our primary responsibility as His followers is to teach and make disciples. Doesn’t it make sense that a parent who follows Christ would want to teach their children first? Moses sent his family away when he apparently didn’t feel that he could be a husband, dad, and the leader of Israel all at the same time. Sometimes as parents we allow our responsibilities at work, or even at church, to distract us from what must be our primary objective; to raise our children to know and love the Lord. The modern church has allowed parents to become lazy in this way by hiring paid professionals to be the primary spiritual provider for kids. We’ve enabled parents to hand off their kids to a Sunday School teacher, or a youth or children’s minister and we have created the expectation that the church will take care of their Spiritual provision. But mom and dad, no matter what mistakes the church has made in this regard, God’s expectation is clear. You have been given the mandate by God to lead your kids to Spiritual maturity.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - 4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Matt 28:19-20 - Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Eph 6:4 - Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Lesson 2: Celebrate God and His teaching with fellow believers (18:10-12)

The first thing Jethro led Moses and the leaders of Israel to do was to celebrate how God rescued them from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. What a celebration this must have been. When I consider that Jesus Christ has freed me from my oppression of slavery from my sin, I have the same response. I want to celebrate! Praise God, I don’t have to die in my sin! I can live with God, I can co-exist with Him because of what Jesus did for me. Jethro proclaimed that because of the testimony of the Israelite nation that “I know that God is greater than any other gods” Jethro was preaching to the people. Are you listening to this advice today? Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob greater than anything else in your life? Are we building each other up to learn more, to serve more, to teach more? Why or why not?

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