In Exodus chapter 18, Moses’ father in-law comes to see him. He had heard of all that God had done for His people and wanted to speak with Moses first hand.
Apparently, Moses’ family had not been with him during a large portion of his ministry thus far. His father in-law, Jethro, likely understood, not only the great importance of what God was doing through Moses, but also the great importance of Moses having his wife and children with him in any further endeavors.
Moses’ family coming with him served firstly to encourage and help him. The very names of his sons, which are made special note of here in the scripture itself, serve to encourage and remind him of who he is.
Gershom, meaning stranger; pilgrim; sojourner, reminded Moses of his lifetime lack of belonging and future citizenship in heaven. Eliezer, meaning God is my help or God delivered, reminded Moses of where his strength and help really lie.
Our families are called along with us as our primary line of encouragement and support – second only to the encouragement and support of the Holy Spirit – any time God calls us into ministry.
Moses’ family coming with him served secondly to be an example for God’s people on how his chosen ones ought to function in their own family. Moses, being the chosen leader of the people of God, had a great responsibility to show them how to lead their own families and affairs to the glory of God. This is the same reason the New Testament makes clear the importance of the leaders in God’s church having their own family in order first, before they may be allowed to lead God’s church.
Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God he might set a good example of prudence in family-government, 1 Timothy 3:5. Moses had now a great deal both of honor and care put upon him, and it was fit that his wife should be with him to share with him in both.”
So, when Jethro came with Moses’ family in tow, the very first thing Moses did was to greet him respectfully and take and interest in their (his own) family’s well being. As tempting as it must have been, Moses did not run out to Jethro and Zipporah (Moses’ wife) and tell them of all the amazing signs and wonders or run them over with all that God had done right away. Instead, Moses took care to greet Jethro with the respect he was due and to ask of his welfare first. Others first. This is a basic, foundational principle God’s leaders must possess.
Finally, Moses shares his wonder-filled testimony with his own family, who, had previously only heard of it second, third, or tenth hand. Henry says, “Conversation concerning God’s wondrous works is profitable conversation; it is good, and to the use of edifying, Psalm 105:2.”
Unfortunately, we have many who would disagree with both Moses and Mr. Henry. They warn us, “Don’t talk too much about the things God has done which cannot be explained. Do not give him glory for his signs and wonders. Do not even mention those things that belong to the realm of the spiritual and miraculous.” Many disagree with Moses and Jethro and Mr. Henry because they fear; they doubt; they disbelieve; they envy. Therefore, they seek to silence anyone who would share the great and mighty works of a God who will not be tamed for mere man’s comfort.
In disbelieving and discounting the works of God, those ones miss both the blessing and the benefit of rejoicing in and knowing well a God who is greater than our greatest imaginations.
As we see evident here in Moses’ own family, the result of speaking the truth about the signs, wonders, and miracles of God first hand is rejoicing and strengthening of faith. Some might even call this instance conversion for Jethro. Jethro heard of the good for God’s people and he was genuinely happy for them. He wasn’t jealous or suspicious or contemptuous or unfavorable concerning God’s providence and people. He was genuinely happy and rejoiced – even he, a foreigner.
Because the leader and his family made their table-talk of that which glorified God, they found themselves rejoicing rather than murmuring, complaining, or running down their would be friends as the people following behind and all around them were so quick to do. This leader of God’s people kept his own family spiritually healthy even when those who were following behind him could do nothing but grumble, complain, accuse, and fault-find.
Just as in the case of the Jews and the Gentiles, the tragedy for those who actually witnessed the miraculous take place before their very eyes, truly missed it. Those closest to the wonders closed their eyes in willful blindness, but those standing by and hearing second hand were more zealous and faithful than they despite the many, many great advantages God had given them.
It seems that this entire passage is one with the intent to teach us the great importance of respect and care for good family relations and conversations among God’s people and leading by example in all those things related to such. When God calls leaders, he calls their families. This is his chosen earthly example for proper daily living. Therefore, let us live up to our calling as those to whom the world looks for answers.