Person to Person – Jethro and Moses

J.R. Waller, MBA

Key Points

  • The Person to Person series helps readers apply Godly character traits to their relationships through the study of Christian relationships throughout the Bible.
  • Jethro's relationship and interactions with Moses teach us the importance of involving our family in our ministries and of listening to the advice of those we trust.

About the Person to Person Series


From parents and children to husbands and wives to friends and colleagues, the Bible is replete with examples of Christian relationships and it clearly outlines how Christians should conduct themselves in said relationships (Colossians 3:14-24, KJV).

Additionally, each Christian is a new creature renewed in mind and Spirit. Being a new man in Christ means that God has given each Christian the Holy Spirit to reside in them which affords them the ability to truly love others in the name of unity. Also we are now called to act in true love in service and glory to God (I John 4:11-13, KJV).

The Person to Person series helps readers apply Godly character traits to their relationships through the study of Christian relationships throughout the Bible.

Our first lesson in the series looks at Jethro and Moses and their interactions in Exodus 18:1-27 (KJV).

Person to Person Part I – Jethro and Moses

Background


Exodus 18 takes place just after Moses and the Israelites defeated Amalek and right before the giving out of Ten Commandments by God at Mt. Sinai. The chapter then is a sort of interlude yet this does not make it any less important.

The Bible is an immense book filled with immense events, yet it also contains intimate snapshots of the lives of everyday people and their relationships with each other. This is because the Bible represents and encompasses all seasons of life, both the highs, lows and its oft traveled day-to-day routines.

You see if the Bible only included heroic exploits of famous men and women it would not aide or relate to us very well in our daily lives. Conversely if the Bible only recorded events of the day-to-day than it would not be able to witness to the power of our faith. Thus, the Bible encompasses both the extraordinary and the routine moments of life. In the Bible God provides us with what we need for every season of life.“…God is present in all of life’s details.”

All of the instances in the lives of those portrayed in the Bible are vital because God is present in all of life’s details. He is present in the details of my life and of yours and no less of those throughout the Bible. God is active in our lives and especially in our relationships with others.

The closest and most important relationships God gives us are those with our fellow family members and those we consider family (those closest to us). We are going to see today through an interaction between Jethro and Moses the importance of including our family members in the work we do for God. Regardless of whether our service or ministry is formal or informal we must involve our family in the work God has set out for us to accomplish. Let’s now learn why.

6) And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. Exodus 18:6 (KJV)

In the verses preceding this Jethro hears about what God had done for Moses and the Israelites in safely getting them out from captivity in Egypt. When Jethro learns of this he decides to visit Moses.

However, while he could have gone alone he makes it a point to bring Moses’ entire family along with him, including Moses’ two sons Gershom and Eliezer and his wife Zipporah.

Jethro knew that this was an occasion for the entire family to be involved. Oftentimes family members can become removed from our ministry work whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether for good reasons or bad.

If your family has become estranged from your ministry it is important to sift through the reasons why and to include them once more if able or appropriate.

In Moses’ case he had good reasons to keep his family at bay when he had left for Egypt, also his relationship with his wife was not an easy one as they did not always hold similar beliefs. Yet while there are times we will go places that are too dangerous for our family and times when their different beliefs might hinder us in our work for Christ we need to still make it a point to include them in our ministerial lives and especially all the more if they are Christians.

If our families are comprised of Christians, especially in our immediate family (children and spouse) they need to be a part of the work we do for God be that in the secular sphere or church community. Why?

First, because we are to be leaders to our children and supportive of our wives and husbands.

6) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7) And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (KJV)

And…

33) Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.Ephesians 5:33 (KJV)

And lastly…

15) And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.Joshua 24:15 (KJV)

Reader, does your house serve the Lord? Are your family members included in that vital work?

The power of a husband and wife united in ministry and set out to be Godly examples to their children cannot be stated enough and their love and respect for each other is also of vital importance to each other and their children as an example of Godly relationship.

This leads right into the second point of why to involve family in your ministry work and that is because we are to be witnesses to our family members be they Christian or not.

8) And Moses told his father in law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them.Exodus 18:8 (KJV)

Moses sharing and confirming with Jethro all that God had done for him and the Israelites led Jethro to exclaim…

11) Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.Exodus 18:11 (KJV)

God influenced Jethro greatly through Moses. Earlier we noted how the Bible covers all of life, the immense and the day-to-day, and the same goes for God’s influence throughout our lives.

God worked some of the most amazing feats of the Bible through Moses yet Jethro was never present. He was not there at the parting of the Red Sea or at Passover yet the events made a difference in his life through Moses because Moses had a great influence on Jethro due to their family bond.

When Moses tells Jethro about the events they hit home and cause Jethro to give all the glory to God. Jethro sought out Moses to hear from him about what had happened because of their longstanding relationship with each other. God used their relationship in a mighty way.“Involving your family in the work God has for you is not only a sign of good leadership to your children and spouse. It is also a means to bring your family members and close friends to Jesus.”

Everyone holds a special level of significance with their fellow family members and those closest to them. Their words have a higher standing and because the most powerful witness is often our own experiences with God when we share them with those closest to us it can be a powerful testimony.

When you speak to someone you know well about the things that God has done in your life it has impact. What is more would it not be magnificent should they come to you to confirm things they have heard about Jesus and the Bible? Are you ready and willing to respond?

Involving your family in the work God has for you is not only a sign of good leadership to your children and spouse. It is also a means to bring your family members and close friends to Jesus.

Also, it is paramount to involve your family in ministry because time is short and the best things we can do in this life involves work that cultivates results in the next life. We need to share said work with those we love, and this involves celebrating, thanking and glorying God continually for all He has done for us.

12) And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God.Exodus 18:12 (KJV)

The recording of this celebration is important. Having a burnt offering and a meal after was an important event and all the more in this case because it included all of Moses’ family and close friends.

We need to ensure that we take the time to celebrate rites of passage with our family members and especially things that relate to God and giving Him glory. It is not a far off ideal to celebrate with your family things that God has done in your lives. In fact, this can be done continually among your household.

This includes significant events such as graduations, birthdays, vacations and achievements but also smaller events such as answered prayers, works of the Holy Spirit and things to be thankful for. All of our lives are to be given in glory to God and celebrating need not always be a planned event either.

The celebration above for instance, while a monumental event, was not planned, it was rather somewhat spontaneous.

17) Pray without ceasing.

18) In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19) Quench not the Spirit. I Thessalonians 5:17-19 (KJV)

And…

31) Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.I Corinthians 10:31 (KJV)

In your own family Christianity is not meant to be something you set aside and plan to celebrate at specific times or days. Yes, we have planned times to celebrate but continual thankfulness and acknowledgment for what God has done, is doing and will do is the key along with having a willingness to acknowledge and thank God at all times. All the more so because God is continually working in the Christian’s life.

Despite Moses’ family dynamics and despite being in the wilderness, everyone present realized it was a time to be together and to celebrate something special that God had done. It does not matter where you celebrate or how grandiose the celebration is, what matters is the intent of your heart, that is that you thank and glorify God foremost.“Time is short, in the midst of the many hurried seasons of life we must not forget to take the time to stop and be together and enjoy what God is doing in our family’s life and in the lives of our friends.”

Time is short, in the midst of the many hurried seasons of life we must not forget to take the time to stop and be together and enjoy what God is doing in our family’s life and in the lives of our friends.

Earlier we learned of the power we posses when telling our family members about God. However, just as your words carry a significant weight to those closest to you, we also need to be reminded that those closest to us also carry that same weight in our own lives. They influence us just as much as we influence them.

Another reason we need to include our family in our work for God is because of the significant impact those close to us can have on us through their advice and counsel.

17) And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.Exodus 18:17 (KJV)

Family members hold the greatest influence on our lives whether we acknowledge it or not and in a healthy Christian family the influence is to be both welcomed and cherished.

Jethro is clear and to the point with Moses. He tells him directly that what he is doing is “not good.” Specifically…

14) And when Moses’ father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?

15) And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God:

16) When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.Exodus 18:14-16 (KJV)

Generally, only family or those closest to us can be as forthright with us as Jethro was to Moses. Because of their closeness to us and respect we have for them they can get right to the point with us in certain situations. Therefore, challenges can be just as welcomed as affirmations when they come from someone close to you as they should be at times. We all need people in our lives that can stop us in our tracks when things are going wrong in our lives.

Moses had been taking on the full burden of administrative tasks for the Israelites in the wilderness for some time. I do not know if anyone tried to give him advice before about things (perhaps out of respect they did not and also perhaps God wanted it to be Moses’ sole responsibility at first) but even if they did they probably would not have had the effect that Jethro’s words had since he was Moses’ father-in-law.“…we need family to snap us out of things and point us in the right direction because usually they are the ones who know us best.”

Jethro noticed things were taking a toll on Moses yet Moses could not or at least he did not want to admit it. Things are often similar with us, we need family to snap us out of things and point us in the right direction because usually they are the ones who know us best.

They can also see things that we are too distracted to see, things that might otherwise be right in front of us yet we cannot see what is really going on because we are too close to a situation or wrapped up in it.

Notice what Jethro sees, he sees that Moses is alone: “why sittest thou thyself alone.” He also sees the unnecessarily long stretches of time Moses is devoting to things: “and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?”.

Jethro had taken Moses in during his darkest hour, they had a great history that went back many years so Jethro’s advice was powerful. Reader never underestimate nor abuse for that matter, the influence you can have on another family member based on the strength of your relationship with them.

18) Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.Exodus 18:18 (KJV)

Jethro goes on to reiterate that Moses cannot handle everything alone and for good reason. When you are burned out you are not only of no help to yourself (you work long hours and become lonely) but you are also of no help to those around you because you are not at your best, you are ineffective.

Jethro also points out something significant and that is that Moses is handling things alone. It was time for Moses to involve others in his ministry and work for God. Again reader, if you are engaged in ministry work alone, do not take it all on by yourself, if able bring friends and especially family into the picture if not only for emotional support at the very least for this makes you more effective and capable.

Remember the next chapter of Exodus would take place at Mt. Sinai, big things were coming and Moses needed to be at his best. Let’s look now at the specific advice Jethro provided to Moses.

19) Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:

20) And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.

21) Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

22) And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.

23) If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

24) So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.Exodus 18:19-24 (KJV)

There is much to unpack regarding Jethro’s advice to Moses. Jethro was a priest and shepherd and consequently had extensive administrative and organizational knowledge. Jethro knew the gifts he had and passed them onto Moses through his advice.

He provided Moses with the template for an administrative structure including advice such as surrounding yourself with good people (“men of truth”) and the importance of timelines (“at all seasons”).

Jethro’s example highlights the last reason why we should include our family and those close to us in our ministerial work for God. The reason is so they can provide for us and bear our burdens in accordance with scripture. This also goes both ways for when those close to us are involved in our lives then we can do the same for them.

Ultimately the dialogue between Jethro and Moses in the proceeding verses echoes and is an example of the instruction given by Paul to Timothy some hundreds of years later…

8) But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.I Timothy 5:8 (KJV)

Reader, do you have specific knowledge that can help a fellow family member or friend? If so provide them with your expertise for it can have a significant impact on them. Also, are you emotionally and psychically available to your family? Do you provide for them by giving them of your time and attention and involving them in your life?

What is more…

2) Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2 (KJV)

Providing for another does not stop at just giving advice. You must be genuine and approach others’ situations from there point of view, you must see it from their eyes as best you can, only then will you be able to truly bear their burden and help them.

When you approach someone like this, with full understanding of the skills you can impart and from the standpoint of wanting to genuinely help them through things with the empathy of bearing their burden you will certainly help them.

Involve others in your ministry so they may fulfill this law of Christ and so that you may do the same for them. Jethro applied all of these things to his interaction in Exodus 18 with Moses.

Ultimately, Jethro and Moses’ interaction and relationship demonstrates specific reasons for why we should involve our family in our ministerial work. Let’s review them one more time…

Reasons to Involve Your Family in Your Ministry


  1. So you can be a leader and example to your children, and so you can be supportive of your spouse and serve the Lord with all your house. (Jethro brought Moses’ entire family to visit him).
  2. So you can be a witness to your family members be they Christian or not. (Moses shared with Jethro all that God had done and it changed Jethro’s life).
  3. So you can take advantage of opportunities to thank and glorify God continually for all He has done for you and your family. (Moses and his family/friends celebrated together all that God had done).
  4. So you can be open to the significant impact family can have on you through their advice and counsel. (Jethro imparted to Moses specific skills and bore Moses’ burden with him through empathy).
  5. So you can provide and be there for your family and bear their burdens in accordance with scripture. (Jethro had skills to provide to Moses and showed empathy toward him).
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