When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt;
I. This world is not a scene adapted or intended to afford the pleasure and benefit of friendship entire. Men cannot collect and keep around them an assemblage of congenial spirits, to constitute, as it were, a bright social fire, ever glowing, ever burning, amidst the winter of this world. They cannot surround themselves with the selectest portion of humanity, so as to keep out of sight and interference the general character of human nature. They are left to be pressed upon by an intimate perception of what a depraved and unhappy world it is. And so they feel themselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth.
II. It is contrary to the design of God that the more excellent of this world's inhabitants should form together little close assemblages and bands, within exclusive circles, detached as much as possible from the general multitude. On the contrary, it is appointed that they should be scattered and diffused hither and thither, to be useful and exemplary in a great number of situations; that there should be no large space without some of them. Thus it is a world that dissociates friends. Nevertheless friends do sometimes meet; and then it is quite natural to do as Moses and Jethro did: "ask each other of their welfare."
In the meeting of genuine friends, after considerable absence, these feelings will be present: (1) Kind affection. (2) Inquisitiveness. "They asked each other." (3) Reflective comparison; not an invidious, but an instructive, one. (4) Gratitude to God for watching over them both. (5) Faithful admonition and serious anticipation.
J. Foster, Lectures, 2nd series, p. 208
References: Exodus 18:7.—A. K. H. B., Towards the Sunset, p. 127. Exodus 18:13-26.—S. Cox, Expositor's Notebook, p. 52. 28—Parker, vol. ii., p. 141.
Exodus 18:17-18Various lessons may be gathered from the fact that Moses was wearing himself away by undue application to the duties of his office, and that by adopting Jethro's suggestion and dividing the labour he was able to spare himself and nevertheless equally secure the administration of justice.
I. We see the goodness of God in His dealings with our race in the fact that labour may be so divided that man's strength shall not be overpassed, but cannot be so divided that man's strength shall be dispensed with.
II. It is a principle sufficiently evident in the infirmity of man that he cannot give himself incessantly to labour, whether bodily or mental, but must have seasons of repose. We shrink from the thought and the mention of suicide, but there are other modes of self-destruction than that of laying hands on one's own person. There is the suicide of intemperance; there is also the suicide of overlabour. It is as much our duty to relax when we feel our strength overpassed, as to persevere while that strength is sufficient.
III. God has, with tender consideration, provided intervals of repose, and so made it a man's own fault if he sink beneath excessive labour. What a beautiful ordinance is that of day and night! What a gracious appointment is that of Sunday 1 When the Sabbath is spent in the duties that belong to it, its influence gives fresh edge to the blunted human powers.
IV. Each one of us is apt to be engrossed with worldly things. It is well that some Jethro, some rough man from the wilderness, perhaps some startling calamity, should approach us with the message, "The thing that thou doest is not good; thou wilt surely wear away."
V. At last we must all wear away, but our comfort is that, though the outer man perish, the inner man shall be renewed day by day.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1512.
References: Exodus 19:1.—W. M. Taylor, Moses the Lawgiver, p. 182; Parker, vol. ii., p. 147. Exodus 19:1-6.—D. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 197. 19—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 202. 19, 20—Ibid., p. 204.
Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back,
And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:
And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:
And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:
And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.
And 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.
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.
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.
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.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening.
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?
And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God:
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.
And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said.
And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.
And Moses let his father in law depart; and he went his way into his own land.