Does Character Matter? (Exodus 18)

Heart of a Shepherd

Jun 02, 2023



Le caractère compte-t-il ? (Exode 18)


¿Importa el carácter? (Éxodo 18)


Имеет ли значение характер? (Исход 18)


Caráter importa? (Êxodo 18)


کیا کردار اہمیت رکھتا ہے؟ (خروج 18)


Il carattere è importante? (Esodo 18)


Spielt der Charakter eine Rolle? (2. Mose 18)

Does Character Matter? (Exodus 18)

Scripture reading: Exodus 18

A Family Reunion (Exodus 18:1-8)

With the defeat of the Amalekites (Exodus 17:13-16), the LORD magnified the standing of Moses and Joshua. Soon, the news reached the nations of “all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 18:1). Soon after, Jethro, “the priest of Midian” and the father-in-law of Moses, journeyed to Israel’s encampment (Exodus 18:1) and reunited him with Zipporah, Moses’ wife “and her two sons,” Gershom and Eliezer (Exodus 18:1-5).

A beautiful scene unfolds as we are privy to the family reunion and the visible signs of love and respect evidenced by Moses and his father-in-law (Exodus 18:6-8). Although he had proved himself to be a great leader, when Moses learned his father-in-law had come, he honored him and “went out to meet [him]… and did obeisance [bowed before him], and kissed him” (Exodus 18:7a).

What a blessed reunion, as Jethro and Moses “asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent” of Moses (Exodus 18:7b). We do not know the number of hours that passed as Moses rehearsed “all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them” (Exodus 18:8a). Remembering Moses’ when the LORD had first called to him from the midst of the burning bush (Exodus 3), I am sure Jethro took pride in the man who was his son by marriage.  

Moses shared not only the victories, but “all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them” (Exodus 18:8) from thirst and hunger, and gave Israel success over the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16).

A Proud Father-in-law (Exodus 18:9-12)

Jethro rejoiced in the LORD’s goodness and how He had delivered Israel out of slavery (Exodus 18:9-10). He declared, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them” (Exodus 18:11). Though he was a Midianite and not numbered among the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Jethro was a man of faith in the God of Israel (for the Midianites were descendants of Abraham through his wife Keturah, Genesis 25:1-2, 4). Therefore, Jethro “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God” (Exodus 18:12) and invited Moses, his brother Aaron, “and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread…before God” (Exodus 18:12).

The Daily Toil of Leadership (Exodus 18:13-22)

The reunion celebration was short-lived, for the next day, Moses returned to his all-consuming task as he “sat to judge the people” (Exodus 18:13). Jethro looked on as the people gathered “from the morning unto the evening” (Exodus 18:13), waiting for Moses to weigh their concerns, and pass judgment. He then enquired of Moses, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” (Exodus 18:14)

Moses then explained that his role was not to make laws, but to make “the statutes of God, and His laws” known (Exodus 18:15-16). Jethro, concerned for his son-in-law’s well-being, said to Moses, “this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone” (Exodus 18:18). He proposed there was a better way to judge the people, and that was to “teach [the people] ordinances and laws, and [show] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (Exodus 18:20).

Rather than serve as the judge of the people, Jethro suggested Moses should be God’s mediator and “teach them ordinances and laws…wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (Exodus 18:19-20). He urged Moses to choose “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them… (22) And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee” (Exodus 18:21-22)


Closing thoughts: Character Matters (Exodus 18:23-26)

Moses wisely heeded his father-in-law’s counsel and “chose able [capable] men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people…and they judged the people at all seasons [as the need arose]: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves” (Exodus 18:25-26).

What manner of men were chosen to judge the people? First, they were men who feared God (indicative of all who walk in His Law and Commandments). They were pious, godly men, “men of truth” and worthy of trust (Exodus 18:21). Those who sat in judgment were to hate “covetousness” and therefore not favor the poor or the wealthy, the weak or the strong. They were to be men of integrity and above reproach (Exodus 18:21).

Tragically, the same cannot be said of men and women in places of authority in our day. How different our society, world, and churches would be if we demanded that those in authority must be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, [and] hating covetousness” (Exodus 18:21).

What about you? Do you have the spiritual qualities God seeks so that you may serve Him?


Questions to consider:


1) What was Jethro’s response when Moses told him all the things God had done in delivering Israel? (Exodus 18:9-11)


2) What overwhelming task did Jethro observe Moses doing in his leadership role? (Exodus 18:13)


3) What were Jethro’s concerns and advice to Moses? (Exodus 18:17-18)


4) What manner of man was Moses to choose to sit in judgment of the people? (Exodus 18:21)


Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith


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