Exodus 18

Jethro Visits Moses

18 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.

2 After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her 3 and her two sons. One son was named Gershom,[a] for Moses said, "I have become a foreigner in a foreign land"; 4 and the other was named Eliezer,[b] for he said, "My father's God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh."

5 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, together with Moses' sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. 6 Jethro had sent word to him, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons."

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.

9 Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 He said, "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. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly." 12 Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses' father-in-law in the presence of God.

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?"

15 Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and instructions."

17 Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.


Here Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit hearing about all God had done through Moses.

Having heard about all the Lord had done for Israel he praised God for rescuing the people from the hand of Pharaoh and acknowledged that the Lord is greater than all other gods before offering a sacrifice as an act of worship to God.

You can imagine Moses having greeted his father-in-law and took him into his tent and telling him at great length all that God had done. I imagine the joy and excitement that builds as Moses recalls the plagues, parting of the sea, Pharaohs defeat, manna from heaven, water from the rock, victory over the Amalekites.

Sometimes it is in the retelling of our stories that the fullness of their meaning and significance is made known.

'Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.' - Jethro (11)

Witness leads to worship.
Jethro's response to this story is to worship. He offers sacrifices to God and breaks bread with the elders of Israel (12)

Who can you share your story with today?


We then see a little of Moses' leadership development. He's spending all day trying to sort out every minor dispute among the people and his father in law says: "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." (17,18)

Do you feel the burden of carrying too many people's needs?

Jethro then encourages Moses to find other people to support him in his leadership, and, to train the people to sort their disputes among themselves through knowledge of what God is like.

Small Groups at St Mary's work like this. Our small group leaders are those trusted leaders who create an environment where we are trained in the knowledge of what God is like - which in turn gives us a framework to understand the problems we face in life.

The way we discover what God is like is through prayer and reading the Bible. We are to become Christ-like and it is the work of a life time that can only be done in community.

If you haven't joined a small group - would you consider joining one now? Could you see yourself as a trusted leader who could create the space and community for people to grow in the knowledge of God and grow into maturity?

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