Parents, your job in the first instance is to be judges who set free, who deliver, who point out the wonders of God, and call your children to freedom. Discipline is not a jail sentence; discipline is not prison time. Discipline is a jail break. Discipline is an Exodus. Sin is the jail. Rebellion is the prison. And all godly discipline results in freedom. But this freedom is a freedom that rules. God breaks Israel out of jail and immediately tells them to start judging one another. They must set one another free. This will involve pointing out sin and there will be consequences for sin, but the idea is to give that authority and responsibility away. And we want to do the same thing with our children. Parenting is not an 18 year long game of ‘wack ‘em’ at Chuck E. Cheese. Parenting is doing what Jethro told Moses to do: teach your children the statues, the laws, and show them the way to Canaan, so that they can join you, so that they can stand with you, so that they may sit with you in the gates. And this is the pattern for discipleship for everyone in the church. This is the training program of grace. You are free to rule. And godly rule always sets people free.
Archives For February 2011
Epiphany means manifestation. When God was born as a man, God was revealed to the world. The same Spirit who bore Jesus into the world and empowered His ministry, was poured out in the Church to continue that same revelation. Last week, we saw that God is revealed in our support for one another. The victory is given to Israel when Moses’ arms are supported, holding up the serpent-rod in his hands. God continues to train Israel to be His son in this chapter, and here, this training continues in the organization of Israel through the gift of teachers, rulers, and judges. As Israel is organized by judges and wisdom, they reveal their Father.
Moses’ father-in-law is the priest of Midian (18:1). In many ways, Jethro reminds us of Melchizedek (Gen. 14): Moses greets his father in-law with great respect (18:7ff), they share bread together (18:12), and both priests give blessings to God’s people (18:10). While many commentators puzzle over whether Jethro worshipped the God of Israel, it seems very plain that he did. First, the parallel with Melchizedek is striking. Second, Moses married his daughter. Thirdly, the Midianites were distant relatives, descended from Abraham from his second wife Keturah (Gen. 25:2). Fourth, if in the off chance, Jethro really was not yet a worshipper of the true God, after this story, he surely is (18:10-11).
We know that Moses had brought his family back to Egypt with him prior to the Exodus (4:20), but apparently he had sent them back to his father in-law at some point during the Exodus because they return to him now (18:2-5). Notice how Jethro is a striking contrast to Amalek (also a distant relative of Israel, a descendent of Esau) (cf. 15:14ff). Jethro offers offerings and sacrifices to God, and Aaron and the elders of Israel eat bread together before God and worship before (at the mountain) just as God had promised (18:12, 3:12).
Moses and the Judges
The next day Moses went about his daily task of sitting before Israel morning till evening to hear the disputes between the people (18:13-16). Notice that this overturns the reluctance of Israel to have Moses as their judge early on (2:14). We imagine petty lawsuits were not unusual for a people with such complaining as we have seen. Jethro says that this is not good, and it is too heavy for both Moses and the people (18:17-18). Instead of sitting before the people all day, Jethro says that Moses ought to stand before God for the people (18:19). Besides judging, Jethro says the new judges will need teaching so that they can teach the people (18:20). The designation of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens fits with the fact that Israel is an army (e.g. Num. 31:14ff, Dt. 20:9, 2 Sam. 18:1). There were already “elders” in Israel (18:12, cf. 3:16, 12:21, and 17:5-6), and later the “elders” and “judges” will be spoken of as coexisting (e.g. Dt. 21:2, Josh. 8:33, 23:2). Likewise, seventy of the elders will be appointed who will be given some of the Spirit that is upon Moses, and Moses will pray that God would make all of Israel prophets (Num. 11:16-30). Here, Moses appoints “rulers” who will “judge” (18:25-26). This is likely the office of “judge” found in the book of Judges (cf. Ruth 1:1). This judging continues the Exodus, extending the great deliverance of Yahweh (Ex. 6:6, 7:4, 12:12). God delivers His people to become deliverers. In the multitude of counselors there is safety (Pr. 11:14, 24:6).
In the New Covenant there three important parallels with what we find in Exodus 18. First, wisdom and leadership are always disciplines of imitation. Jethro teaches Moses to do what he does, so that Moses can teach other judges to do what he does. Paul tells the Corinthians to imitate him just as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus is our Moses, who stands before the Father, ever interceding out behalf. Jesus is our High Priest, according to the order of Melchizedek. He is our hope, our guarantee, and He ever lives for us.
But Paul says that Christ has given gifts of leadership to the Church so that the saints may be equipped for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). When the Spirit of Christ was poured out at Pentecost on all flesh, Moses’ prayer that all of Israel would prophesy began to be fulfilled. And this means that God doesn’t just delegate authority. It’s not like Jesus actually gets tired of hearing from us; it isn’t too heavy for Him. But salvation is God’s sharing of His life and wisdom and authority with us. By the working of the Spirit, God is growing up a nation of prophets and judges in the Church. And the pattern is the same: just as Moses was teach Israel how to teach and judge, so the leaders of the church are to train the saints for the work of ministry: judging and teaching. And this is the pattern in the Church: Pastors, elders, deacons are called to give what they have been given away.
It’s worth remember that Jethro was a gentile who advised Moses, and it is the Spirit who knits the nations together and equips the body with gifts (1 Cor. 12). In addition to our sin and rebellion, we tend to despise people different from ourselves. Moses had all kinds of reasons for being prickly toward Jethro or doubting Jethro’s plan, and there are numerous ways it could have backfired. But leadership comes through serving. If you want to be great, you must become a slave. Moses gave authority away, and he actually gained more. If you want to find your life, you must lose it for the sake of Jesus. The Spirit teaches us to have hope, and to see the potential in people who seem like serious projects.
The Fifth Commandment
We practice this pattern in the family. We should not miss the fact that this organization of Israel comes from Moses’ father in-law. The honor of father and mother is a central type of honor and authority and organization in the world, which is why it has such enormous implications (Eph. 6:1-3). But the responsibility goes both ways, and fathers must not provoke their children but rather bring them up in the nurture of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) which means being judges who teach the way of freedom.
In a very helpful conversation with CJ Bowen and Joshua Appel, they pointed out how Jethro acts as a father and a judge in Exodus 18, and this is a type of Yahweh.
Yahweh is the Father and Deliverer-Judge of Israel; He has brought Israel out of slavery and bondage to a false father-judge (Pharaoh). That false father set taskmasters over them and worked them with rigor, but their True Father frees them and exalts them, giving them responsibility and authority. This continues through the counsel of Jethro who comes as a father (literally, a father-in-law), and he sees the state of Moses judging the people and judges this “not good.”
Jethro urges Moses to give authority to the people, setting up rulers who judge the people. And this involves Moses replicating himself. Though it is only Moses who is initially judging and teaching (18:16), after Moses has selected the rulers/judges, they are trained/taught (18:20) so that they can teach and judge the people (18:26).
This intent is even more explicit in the parallel passage that occurs some time later in Israel’s history in Numbers 11. There it is explicitly the Spirit that is upon Moses that God takes and puts on the seventy men of the elders of Israel (Num. 11:16-17). As a result of the Spirit coming upon the seventy men of the elders, they prophesy, and though some where concerned about the charismatic outbreak, Moses prays that all of the Lord’s people would be prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them (Num. 11:29).
Some commentators puzzle over why God speaks through Jethro when up to this point He has usually just spoken directly to Moses. But the fact that God is speaking through Jethro exemplifies the whole point Jethro is making. Yahweh has blessed and equipped Moses, but the point is to share that blessing with others. God will bring the people to their place in peace as they are led and shepherded and taught by many faithful rulers. The goal is to make all of God’s people “priests and kings,” judging and teaching in righteousness.
Peter Enns points out that Jethro eats bread with Moses just before Yahweh speaks with Moses in the burning bush at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 2:20, ch. 3), and later, Jethro shows up to eat bread with Moses and the elders just before Yahweh speaks with Moses and Israel at Mt. Sinai (18:12). And whereas only a bush was on fire the first time, the second time the whole mountain is in flames (Ex. 19:18).
Seems to me that this is a preview of the New Covenant Meal. First comes the bread, then comes the fire-wine. First comes the Bread of Life, then comes the Fire of the Spirit.
In the beginning, God saw that it was “not good” for man to be alone, and He created woman to be man’s helper.
After the birth/re-creation of Israel out of Egypt, Jethro saw that it was “not good” for Moses to judge Israel all alone, and he counseled him to create a number of helpers.
In Exodus 19:6, Yahweh says that He is making Israel a “kingdom of priests.” In the context of Scripture to this point in the story, we only have three examples of “priests”: Melchizedek priest of Salem, Potiphera priest of On in Egypt, and Jethro priest of Midian.
This creates a striking picture of “priests.” So far priests are all gentiles, outsiders, God-fearers from a distance. And all three are instrumental in providing rest for the people of God. Melchizedek provides a feast of bread and wine and blesses Abraham after his battle with the five kings. Potiphera gives his daughter in marriage to Joseph, and the priests of Egypt are at least in the background of Joseph’s care for his family and the rest of the nation of Egypt (cf. Gen. 46-47). Finally, Jethro (like Potiphera) gives his daughter in marriage to God’s appointed deliverer, Moses (like Joseph), and it is Jethro who shows up after the battles with Pharaoh and Amalek to eat bread with Moses and the elders of Israel (like Melchizedek). And Jethro gives Moses counsel for organizing the people so that they might “go to their place in rest” (Ex. 18:23).
If we consider Joseph a sort of extension of the ministry of the priests of Egypt, all three are significant for the bread they share with the people of God, for the rest they give during hard times.
When Yahweh says that He is making Israel a kingdom of priests, He means that He is making Israel a nation of Jethros, a kingdom of Melchizedeks, a family of Josephs who have bread and sabbath for the world.
[Insert typological significance for Christ as priest according to order of Melchizedek.]
Revelation 11:8 aligns Sodom and Egypt “where also our Lord was crucified” which is of course Jerusalem.
Sodom is a type of Egypt which is a type of unbelieving Jerusalem.
In Sodom, God’s people were vexed and mistreated, and the messengers of God were persecuted. And ultimately, Sodom was destroyed.
In Egypt, God’s people were enslaved and mistreated, and the messengers of God were rejected. And ultimately, Egypt was destroyed.
In Jerusalem, God’s people were oppressed and enslaved, and the messengers of God were rejected and killed. And ultimately, Jerusalem was destroyed.
“If the church as a matter of habit tolerates the use of force and planning for warfare on the part of the state, then she will not even know when the exceptional time has come when it would be justified for her to say a Christian ‘yes.’”
John Howard Yoder, summarizing Karl Barth’s views, Karl Barth and the Problem of War, 39.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed to Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:14-17)
Seems like this is a key atonement passage. Here, we have shades of substitution, Christus Victor, and the exemplary theories of the atonement.
So tell me…
If I were to download one new song today… what should it be?
What if I downloaded two?