Exodus 18:1-12 When in dire circumstances, look to the community of faith

Exodus 18:1-12 When in dire circumstances, look to the community of faith

Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” 4 The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” 5 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God. 6 He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” 7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 So Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

Background

Jethro has been following the affairs of Moses. Having heard that the Israelites had camped at Rephidim, he brought Zipporah and his children to reunite with Moses. This reunion scene brings to the fore the community of faith that provided Moses with much-needed support and wisdom. Jethro who blessed Moses’s intention to return to Egypt to liberate the Israelites has now joined the community of faith. Their meal together before God serves up a beautiful picture of the community of faith. Today’s devotion teaches us: When in dire circumstances, look to the community of faith.

Observation

Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people…

Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, has been following the affairs of his son-in-law. And when the Israelites camped at Rephidim, Jethro brought Moses’s family to reunite with him. By then, Moses had two sons, one more in addition to Gershom. Gershom means for Moses, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” (see Exodus 2:22). When did Zipporah give birth to the second son who was named Eliezer? Eliezer means for Moses, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” We can deduce that at the birth of Eliezer, Moses had gained the upper hand against the Pharaoh. And this was probably the time that Zipporah returned to Jethro.

Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how the Lord had delivered them.

Nothing could be more fulfilling for Moses than to see his father-in-law (a priest of a foreign nation, Midian, see Exodus 3:1) rejoicing while giving glory to God. Jethro was an earnest seeker of the Lord who initially supported Moses’s return to Egypt. And having heard the testimonies (v.8), he rejoiced (v.9), he blessed the Lord (v.10), he confessed the greatness of the Lord (v.11), and he sacrificed to the Lord (v.12). Indeed, Jethro had come to recognise the Lord as God and was included in the community of faith. Indeed, their meal before God serves up a beautiful picture of the community of faith.

Truth

When in dire circumstances, look to the community of faith

The community of faith.

Moses’s success is attributed to a community of people who supported him. These were unlike the self-serving Israelites who grumbled against him. The community of faith comprises Aaron (who became Moses’s spokesman), Zipporah (who was Moses’s wife and confidante), Jethro (who counselled Moses) and the elders (who bore the burden with him). Without the community of faith, Moses will not be able to emerge from the sea of troubles that pummelled him.

Some have a constant tendency to go it alone.

Moses’s tendency to go solo not only makes him ineffective, it incurs for him needless stress. We see Jethro giving counsel when he saw Moses working alone wearing himself out (see Exodus 18:17-18). At another occasion, Moses was near meltdown (see Numbers 11:11-15) when the people lusted after meat and grumbled against him (see Numbers 11:4-6). On both occasions, Moses was instructed to distribute his burdens among the leaders and elders.

Some well-intentioned people are accustomed to going it alone. They fear others may not be able to deliver the intended results. However, if they put in place a system of checks and balances, they can share the work without sacrificing quality. That said, some have trust issues.

How God works in creating the world.

Take a lesson from the creation story. “God” (Elohim) in Genesis 1:1 is technically plural. The Hebrew word “Elohim” is a plural noun. Hence, it should read “In the beginning, the Gods created the heavens and the earth.” In Genesis 1:26, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” further substantiates the point that God works with a community of faith. The Bible translators for fear of portraying Christianity as a multi-deity religion translated “Elohim” as singular: “God”. For mainstream Christendom can never perceive “God” as a plurality.

That said, there is one supreme Sovereign Deity among Elohim who is the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim, see Genesis 2:4). From Genesis 2:4 onwards, “Lord God” is used in place of “God”. So there is a community who created all things under the supervision of the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim). And the Lord God saw to the completion of creation in six days.

We must learn to walk with the community of faith.

Therefore, as imitators of God, we must learn to work and walk with a community of like-minded people. Many will come from diverse backgrounds while being united by faith. In that way, we will learn to support one another by utilising our unique gifts and talents for the good of all. This will also allow each person the space to focus on what each does best. No doubt that will mean sacrificing control over particular preferences. However, the Lord is not fixated on His peculiar ways even though His ways are infinitely higher. He prefers to work with a diversity of imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plan.

God has placed a community of people around us to help us accomplish our work. Within this community, some serve as confidants. Some will provide wisdom and discernment. Some will join us in the work. While some will stay with us for a long time, others for a season. Therefore, we must always cherish the community of faith. Indeed, those who belong to a community of faith are much better equipped to weather the storms of life.

Application

Are you accustomed to bearing your burdens alone? God has placed faithful people around you to provide a listening ear, wisdom and a helping hand. Such will be willing to share your burdens and to go an extra mile with you. You will do well to share your troubles with them.

Cherish the community of faith by reciprocating their faithfulness and acts of kindness. If you do not yet have a community of faith, ask God to bring them to you. You will recognise them when they appear.

Dear Lord, I thank you for rallying faithful people around me. I am thankful for every single one of them. I will be committed to them as they have been committed to me. Give me the wisdom to reciprocate what they have done for me. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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