Twentieth Century Jethro

And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all
that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people…and came with his
sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness.…Then Moses let his
father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land (Exodus

In almost every city and village throughout Christendom there are to be
found twentieth century Jethros. Speaking of them after the manner of
men, they are generally excellent folks, courteous, liberal, of good
repute among their neighbors, well disposed towards all. There is much
to be said in their favor. But they are Jethros. Let me explain what I

  1. Jethro was sincerely glad to hear of a good work going on among
    other people (Ex. 18:9). Moses told him the story of God’s gracious
    dealings with the people of Israel; how He had delivered them from the
    cruel bondage of Egypt, and had marvelously provided for their need in
    the wilderness. “And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the
    Lord had done to Israel.”
  2. Jethro could give very wise counsel as to how God’s work should
    be done (Ex. 18:19). He saw that Moses was bearing too heavy a burden,
    and suggested to him that he should share it with others. Able,
    God-fearing, truth-loving men were to be selected, who should share the
    judicial responsibilities of the great lawgiver, and relieve him of all
    concern as to the minor matters that might call for a decision.
  3. Jethro was kind and hospitable to his relatives (18:6). Jethro
    kindly took charge of Zipporah and her two sons under his hospitable
    roof while Moses was away in Egypt, seeking the deliverance of Israel.

While all this was true of Jethro, it was also true that he refrained
from fully identifying himself with the people of God. He took no part
in their conflicts with their enemies, nor in their wilderness
exercises. He acknowledged the greatness and supremacy of the true God
(18:11), but never rose to the height of His glorious purpose for the
people of His choice. His action spoke loudly enough that he had no
desire to be a participator with them in the prospect God set before
them. “He went his way into his own land” (18:27).

It is to be feared that there are many today who bear a striking
resemblance to Jethro. In spite of their many excellent qualities, they
fail to rise to the height of God’s purpose for His people. They
apprehend but feebly the nature of the calling wherewith they are
called. Their appreciation of the heavenly relationships in which
Christians are set is small indeed, and they give a very secondary
place to the wonderful portion that belongs to the Church, the body and
bride of Christ. They may rejoice to hear of the prosperity of the
Lord’s work in their own locality, or in regions beyond the seas, but
when one speaks to them of God’s wonderful purpose for us, and of our
heavenly calling, there is little response. They are not practically
“strangers and pilgrims” on earth. They do not throw themselves
wholeheartedly into the wilderness conflicts which are the experience
of those who seek to appropriate, in the energy of the Spirit of God,
the heavenly portion of the Church. As a result, they know little of
that priceless treasure of the reproach of Christ which, in Moses’
reckoning, was “greater riches” than all the wealth of Egypt (Heb.

Do you lay it to heart that the calling of the people of God is a
heavenly one, and that we are not left in the world for a while in
order to throw ourselves into the current of its ambitions and pursuits
(even with the best of motives), but that we may be altogether apart
from it in spirit, while serving the interests of Christ as His
ambassadors in it? Carry this question into the presence of God, and
seek grace from Him to keep you from being a Twentieth Century Jethro.