• johned@aibi.ph

To subscribe to Eternity Daily Bible Study click here

Eternity 62 - Jethro And The Greatest God

Exodus 18:7-12 ASV 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. (8) And Moses told his father-in-law all that Jehovah had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how Jehovah delivered them. (9) And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which Jehovah had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. (10) And Jethro said, Blessed be Jehovah, 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. (11) Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods; yea, in the thing wherein they dealt proudly against them. (12) 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.

Jethro the priest of Midian was a wise, kind and spiritual man - but not yet a believer; but here he becomes a true Yahweh worshipper - a devotee of the God of Israel announcing: "Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods". What caused this priest to change his religion? To move away from the faith that was his living, to the God of his son-in-law ?

Firstly Moses was welcoming and respectful, "And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him: and they asked each other of their welfare; " Moses was highly educated, a national leader and eighty years old he still treats his father-in-law with respect! Moses does not reject Jethro for being a pagan priest , or slight him for being his ex-wife's parent but rather is welcoming and polite and even deferential. He makes it easy for Jethro to accept the testimony of the deeds of the Lord.

Secondly Moses shares with Jethro the testimony of the plagues and deliverances, and the miraculous journey out of Egypt. This is still fairly early in the story. The defeat of the Egyptians and Miriam's song is Exodus 14 & 15, now we are in Exodus 18, in two chapters time in Exodus 20 God will issue the Ten Commandments, and we are well before Kadesh-barnea and the wilderness wanderings of Numbers. This is the time of grace and trials and learning about God. The great miracle was being delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh.

Moses did not have any law to share with Jethro - just a might and delivering God - and that was enough! Seekers after God do not need all our rules and regulations and theology to believe - but they do need to see a God who does mighty things and can save them.

Missionaries tell many stories about how the people they were living among did not respond at all until there was a healing or a deliverance or a mighty act of God. Once Jesus is shown to be powerful - and more powerful that their local gods - then they often rush to believe. Jethro had seen Moses life for forty years, since he fled from Pharaoh and came to live with them, but up until now he had remained a priest of Midian, but today he changed - because he could see that the God of Moses was the powerful God - a delivering, miracle-working God.

Jethro completes his conversion with a ritual act of a burnt-offering and sacrifices offered to Yahweh. He formally accepts the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel. He bows down before the God of Moses, the God who delivered a whole nation from the Egyptians that dominated the Ancient Near East. There is more than a hint of liberation here. Egypt was oppressive and Jethro remarks on how Israel was delivered from "those who dealt proudly with them". Jethro seems quite happy that the arrogance of Egypt had been dealt a mortal blow and was prepared to worship the God who could overturn the oppressor.

The act of a priest worshipping another God (in this case the true God) is quite powerful and symbolic. Its an act of renunciation, a deep change of loyalty, an abandoning of one spiritual master for another and better one. When an imam, a rabbi, a guru or a shaman quietly converts to Christianity that is one thing, but if he ends up actively and publicly worshipping Jesus - then that is another, an almost shocking thing, a real break with the past. Jethro does just that, not only does Jethro believe - but he declares his belief in words, not only does he declare that God is the greatest - he takes a burnt offering and moves straight away to worship him in full priestly fashion. Jethro goes "all the way" with his conversion!

Finally Jethro is accepted into the community of faith: "and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God." There was an initial communion service,a breaking of bread with the new convert, and an acceptance by the religious leaders - Aaron the high priest and the elders of Israel. Jethro's emphatic conversion convinced them.

The words "and Aaron came" imply that Aaron was at a distance before, that the priest of Israel and the priest of Midian were somehow separated until Jethro's conversion to the faith. It is interesting that the first recorded convert to Judaism is so readily accepted - without apparently any requirement for circumcision at that stage. Just a sacrifice and a meal, the breaking of bread "before God" who was witness to the whole procedure.

Today "God is great" is the Muslim war-cry, the suicide bombers last words before they press the button that detonates the bomb but for Jethro they signified a jihad of the spirit, a delivering God that was greater than the gods of Egypt or of Midian, a liberating God of real deeds and wonderful miracles. Jethro was glad to find a new God and a new people he could be apart of and stay with a while.

What can we draw from this when witnessing to other faiths? Firstly show natural respect and courtesy, secondly tell what God has done for you and of His power and grace, thirdly encourage them to make full and whole-hearted commitment yet without undue legalisms and add-ons, and lastly show full acceptance and fellowship with the new convert without suspicions or reservations.


John Edmiston


Visit the Asian Internet Bible Institute



Eternity Archives

Eternity Main Page