Exodus Chapter Eighteen

The First Apostle?

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In our study of Exodus chapter eighteen, we see that God is a God of order and we also see the appointment of the first apostle by Moshe.

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Exodus 18:1

Now Yitro the priest of Midyan, Moshe's father-in-law, heard about all that God had done for Moshe and for Isra'el his people, how ADONAI had brought Isra'el out of Egypt.

Here, we are reintroduced to Yitro and the word cohen is translated here as priest but it actually speaks of a servant. We are reminded that he was a Gentile and the father-in-law of Moshe. Yitro heard about all that God had done in bringing Israel out of Egypt.

Exodus 18:2-4

After Moshe had sent away his wife Tzipporah and her two sons, Yitro Moshe's father-in-law had taken them back. The name of the one son was Gershom, for Moshe had said, "I have been a foreigner in a foreign land." The name of the other was Eli'ezer, "because the God of my father helped me by rescuing me from Pharaoh's sword."

Moshe had sent his family back to Midyan while he went to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In the names of his sons, we see the faithfulness of God as Gershom speaks of being a foreigner and Eli'ezer means God helped me.

Exodus 18:5-10

Yitro Moshe's father-in-law brought Moshe's sons and wife to him in the desert where he was encamped, at the mountain of God. He sent word to Moshe, "I, your father-in-law Yitro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons." Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law, prostrated himself and kissed him. Then, after inquiring of each other's welfare, they entered the tent. Moshe told his father-in-law all that ADONAI had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Isra'el's sake, all the hardships they had suffered while traveling and how ADONAI had rescued them. Yitro rejoiced over all the good that ADONAI had done for Isra'el by rescuing them from the Egyptians. Yitro said, "Blessed be ADONAI, who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the harsh hand of the Egyptians.

Yitro brought the family of Moshe to Mt. Sinai where Israel was camped and he sent word to Moshe that they were coming. We remember that God had told Moshe that he would lead the people out of Egypt and they would worship Him at that mountain and we see His faithfulness in the fact that they were there. It is significant that Yitro said that he was bringing "your wife and her two sons". This is a reminder that she had saved the life of Moshe when he had failed to circumcise the boys as God required and she had circumcised them. Then, Moshe testified about the faithfulness of God and all that God had done for Israel. Upon hearing these things, Yitro rejoiced and praised God.

Exodus 18:11 & 12

Now I know that ADONAI is greater than all other gods, because he rescued those who were treated so arrogantly." Yitro Moshe's father-in-law brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aharon came with all the leaders of Isra'el to share the meal before God with Moshe's father-in-law.

In the Hebrew text, it says "I have known" instead of I know and that speaks of the fact that Yitro knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is greater than all the false gods of the world. We see that Yitro knew this because God had defeated all of the false gods of Egypt. Then, we see that Yitro brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God and, in Leviticus 1, we see that a burnt offering was brought by a man seeking access to God. Aharon and the elders of Israel welcomed Yitro with a fellowship meal.

Exodus 18:13-16

The following day Moshe sat to settle disputes for the people, while the people stood around Moshe from morning till evening. When Moshe's father-in-law saw all that he was doing to the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing to the people? Why do you sit there alone, with all the people standing around you from morning till evening?" Moshe answered his father-in-law, "It's because the people come to me seeking God's guidance. Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me; I judge between one person and another, and I explain to them God's laws and teachings."

Here, we see that Moshe was the judge in disputes between the people of Israel but this is not speaking of condemnation as we normally think of judgement. This is making known God's perspective on any given situation. We see that there was much conflict between the people as there would be a line waiting to be heard from morning to evening. When Yitro saw this happening, he asked Moshe about it and Moshe explained that he was teaching the people about the commands and instructions of Elohim.

Exodus 18:17-22

Moshe's father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing isn't good. You will certainly wear yourself out - and not only yourself, but these people here with you as well. It's too much for you - you can't do it alone, by yourself. So listen now to what I have to say. I will give you some advice, and God will be with you. You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases to God. You should also teach them the laws and the teachings, and show them how to live their lives and what work they should do. But you should choose from among all the people competent men who are God-fearing, honest and incorruptible to be their leaders, in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Normally, they will settle the people's disputes. They should bring you the difficult cases; but ordinary matters they should decide themselves. In this way, they will make it easier for you and share the load with you.

In this passage, we see Yitro explain that what was happening was not sustainable as Moshe and the people will be exhausted in this manner. Yitro goes on to explain that what Moshe is doing is good but the way it is being done is not good. Then, Yitro proposes a solution where Moshe will share the burden of leadership. We also see the biblical qualifications for this leadership and the first thing a that leaders must fear God and that speaks of the fact that they acknowledge that God is above all. The second thing is that the prospective leaders must stand for truth and that truth only comes from the instructions of God. Finally, we see that these leaders must not be seekers of wealth so that they cannot be influenced by the world. We also see that they should be given responsibility in proportion to their ability as some can lead ten and some can lead a thousand.

Exodus 18:23-26

If you do this - and God is directing you to do it - you will be able to endure; and all these people too will arrive at their destination peacefully." Moshe paid attention to his father-in-law's counsel and did everything he said. Moshe chose competent men from all Isra'el and made them heads over the people, in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. As a general rule, they settled the people's disputes - the difficult cases they brought to Moshe, but every simple matter they decided themselves.

Yitro basically asked Moshe to pray and seek God's will in this matter. Moshe listened and did what Yitro had told him and that speaks of the humility of Moshe as he recognized that God could use a Gentile that had became a believer to provide wisdom.

Exodus 18:27

Then Moshe let his father-in-law leave, and he went off to his own country.

In the Hebrew text, Moshe sent Yitro which is more of an active thing than simply allowing him to go home. This shows us that Moshe recognized that Yitro could go back to his people and be an effective witness for God in that land. We also see the humility of Yitro in the fact that he was willing to submit and go back. The title of apostle (shaliach in Hebrew) means one that is sent and this would be the first example of someone being sent to teach the things of God to others. Basically, Moshe was choosing the first apostle and it was a Gentile believer by the name of Yitro.

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