Here we read how Moses’ father-in-law Jethro came to rejoice with him in the happiness of Israel, and to bring his wife and children to him. It seems that they had not been with him while he had been in Egypt, undertaking his dangerous work of bringing the Hebrews out of slavery. Moses must have his wife and sons with him, so that while he ruled the people of God, he would be able to set a good example of order in his family (1 Tim. 3:5).
During their visit together, Moses and Jethro enjoyed pleasant discourse with one another. Indeed, conversation concerning the Lord’s wondrous works is always good and edifying. How sweet and edifying is that discourse which has the Lord and His mercies for the chief topic! And surely if the heart of a Midianite man could find holy joy in speaking of God’s goodness to Israel, then we must be able to find more than enough reasons to bless our Savior for what He has done for our souls! Jethro not only rejoiced in the honor that was done to his son-in-law, but also in all the goodness that God had done for Israel; and he gave the glory to Israel’s God. He and Moses also joined in a sacrifice of thanksgiving, for mutual friendship is sanctified by joint-worship. It is very good for relatives and friends to join together in the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and praise, for they meet together in the Lord Jesus. Even though Jethro was not a Hebrew, he was welcome to see and taste the manna, the bread from heaven; and this was a foreshadowing of how we, as Gentiles (that is, non-Jews), are welcome to partake of Christ, the Bread of life.
Here in this chapter, we also get a glimpse of the great zeal and toil of Moses as a magistrate. He had been employed to redeem the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery; and now he was a further picture of Christ, for he was employed as a lawgiver and a judge among them. If the people were as quarrelsome with one another as they were with God, no doubt Moses had many cases brought before him. But it seems that he did this work with great care and kindness. Even the humblest Israelite was welcome to bring his case before him.
Moses kept busy in this work from morning until night. Jethro thought that it was too much for him to undertake alone. There is such a thing as over-doing, even in well-doing. Wisdom from the Lord is profitable to direct us and guide us, so that we may neither content ourselves with less than our duty, nor task ourselves beyond our strength. Jethro advised Moses to follow a better plan; and even Moses, the leader of Israel, did not despise his father-in-law’s advice. People who think themselves too wise to listen to counsel are not truly wise.
Jethro’s plan involved the selection of capable men to be judges among the people; they were to settle all smaller disputes, and bring the more difficult matters to Moses. But great care had to be taken in the choice of the persons who were to be admitted into such a trust as this. It is good to observe the characters of those whom Jethro recommended for the filling of these positions of trust and responsibility. They were to be men of good sense who understood business, but who would not be daunted by frowns or tempted by bribes. Not only was it essential that they should be men of talent, but it was equally necessary that they should be men of God – “hating covetousness and loving truth.” They were to be men of piety who feared the Lord, and who would not dare to do a wicked thing – even when they could do it secretly. The fear of God will best fortify a person against temptations to injustice.
How important it would be for the best interests of our own country if qualifications such as these were always considered among the first essential characteristics in those who are to fill the highest offices in the government! The prosperity of a nation simply depends upon the favor of her God, and this will usually be proportionate to the prayers and piety of her people. If we could behold a government that was primarily influenced by the desire to promote the Lord’s honor and glory, and conducted everything else in subservience to that one great objective – truly, our country would present a spectacle such as the world has never seen! And it is not too much to affirm that the same words might then be safely predicted of her, which can now only be said of the spiritual Church: the gates of hell would never prevail against her. To the contrary, being glorious in her moral supremacy over all the nations of the earth, she would reign triumphant until the end of the world, when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus!
Lord, much is said, in a few verses in this chapter, about Your watching over Your people. May we never lack grace to see Your merciful dealings toward us. Doubtless there is enough in each one of our lives – if our eye of faith is enabled to trace the wonderful history – to look back and see the path which we have come, and behold it strewed thickly with mercies. O Lord, You have not left Yourself without witness of Your faithfulness and truth!
We pray that in all our enjoyments of friendly interaction with one another – like those of Moses with his father-in-law – we may be very careful to ensure that our friendship is formed in Jesus, cemented by His blood, and kept up by His grace. Then we shall find it to be a sanctified friendship indeed! Being knit together in the sweet fellowship of the saints, it will outlive all the short and dying connections of this world; and it will form an everlasting union which cannot be broken in the realms of endless life. Amen.
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