Vol. 4, No. 3
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We know much about many Bible characters. Such people are the subject of frequent studies and may even have whole books or chapters of books devoted to them and the lessons we can learn from them. There are other people mentioned in the Bible about whom we know very little. These people may only be mentioned in passing or are found in only one or two places in the Bible. Often these people are overlooked, yet they appear in our Bible for a reason.
John 20:30-31 tells us that Jesus did many things that were not recorded in the Bible. The things that were recorded are to strengthen our faith. Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that everything in the Bible is from God and is for our learning. With this in mind, there can be no doubt that these little known, forgotten men and women of the Bible can teach us valuable lessons today.
In the Old Testament, we read of many men who were considered by God to be men of great faith (Hebrews 11). One of these men, Moses, was given some advice by another who was not an Israelite. Who would consider giving instruction to a man called by God? The answer is Jethro, Moses' father-in-law. The first mention of this man is in Exodus 2:16-21. Here we find Moses has fled Egypt and the wrath of Pharaoh to the land of Midian. At a well, Moses assists seven daughters of the priest of Midian. Their father, Reuel, invites Moses to be his guest and later gives one of his daughters to Moses for a wife. The next time we read of Moses' father-in-law is in Exodus 3:1 where he is called Jethro. The rest of the references to this man in the book of Exodus also refer to him as Jethro.
What can we learn from this priest of a foreign nation that gave advice to one called by God? First, Jethro was a man of hospitality. When Moses first assisted Jethro's daughters, they returned to their father without Moses. Jethro enquired about the man who helped them and sent his daughters back to get him so Moses could share a meal with them (Exodus 2:20). In Exodus 3:1, we find that Moses also worked for Jethro by keeping his sheep. Jethro was quick to offer food and shelter to a stranger. We, too, are to be quick to help others and show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9).
Jethro was a man who earned the respect of others. In Exodus 18:1-8, we read how Jethro brought Moses' wife and sons back to him after the Israelites left Egypt. Moses "went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent" (Exodus 18:7). Moses showed that Jethro had earned his respect. We as Christians are instructed to conduct ourselves in such a manner that others can respect us and glorify God. "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12).
Jethro was also a man who rejoiced with God's people, offered a sacrifice to God for the wonderful things he had done and gave good advice to his son-in-law. After Moses and Jethro caught up on the events in each other's lives, Jethro rejoiced that God had done so many wonderful things to free his people from bondage. Exodus 18:9-11 reads, "And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them." At the end of Jethro's praising God, he offered a burnt offering to God. Aaron, Moses and the elders of Israel joined Jethro in a meal following the sacrifice, again demonstrating the respect they had for this foreign man (Exodus 18:12). We, too, must never forget all the wonderful things God has done for us. Our lives should be lived in thanksgiving to God (Colossians 2:7; 3:17) and a willingness to worship with God's people (Hebrews 10:25).
On his second day in the Israelite camp, Jethro watched Moses judge the people who came to him for help, then offered Moses some advice. Jethro observed that Moses was overwhelmed by the needs of the people. He feared that Moses and the people would be quickly frustrated by the process of having Moses judge all matters between individuals. With this in mind, Jethro offered Moses some advice. He suggested that Moses choose and train able men to judge in small matters so that Moses could concentrate on graver issues (Exodus 18:13-22). Not only did Jethro give this advice, he acknowledged that Moses should take the matter to God before choosing to implement the suggestions. "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" (Exodus 18:23). This man was able to see a potential problem and the solution for it while still recognizing that God is in control. We also need to seek God's counsel through prayer and Bible study when things in this life become burdensome (Matthew 11:29-30; Philippians 4:6).
Jethro was, indeed, a man to be admired. He was well respected by others and exhibited a reverent attitude toward God and his people. This forgotten man of the Bible had learned to rejoice with others in their happiness and to seek God's counsel in all matters of life. We would do well to imitate these fine qualities.
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