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Exodus 18:13-27 (A Man of Wisdom and Understanding

Nov 15, 2015   //   by Charlie Garrett   //   Exodus, Exodus Sermons (written), Old Testament, Sermons, Torah, Torah (written)  //  No Comments

Exodus 18:13-27
A Man of Wisdom and Understanding

In the previous sermon, we saw that the account here in Exodus 18 actually belongs in the middle of Numbers 10 chronologically. However, it is placed between the war with the Amelekites and the giving of the law for several reasons. The placement after the war with Amelek was explained.

However, the second half of the verses in this chapter is partly given prior to the giving of the law to teach us that even though the law is given, there needs to be structure in how it is dispensed to the people. God gave the law to Moses who then instructed the people in the execution of the law.

But this was cumbersome and tedious. Today Moses will be given instruction in how to better handle the things of God and the things of man. It is accounts like today’s that convince me that God does not speak to individuals at this time, except through His word.

He spoke to Moses and then through the prophets. He spoke to the people of Israel through His Son, Jesus. And then He spoke through the apostles. When He finished speaking through the apostles, with that the final word of the Bible in Revelation 22:21, which is “Amen,” He finished His speaking.

We have now been given the full and complete revelation of God in this manner, and so He expects us to read it, teach it, pass it on, assimilate it, be obedient to it, and not stray from it. And we are especially not to add to it, nor subtract from it. We neither need extra-biblical revelation, nor would it be productive to His people to provide it.

Text Verse: “Hold your peace, and I will teach you wisdom.” Job 33:33

When you read the words of the Bible, you are receiving God’s instruction to you. It is a large book and it can easily be mishandled, and so it takes thoughtful care and wise and prudent teachers to share it properly. Today we will see the best framework for how the word should be shared.

There are easy aspects of the word which can be taught and decided upon at the lowest levels, and there are more difficult issues which need to be handled at higher levels. A small group may need an issue resolved which the deacons can handle. The deacons may need to go to the elders. And the elders may need to go to the pastor.

If the pastor is competent and was selected according to biblical guidance, he should be well qualified to handle the matter at hand. In the end, God wants His word understood because it tells us of His love for us in the giving of His son. And his Son is found revealed throughout this precious, superior word.

And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Moses Sat to Judge the People (verses 13-16)

Moses has already pictured Christ as the human redeemer of his people. In today’s account he will picture Christ as the lawgiver and judge of his people. However, he will also be seen to pass on those duties in part to subordinates below him. In this, he will picture Christ as the one to pass on the penning of His laws to His apostles and those below them in the church as well. And so we begin today with verse 13…

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people;

The next day after Jethro’s arrival and after the sacrifice and feast that was held, Moses went directly back to his duties as the judge of the people. What the coming words imply is that Moses actually left his duties on the day of Jethro’s arrival rather than calling him to appear before him while he continued his duties.

It shows immense respect and honor was afforded to Jethro upon his arrival. What was seen in those verses where he went out to meet him, bowed down before him, and kissed him was really only a portion of the honor bestowed upon him. Even more is seen now, in that he was willing to leave the duties he held in being the judge of Israel in order to meet and fellowship with Jethro.

However, the next day finds him, once again, in his position as the judge of Israel. As is seen in the Bible, and in the history of extra-biblical nations as well, the ruler of a nation also often acted as the judge of the people.

This tradition carried on in Israel throughout their history. During the time of the judges, the people came to the judge, who was also Israel’s leader. This continued on through Samuel, but it didn’t end with him. The king also judged cases. An example is found in the account of the woman from Tekoa in 2 Samuel 14.

She appeared before David and petitioned him concerning a legal matter involving her son. It’s a great story and today would be a good day to take a moment and read it. You’ll be quizzed on it next week. In this great tradition, Moses didn’t let even the visit of Jethro continue to keep him from his duties of judging Israel.

Let’s remember from last week’s passage, that this is occurring after the giving of the law. The account is not in chronological order. This would have occurred most probably between Numbers 10:10 and 10:11. Therefore, the tabernacle is already built.

Moses would probably be sitting at the entrance to the tabernacle. In the book of Judges, the tabernacle was located at Shiloh. It was to this place that the people would come. Like there, the tabernacle is the logical place for Moses to have sat and judged Israel.

13 (con’t) and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.

The number of people in the camp was probably between 2 and 3 million. This is the size of a rather large city and so the record of Moses sitting all day long judging cases is not only probable, it would be chaos if he didn’t. He had received the law and therefore he had to make the law known and to judge cases as they arose.

As no directions for a governmental structure were given by the Lord during the giving of the law, there would only be the ruler and the priests designated to minister to the people at this point. Moses would have been as busy as a bee discharging these duties.

Many scholars tie in his judging of the people with the war of the Amelekites of the previous chapter, saying he was busy deciding about war booty and the like. This is not correct. This account was placed here out of chronological order. Even without a war, there would still be multitudes of cases to judge every day.

14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people?

As a reminder, the word khathan, or father-in-law, is probably better translated as brother-in-law, but it can’t sure either way. Whatever he was in relation to Moses, he was in such a standing that he could openly question him over his practices.

The question he asks is intended to get Moses to first think through his position before he gives his advice. We do this all the time in order to prepare the person we’re speaking to for the giving of advice that will follow. To Jethro, it’s obvious what Moses is doing, but his words pierce into the problem he perceives with it. And so he continues…

14 (con’t) Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

Along with the probing questions to get Moses to consider the advice which is coming, he includes several nuances for his ears. First, he uses the terms “sit” and “stand” to contrast Moses’ position as the judge and the people’s position as those petitioning the judge.

Secondly, the word “alone,” which in Hebrew is badad, is emphatic – l’badekha. “Why do you sit alone in this particular manner?” Jethro, in advance of his advice, is continuing to prepare Moses for conducting his duties in a better way.

And to fully set the tone for what is coming, he completes his thoughts with the mentally tiresome words min boqer ad arev, or “from morning until evening.” Each word has been selected to prompt Moses to first think through and then to defend what should not be defended. When this is done, Jethro will then give advice that will literally change the world for many people throughout the ages.

And as a squiggle for your brain, the word alone, or badad, is used for the first time here in the Bible. In this noun form, it will be used just 12 times. It gives the idea of separation, like a shoot branching off from a plant, or something solitary and alone. When a person had leprosy, they were to dwell alone. This is the idea of this word. Moses was alone in his duties.

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.

Moses will supply Jethro with two reasons for his actions. The first is in this verse. It is a clear statement, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.” However, this needs to be explained. Moses didn’t sit in his chair as an oracle and speak words as if the Lord was speaking through Him like charismatic preachers do.

Nor did he simply make up things as he went, speaking as if he were speaking words for God as cult leaders do. Instead, he had received the law, and he was interpreting that law according to how it was revealed to him, just as a sound preacher should do. If a matter arose which had not been delineated in the law, he would go to seek God’s guidance instead of deciding on his own. We will see an example of this later.

In this, Moses is picturing Christ again who said these words to Israel in John 12 –

“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” John 12:47-50

Moses set the pattern in that he did not speak under his own authority, but under the authority of God and only those words he had received from God. When Jesus says in John 12 that He did not come to judge the world, it does not mean that He is not the judge of the world, but that as the judge, it is in accord with the word of God. This is the same as Moses.

Moses was the judge, but his judgments were based on the word of God which had been revealed to him. This is seen in his second reason which he now relays to Jethro…

16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another;

Benson almost humorously notes that “if the people were as quarrelsome one with another as they were with God, he had many causes brought before him, and the more because their trials put them to no expense.” Joseph Benson

In other words, the people had been constantly quarreling to Moses, among one another, and about God since the moment they left Egypt. If they did this towards their leader and their God who could hold them accountable, how much more between one another who really couldn’t!

And further, one could bring suit against another and it wouldn’t cost them a dime for the legal process. Think of how litigious our society is and then double that because there were no lawyer fees to worry about. Poor Moses! He would sit all day and hear their whining. But in the end, it was he who had their laws and he who needed to show them God’s will as it was revealed to him…

16 (con’t) and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

There is an article in front of “God” in this verse. It says, “…and I make known the statues of ‘the’ God and His laws. It is not a superfluous addition, but it is a necessary emphasis to show that when they inquire of him, it is not his own statutes and laws.

The word God in the previous verse simply said elohim. Elsewhere in the Bible, judges are called elohim. To ensure that it was understood that the laws came from God and not from Moses, the definite article is placed in front of elohim. It says ha’elohim or “the God.” It is He alone who gives the law to Israel.

Unfortunately, not one Bible version, or one commentary highlights this. And yet it is a key and principle tenet of doctrine which is being displayed in this single definite article. Benson provides a wonderful thought on verses 15 and 16 –

“The people came to inquire of God — And happy was it for them that they had such an oracle to consult. Moses was faithful both to him that appointed him, and to them that consulted him, and made them know the statutes of God, and his laws — His business was not to make laws, but to make known God’s laws: his place was but that of a servant.” Joseph Benson

Who will tell us of the laws of God?
Who will reveal to us His will?
How can we live rightly in this world we trod?
|Unless with His word our souls we fill

Where can we go to know His laws for us?
Who has spoken the things for us to do?
I have heard about the word of God, Jesus
And that it is what He speaks that we should pursue

And so I will open up this marvelous book
I will search out the mysteries of this superior word
All of my life I will open it and look
And through it I will be pleasing to Jesus my Lord

II. And God will be with You (verses 17-23)

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good.

I should remind you that the name “Jethro” was used 7 times in verses 1-12. However, it is never mentioned in verses 13-27. Instead, five times he is simply called Moses’ khathan or relation through marriage – father-in-law, brother-in-law, whatever.

In this capacity, he is acting as a wise counselor and not a mere relative or friend. And so, with his ears filled with Moses’ reply, he responds with an honest, direct, and poignant rebuke – lo tov ha’davar asher atah oteh, “Not good is the word you accomplish.”

Moses’ words have failed to convince him that the arrangement is a satisfactory one. There is a moral element to his logic here which needs to be addressed. It is not morally good to give one person such power. It is wrong because of where it could lead, either intentionally or unintentionally through abuse.

Jethro doesn’t mention this, but it is a truth which permeates both Scripture and the history of human governments. And there is also another moral reason which he will address directly…

18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out.

The verse in Hebrew begins with the words navol tibbol gam attah gam ha’am or something like “wearing away you will wear away also yourself and also the people.” Jethro pulled out his Hebrew dictionary and introduced a new word into Scripture, repeating it twice for emphasis. It is the word nabel.

It gives the idea of “disgrace, dishonor, lightly esteem, come to nothing, make vile, or wither.” In the context of his words, withering or wearing out is appropriate – as if Moses were a leaf which would wither and fall from a tree. His words imply that it is morally unacceptable to continue to pursue this path because it will lead to his inability to properly perform his duties.

At the same time it will lead to the inevitable dissatisfaction of the people having to wait extended periods of time to obtain justice. In this, they would eventually either rebel or take matters into their own hands. Either way, moral deficiency is the inevitable result.

18 (con’t) For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.

This portion of verse 18 is the key to the entire passage. He informs Moses that the burden is too heavy (kaved) for him to carry it alone. It is a task which he is incapable of performing alone. Again he uses the same word with the same emphasis that he introduced into the Bible in verse 14 – l’badekha. “Moses alone you cannot accomplish this massive task!”

19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you:

Again, Jethro introduces a new word into the Bible, yaats – to advise, counsel. It is interesting that a Gentile is noted as the first counselor in this manner in the Bible, and he to the leader of God’s people! The significance of this shouldn’t be missed.

Enoch was a non-Hebrew and yet it was he who walked with God and was no more because God took him. Such interesting clues are given throughout Scripture to show that God looks on the heart, not at the externals.

In his counsel, he notes that God will be with Moses in his decision concerning his advice. In his first words he removes the thought of Moses sitting in judgment which was noted in verse 13 and which Jethro highlighted in verse 15. Instead, he tells him to “stand“…

19 (con’t) Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.

In this, the legislative function is reserved to God – He is the one who sits. Moses will perform the mediatorial function of receiving the law from God, as well as carrying the requests of the people to God for Him to hear and act upon. And again, another new word is introduced into Scripture from Jethro’s mind – mul.

It means “front” or “in front of” and thus it gives the idea of being a representative before God. It is derived from the word mul which means “to circumcise.” The idea is that just as circumcision stands in front of a person, and acts as a representative of their status, so Moses would stand as representative before God.

In this verse, God is mentioned three times. In the last two, there is an article placed before the word God. Here is how it would properly read –

“Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before the God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to the God.”

As you can see, the article is important in obtaining the correct sense of what is being relayed. Jethro knows that God is God and so he doesn’t use the article in the first instance. However, to emphasize that Moses is ministering before the only God on behalf of the people and not just administering his own justice, he uses the article.

20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.

Again, Jethro introduces a new word for us to consider – zahar or “teach.” This comes from a word which means to gleam, or figuratively, to illuminate. Even in English we get the sense of that when we speak of teaching and learning. When something is understood, it is said to illuminate our minds – “Aha! Now I see.”

Here the word is in the emphatic form. Jethro is emphatically stating that Moses is to be the teacher in four specific areas. 1) The statutes (ha’khuqim), which are the specific enactments for the people to live by. 2) The laws (ha’torowt), which are those items which regulate and govern conduct and behavior. 3) The way (ha’derek), which is the proper path and course of duty in accord with the ordinances and laws. And 4) the work (ha’maaseh), which is the specific acts associated with the ordinances and laws.

In reality, this list which Jethro gives to Moses is now almost a mirror reflection of the duties of a preacher today. Paul sums up the same basic thought to his protégé Timothy –

“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. 10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11 These things command and teach.” 1 Timothy 4:6-11

21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

Again, a new word is introduced for “shall select.” It is khazah and it means to see or behold. It comes from a root which means to gaze at or contemplate. The advice isn’t just that Moses should go point out people to be leaders, but that he should carefully evaluate those he is going to select.

They were first and foremost to be able men. The word is khayil or literally, “men of valor.” It is the same word used to describe Boaz in the book of Ruth. To define what such a man is like, he first says they are to “fear God.” Without this attribute, no other attribute will be unyielding in the face of trial.

Only after that does he say they should be men of truth and hating covetousness. If they don’t fear God, then neither lesser attribute can be truly assured. Jethro’s words here follow through, even into the New Testament.

Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3 use the same general sentiments for the selection of both elders and deacons as are given here. With these qualifications set, Jethro now divides the entire congregation according to the decimal system.

It is a bottom-heavy system which gradually works up according to the steps of a pyramid until finally reaching the highest point at the top. It is, in essence, the very foundation of the original idea of the American government which looked to the diffusing of power to the lowest level possible so that the top would only be necessary in the most difficult of cases.

22 And let them judge the people at all times.

The lowest level possible is given the authority to judge. In this, Jethro has pointed out that it is one thing for Moses to lay down the principles, but it is another thing entirely for them to be applied. The application belongs as close to the source of the matter as is possible and it is to be this way at all times.

Instead of scheduled times of judgment with a single judge where delays could occur, there could be an immediate resolution to each and every case, or it could be quickly passed up the line to the next level for decision. It is a concept which Solomon writes about in Ecclesiastes –

“Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Ecclesiastes 8:11

Whether there is a delay of judgment or a delay for judgment, only discontent and greater moral decay will result. Jethro’s recommendations will alleviate both.

22 (con’t) Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge.

In the church, God is the lawgiver through His prophets and apostles. From there different sized churches are organized to handle the problems at the lowest level possible for that denomination.

Greater problems are to be elevated to the point where they can be resolved without troubling each higher authority. It is also not at all unlike large corporations today. Jethro set a standard 3500 years ago which has proven the most effective model of all for the governing of man, be it in religion or in business.

22 (con’t) So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.

The word for “so it will be easier” is v’haqel. It means to make light. It is then in contrast to the kaved or “heaviness” of verse 18. That which was heavy and tiring would become light and manageable for Moses. Jethro’s words are both calming and comforting to the certainly weary leader of Israel.

23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you,

Of the twenty versions I review for this, all of them but two give the sense of Moses going to God and receiving approval for these instructions – “If you do this thing and God so commands you…”

One that doesn’t follow this is the Douay-Rheims which says, “thou shalt fulfil the commandment of God.” This doesn’t make sense as there is no specific commandment of God concerning it. However, the ESV says, “If you do this, God will direct you.”

Of these versions, to me this one seems to carry the idea correctly. First, there is no record of Moses asking God whether this was right to do or not. Secondly, there is no article in front of God here. In line with his other words, it would be likely that if Moses were to receive instruction from God concerning this, he would have said, “if the God so commands you.” However he didn’t.

And finally, it is in line with his words of Deuteronomy 1 where he recounts the story we are looking at –

“And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. 10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. 11 May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! 12 How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? 13 Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ 14 And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes.
16 “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do.” Deuteronomy 1:9-18

Throughout these words in Deuteronomy, Moses never says that he was commanded by God. Instead, it shows that he took the initiative. It implies that God allowed Moses to determine how His law would be carried out. In other words, His concern is that they are carried out. Moses’ concern was how to make that possible.

23 (con’t) then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

For the sake of Moses and the people he led, he gave the sound advice which was both followed by Moses and which eventually did lead them to their place, meaning Canaan, in peace. In Canaan, the format of government was modified for national living, but it maintained the same general concept found in Jethro’s words here.

Keep the authority in the hands of those you can trust
But keep it at the lowest level too
You need to do this, it is a must
And if you do, it will go well with you

Don’t let the government get too heavy at the top
If you do, there will be unhappiness in the land
People will lose heart and their anger will pop
And the breakdown in society will be sadly grand

Oh! If we only paid heed to the lesson of Jethro
And continued in this land with lower levels in control
But those days have passed us and surely we know
We have dug ourselves into a heavy government hole

III. Return to Midian (verses 24-27)

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

This verse seems to confirm that Moses was given the authority to decide the structure of the government under him. There is no indication that he went to God and asked if this advice was ok. Instead, he simply implemented it. As Adam Clarke points out –

“As the counsel was doubtless inspired by the Divine Spirit, we find that it was sanctioned by the same, for Moses acted in every respect according to the advice he had received.” Adam Clarke

It was already seen in the first 12 verses of the chapter that Jethro was accepted by God; therefore, his advice is likewise acceptable for the administration of God’s people.

25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

As recommended by Jethro, Moses followed through with the advice, appointing rulers in a bottom-heavy manner. However, there is one point which isn’t evident here, but which was seen clearly in Moses’ words of Deuteronomy 1.

Instead of selecting all of the rulers personally, it says he gave the right of choosing the capable men to the people and he then approved them. This is perfectly in line with Jethro’s intent and his words. It is the same pattern that was later used by the apostles in Acts 6 when selecting deacons for the ministry –

“‘Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’
And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.” Acts 6:3-6

Like the later apostles, this organizational structure kept the matters of less importance where they could most easily be handled. And this is exactly what resulted with Moses…

26 So they judged the people at all times;

This is a confirmation of verse 22 which said, “And let them judge the people at all times.” Just as Jethro had recommended, so they did. The lower levels of authority administered justice anytime it was needed and were there to do so at all times.

26 (con’t) the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

The words of this verse are actually confirmed in several stories which intersperse the years of Israel in the wilderness. In Numbers 15, they had just such a case –

“Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 34 They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.
35 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’ 36 So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.” Numbers 15:32-36

Another such case involved the five daughters of Zelophehad and concerned inheritance rights. The lower levels could not agree on how to handle the matter and so it was brought to Moses who then went to the Lord concerning it. Take time to read Numbers 27:1-11 today. It is a story that is so important, that parts of it are repeated in five different parts of the Old Testament, from Numbers to Chronicles.

One final note on the account of Jethro’s advice before we look at our last verse of the day – we should note with care that the term “Lord” or Yehovah has not been used once in the verses we looked at. Though it was used 6 times in the previous 12 verses, it is excluded from these last 15 verses.

The reason is that even though Yehovah is God, just as Jesus is God, there are roles assigned within the Godhead. The issuing of the Word comes from God, even though the Word is God. This is perfectly in line with Jesus’ words of John 12 that were cited toward the beginning of the sermon.

*27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.

If you remember, I highlighted the fact that the name Jethro is never used in these last 15 verses. The reason for this now becomes evident. This same departure is given more detail in Numbers 10, where a different name is used for him, Hobab.

“Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, “I will give it to you.” Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.’

30 And he said to him, ‘I will not go, but I will depart to my own land and to my relatives.’
31 So Moses said, ‘Please do not leave, inasmuch as you know how we are to camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 And it shall be, if you go with us—indeed it shall be—that whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same we will do to you.'” Numbers 10:29-32

Jethro is Hobab – they are the same person, but the name Hobab comes from the verb khavav which means “loves.” Thus Khovav means “Beloved” or “Cherished.” It is obviously the name by which he was remembered after this wonderful account, probably having been renamed by Moses because of his more than gracious advice which brought ease to Moses and order to Israel.

In picture, Jethro… or Hobab, is a type of Christ as well. He introduced the Bible to the term yaats or “counsel” in verse 19 and it is the same word used to describe the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9 where He is called, pele yoets or Wonderful Counselor. Hobab, the Beloved of Moses certainly fulfilled that role for him just as Jesus, the Beloved of God fulfills it for us.

Throughout the Bible, there are many people who come in, fulfill a role and then depart from the scene. Each is selected to show us a small picture of the Lord – His power, His wisdom, His love, His grace. Hobab was such a person. Together with Moses, they instituted a framework for society, both in the church and out, which has produced the most marvelous of results.

The farther we get from the counsel found in the Bible, the further we get from what is right and appropriate for sound living. Like the prodigal son who decided he could do things better without God, we eventually end in very bad straights and we will ultimately find out that life without our Father just doesn’t work.

Maybe today you need to return to your heavenly Father and be reconciled to Him. The Bible tells you how you can… it tells us that it is through Jesus, the One whom all Scripture points to. Please let me tell you how He can bring you back home to God…

Closing Verse: “The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.” Ecclesiastes 12:11

Next Week: Exodus 19:1-9 (If You Will…) (52nd Exodus Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. Even if a deep ocean lies ahead of You, He can part the waters and lead you through it on dry ground. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Wonderful Counsel

And so it was, on the next day
That Moses sat the people to judge
And the people stood before Moses
From morning until evening, everyone with a grudge

So when Moses’ father-in-law saw
All that he did for the people, he said
“What is this thing that you are doing for the people?
Keep it up and you will lose your head

Why do you alone sit
And all the people stand before you
From morning until evening?”
It’s just not right, the thing you do

And Moses said to his father-in-law, when he did prod
“Because the people come to me to inquire of God

When they have a difficulty
They come to me
And I judge between one and another, you see
And I make known the statutes of God and His laws – quite plainly

So Moses’ father-in-law said to him
“The thing that you do is not good
Both you and these people who are with you
Will surely wear yourselves out; this is understood

For this thing is too much for you; put this away on a shelf
You are not able to perform it by yourself

Listen now to my voice
I will give you counsel, and God will be with you
Stand before God for the people
So that you may bring the difficulties to God, this you should do

And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws
And show them the way in which they must walk
And the work they must do, avoiding life’s flaws
Listen to me Moses, as I continue to talk…

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men
Such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness
And place such to be rulers of thousands over them
Rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens
Yes, do as I address

And let them judge the people at all times
Then it will be that every great matter, every weighty grudge
They shall bring to you
But every small matter they themselves shall judge

So it will be easier for you, it’s true
For they will bear the burden with you

If you do this thing, and God so commands you
Then you will be able to endure and the difficulties will cease
And all this people will also go, it’s true
To their place in peace

So Moses heeded the voice instead
Of his father-in-law and did all that he had said

And Moses chose able men out of all Israel
And made them over the people each a head
Rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds as well
Rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens; not just him instead

So they judged the people at all times
The hard cases to Moses they brought
But they judged every small case themselves
They did as Jethro to Moses had taught

Then Moses let his father-in-law depart
And he went his way to his own land
To administration of the law, this was a great start

Moses paid heed, to his elder, a man so wise
And the advice he took became a standard in Israel
The advice was acceptable in God’s eyes
And so Moses and the people carried it out quite well

We can learn from this story a lesson
That keeping authority at the lowest level is best
We then won’t need to be a guessin’
If our lives will be fully blessed

When we handle the small stuff in life
And only pass up the big things to those above us
We will avoid a lot of unnecessary strife
A model approved in the Old Testament by Jesus

And when we have real cares or woes
We can skip every level and go straight to the Lord
For He alone every difficult resolution knows
And most are already laid out in His word

Thank You for the lessons Your word shows us
And thank You above all, O God, for the wisdom of Jesus

Hallelujah and Amen…

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