Summary: Who do you let speak into your life? Is it someone who sees what God has done and worships him or is it someone who is an enemy of God like Amalek? Also - the difference between approaching God at Mt Sinai and at Mt Zion.
There are some strong connections between chapter 17 and 18. They both tell us of encounters with non-Israelites. The Amalekites "greeted" Moses with warfare - and Moses had to respond by appointing men to a task (fight) while he administrated the battle and receiving help from his assistants. In chapter 18 Jethro "greets" Moses in positive terms and actually helps him administrate the Law to the nation. Then we see God greet the people - and there is trembling and great fear!
In this we see the contrast between how people who do not know God respond to Him - some with animosity and attack, others with gratitude, worship, and involvement.
Verses 1 - 12
We don’t know exactly why Zipporah left or when. It’s possible that she and the boys went back to Jethro after their little family spat in chapter 4. But it would be important for Eliezer, the next high priest, to be a witness of what God had done. Regardless, he comes and there is a little family reunion.
Jethro "heard" of what God did (vs 1), "came" to the source (vs 5), "asked" how it happened (vs 7), "rejoiced" in what God did (vs 9), "blessed" the name of the Lord (vs 10), "knew" that God was the greatest (vs 11), and "brought" a sacrifice - he worshipped (vs 12).
Amalek no doubt had heard of the Israelites, "came" to fight - and learned first hand just what it is like to have God as your enemy. Jethro’s suggestions (we’ll see in a minute) are accepted by Moses and God. Amalek’s very existence will be wiped out forever (Ch 17 vs 14).
These are the same reactions people have when they hear what God has done through His Son Jesus Christ. Some when they hear will react strongly and negatively - and will actively resist acknowledging who God is. Others will be curious, find out more, recognize who God is, and receive Him.
In the end there is no neutral ground. Jesus said:
Matthew 12:30 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. NIV
So Jethro and Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel come and they have a big feast - and then Jethro witnesses Moses administration and makes a suggestion:
Verses 13 - 18
Jethro is not telling Moses what to do - he is giving "advice" (vs 19).
Verses 19 - 20
So Jethro tells Moses to go before God for the broad parameters, then the people will apply those parameters to individual situations.
Statutes: specific enactments
Laws: general enactments
"way in which they must walk:" lifestyle
"what they must do:" jobs each was to perform
Verses 21 - 23
Qualifications for the leaders:
Able: capable - having a natural aptitude for leading
Have a respect and belief in God
In many ways this is how the church operates as well. We have God’s Word - the words and witness of Jesus Christ and the Apostles - to give us the outline. Then we as leaders help apply those outlines to the everyday life of the believer.
Paul, in 2 Timothy 1 said: 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
"Pattern" means an outline or sketch. It wasn’t necessary for Paul to be so specific with every little situation. The Word - and the Holy Spirit - can work through others to help fill in the details.