Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Jethro is one of my favorite Old Testament people. His efforts in Exodus 18 seem to be what he’s remembered most for. Yet, he is quite an impressive person from the time we meet him in the beginning of the book of Exodus.
- Jethro was an appreciative man (Ex. 2:20). Moses met Jethro’s family after fleeing from the Pharaoh’s wrath following Moses’ murder of an Egyptian taskmaster. Moses helps Jethro’s seven daughters by fending off some mischievous shepherds and caring for the man’s sheep and family’s water needs. When Jethro heard of this, he asked his daughters, “Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Jethro was eager to quickly, tangibly show his thanks for Moses’ kindness.
- Jethro was a spiritual man (Ex. 2:16; 3:1). One of the first facts we learn about the man is that he is “the priest of Midian.” He likely was the chief representative of the people in religious sacrifice, though it seems that when Moses meets him he has not yet learned who the true and only God is. That realization comes later (Ex. 18:10-11), but his role as spiritual leader is introduced to us from the beginning though with no details of it in the text.
- Jethro was an accommodating man (Ex. 4:18). When the time came and Moses heeded God’s bidding to confront the Pharaoh, it meant separating himself from his work and living arrangements in Midian. Moses pleaded with his father-in-law, and Jethro made that easy for him, telling him, “Go in peace.” Jacob’s father-in-law had not been so kind. What a contrast in this man who saw the bigger picture and made his son-in-law’s departure that much easier.
- Jethro was a sensible man (Ex. 18). This is the quality of the man about which we have heard most. Jethro’s appeal to Moses’ common sense, to get help from the people in judging the people, has served as a role model in spiritual leadership for centuries. Jethro could see the effect of the old, broken system on both Moses and the people. He sized it up, saying, “The thing that you are doing is not good” (17). But, a sensible man does more than raise the specter of the problem. He offers a solution (19-23), and it works beautifully (24-26).
One of the marvel’s of the Bible’s inspiration is seeing the supporting cast of men and women whose lives crossed the people we know best in Scripture. Moses was perhaps the most prominent figure of Old Testament history, so those whose lives he touched show up at several points. Jethro is one of the most interesting of them all.