Exodus 18

Exodus 18
by Pastor David Groendyk

A quick and easy outline of Exodus that I like to remember is:

  1. God delivers his people (chapters 1–18)
  2. God demands of his people (chapters 19–24)
  3. God dwells with his people (chapters 25–40)

(I’m taking that outline from a pastor/theologian/author named Dale Ralph Davis. In fact, lots of this devotional is shamelessly stolen from one of his chapters in a book called The Word Became Fresh. Everyone should read everything they can by Dale Ralph Davis.)

Today’s chapter closes out the first big section of Exodus that tells us how God delivered his people. But what does this chapter have to do with deliverance exactly? Notice where this chapter is taking place: the mountain of God (v. 5), otherwise known as Mount Sinai. But the last we heard about Israel, they were at Rephidim (17:8). And in the next chapter we’ll see Israel traveling from Rephidim to Mount Sinai (19:1–2). What does that mean? The story of Jethro is happening sometime after chapter 19. So why does the author move it before chapter 19? In a sense, the story of Jethro is the climax of God’s deliverance. How? Let’s look at the text and compare it to the other chapters we’ve read so far.

  • Jethro is giving God glory for the way he delivered Israel (vv. 1, 8–12). That’s exactly what Israel did in Exodus 15:1–21. Jethro is praising God just like Israel did. However…
  • Jethro is also a deliberate contrast to Israel. Remember that Israel immediately started grumbling and complaining as soon as they entered the wilderness in Exodus 15:22–17:7. Jethro doesn’t do that.
  • Jethro is a pagan (v. 1). He is from Midian, not Israel. He’s a pagan! That’s important for the story because…
  • Jethro is a deliberate contrast to the pagan Amalekites in Exodus 17:8–16. Those pagans opposed God’s people and went to war with them, but the pagan Jethro is worshiping God and making sacrifices to him.

What does this all mean? As Davis puts it, “The climax of the deliverance section consists of a gentile confessing his faith in Yahweh as the supreme and saving God. So Yahweh has not only delivered Israel from bondage but delivered a gentile from blindness” (The Word Became Fresh, page 80). Jethro is a pagan who has no business believing in and serving the Israelite God. But God is in the business of bringing the good news of salvation to pagan nations and the most unlikely of people. Jethro is one of the first fulfillments of God’s promise to bring the gospel to every nation.

We could spend time talking about how Jethro suggests that Moses should institute a Presbyterian church government for the good of Israel (trust me, I’d love to talk about that!), but Jethro’s conversion is far more significant. This is the climax and great promise of God’s gospel. Don’t miss that! God had promised that he would bless all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3), that his light would be for the nations and that his salvation would reach the end of the earth (Isa. 49:6), and that every tribe and people and language will stand before the throne praising the Lamb in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

Is spreading the gospel across the street and around the world the business that you’re about? How can you participate in spreading the gospel to unbelievers? What unbelievers can you be praying for? What missionaries can you be supporting? What unbelievers can you share with directly about the gospel?