Try and imagine being those nations who have just heard the news that the God of Israel has parted the waters of the sea so that the people of Israel could walk through on dry land in your direction and that those same waters came back together and drowned the Egyptian army. You might go and bury your head in the sand and pretend like nothing has changed until it is too late or you might try to do something about it. And if you were going to do something about it there are two basic options – we might call the first the Amalakite approach and the second the Midianite method. The Amalekite approach we explored last Sunday – they heard about God’s great act of salvation and decided to meet them on the field of battle in order to wipe Israel from the face of the earth before they got out of the wilderness. It would be an understatement to say that the Amalekite approach did not work out very well for them. The Midianite method, or at least what Jethro the priest of Midian did, was to submit to the God of Israel and welcome the people of Israel. It was the correct response to the news of God’s great act of salvation at the sea. Now try and imagine being among those nations who have just heard the news that the Savior of Israel has died on a cross for the sins of His people and on the third day rose from the dead with a final resurrection body and His disciples are headed in your direction. As great as that first Exodus Event was, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is far greater. And His disciples have gone out into the nations and shared the good news of this greatest act of salvation. As you might imagine some will try and bury their heads in the sand and pretend like nothing has changed but many respond like Amalek and others like Jethro. Those who respond like Amalek have gone on the offensive and are attacking Christians. Those who try and bury their heads in the sand are those who refuse to admit that Jesus is risen. Well you must be here today because you have heard of this great act of salvation and know like Jethro that the Lord is greater than all gods.
The lesson of God’s great acts of salvation is that the Lord is greater than all gods.
Jethro is the only Gentile we meet in Exodus who both understood that lesson and responded to it in the right way. This was the lesson that God was teaching to the Egyptians through the plagues. He wanted them to know that He is greater than all of the gods that they worshiped. They worshiped the Nile River, so He turned it to blood. They worshiped an idol with the head of a frog, so He plagued them with frogs. They revered cows so He plagued their cows. The plagues were designed to show the Egyptians that the God of Israel was greater than everything they worshiped. And yet they still attacked Israel at the sea rather than submit to the Lord. The Amalekites heard about what happened to the Egyptian army and how the Lord had delivered the people of Israel through the waters but they too did not respond to the lesson that the God of Israel was greater than their gods in the right way. The Amalekites also went on the offensive and fought with Israel and lost. Only Jethro understood the point of the Exodus Event and responded to it the right way as we heard in the passage, including what he said in v.10-11 – “Blessed be YHWH, who has delivered you out of the hands of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that YHWH is greater than all gods.”
Thankfully, you are among many Gentiles today who both understand the lesson of God’s greatest act of salvation in Jesus Christ and have responded to it in the right way. You know that the Lord is greater than all gods and that Jesus is Lord. You know that Jesus is greater than anything or anyone else you might worship and you have submitted to Him as your Lord and Savior. As much as the Amalekites were a type of ISIS today, Jethro was a type of those Gentiles like you who would believe in the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(One practical application of this lesson is that you who believe in Jesus are organized into churches.)
Now Jethro applied this truth that the Lord is greater than all gods in a very practical way. He saw that his son-in-law Moses was burning himself out and didn’t have any time for the wife and kids because he was hearing cases all day long. He saw that Moses would not be able to keep this up for much longer. So Jethro applied this truth that the Lord is greater than all gods as meaning that Moses could delegate much of the case load to honest undershepherds with only the most difficult cases being appealed up to Moses himself. Once upon a time Moses had saved Jethro’s flock and watered them and now the Midianite priest was able to help Moses to shepherd the people of God. The idea was that a large shepherding operation needed to be organized with undershepherds in place for groups of a thousand, hundred, fifty, and ten. Those cases that couldn’t be dealt with in a small group would make their way up until they could be dealt with. The other part of this was that Moses would make known the statutes of God and His Torah. Torah is often translated laws, but it is better translated instructions. The Torah includes not only regulations but also the story. So Moses would teach Israel the story of God and His will for their lives and these undershepherds would help people apply that to their particular circumstances.
Today the Lord Jesus as the resurrected and exalted head of the church is the chief shepherd who has many undershepherds. His church consists of Jews and Gentiles just as it did of Israel and Jethro’s family. And He has it organized with elders or undershepherds in every congregation of His people throughout the world. Today these elders continue to help people to understand God’s story and His will for the lives of those people in their care. Some teach larger groups like a thousand or a hundred or fifty. Others teach small groups like ten. But everyone belongs in a small group and belongs to larger and larger groups including the whole congregation and the whole church universal. Jesus has organized His flock so that no leader needs to burn out and neglect his or her own personal spiritual health as well as that of their family. Now if we believe that Jesus is Lord and the Lord is greater than all gods, then we can learn to delegate rather than trying to do it all like Moses was. After all, Jesus has done something far better than Moses could imagine at this point in the story – though later in his life Moses did imagine it – Jesus has done something far better than reveal God’s will on tablets and in the laws that come up later written in Exodus – Jesus has written the law and story of God on the hearts of His people – that is, Jesus has given you His Spirit to apply His word to your hearts. Thanks be to God. Amen.